Part 1: Political and Human Rights Conditions
Singapore is a parliamentary republic with elections taking place at least once every five years. The voting and vote counting systems are fair and free from tampering; however, the People's Action Party (PAP), which has formed every government since 1959, has placed formidable obstacles in the path of political opponents. The government has broad powers to limit citizens' rights and to handicap political opposition, and it used these powers by placing restrictions on freedoms of speech, the press, assembly, and association. The government also placed some restrictions on freedom of religion.
Part 2: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives
The United States supports liberalizing trends in the country by engaging key audiences, including politicians of all parties, civil society activists, journalists, youth, and the Malay-Muslim community. The U.S. Government's priorities are to cultivate, primarily through public diplomacy efforts, support for greater democratization, liberalization of political debate, and a more independent media, as well as increased respect for political freedoms and human rights.
Part 3: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance
The United States conducts a comprehensive program of outreach to local and regional audiences through speeches, media appearances, cultural events, the Internet, and other programming in cooperation with American Connections partners, think tanks, local arts institutions, and NGOs. These programs help government officials and key local audiences gain an enhanced understanding of the democratic process and the value of human rights. For example, U.S. officials worked to foster support for democratic principles by speaking about the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign at numerous events. Hearing about the U.S. electoral process and the important role of the press in covering candidates and election issues in the United States allowed audiences to draw comparisons with Singapore's more restrictive system. The achievements of minority and female candidates in the U.S. presidential election provoked a robust debate in the local media about when Singapore would be ready for a minority prime minister.
The United States conducts a range of programs and activities to heighten government and popular sensitivity to human rights. U.S. officials maintain active communications with the government, political parties, human rights organizations, and civil society representatives. U.S. officials continue to urge Singapore to work within the Association of Southeast Asian States (ASEAN) to ensure that a human rights body established under the ASEAN Charter has meaningful authority.
Through the U.S.-funded International Visitor Leadership Program, the embassy continues to reach out directly to potential leaders in journalism, civil society, and politics. The embassy also continues to expand its speaker program to inform a broader and younger audience about U.S. society and foreign policy. The program encourages liberalizing trends through discussion of fundamental freedoms.
The embassy makes it a priority to engage extensively with the country's Malay-Muslim community and maintains strong relations with representatives of the various religious communities.