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Executive Summary

Singapore is a parliamentary republic where the People’s Action Party (PAP), in power since 1959, overwhelmingly dominated the political scene. Observers considered the 2015 general election as open and free, with the major opposition party winning six seats in Parliament. Observers also considered the by-election held in 2016 as open and free, with the major opposition party winning the contested seat.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The government has broad powers to limit citizens’ rights. Parliament passed the Administration of Justice (Protection) Bill, which seeks to prevent interference in and influence over cases before the High Court or Court of Appeals by clarifying conduct constituting contempt of court. The government could and did censor the media (from television shows to websites) if it determined that the content would undermine social harmony or criticize the government. The Internal Security Act (ISA) permitted preventive detention without warrant, filing of charges, or normal judicial review; in recent years the government used it against alleged terrorists and not against persons in the political opposition.

Additional reported human rights problems included the following: Caning is an acceptable punishment for some crimes; restrictions existed on free speech and assembly; government intimidation led to self-censorship by journalists; and there were some restrictions on freedom of religion and on labor rights.

The government prosecuted officials who committed human rights abuses, although there were no instances of such prosecutions reported during the year. There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces.

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U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future