Success of Singapore's `Asian values' : LETTERS

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The Independent Online
From Mr Abdul Aziz Mahmood Sir: Regarding Derek Davies' article "How Confucius reads the Trib" (18 January), the law suit against the International Herald Tribune is not simply over a reference to "dynastic politics" which "implied that Brigadier-GeneralLee Hsien Loong was Singapore's deputy prime minister only because his father was Lee Kuan Yew."

The IHT had alleged: In the Chinese case, history almost seems to consist of a battle between the corporatist needs of the state and the interests of the families who operate it. Dynastic politics is evident in "Communist" China already, as in Singapore,despite official commitments to bureaucratic meritocracy.

If the Lees and the Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong had not sued for libel, they would have admitted that the Lees had furthered their family interests at the expense of the state, and that Prime Minister Goh had abetted them in this.

Derek Davies recounted that after a 1987 article in the Far Eastern Economic Review, it faced "a libel suit, in which the Review admitted liability and paid damages and costs." This is false.

The Review denied liability and contested the action. During the trial, Mr Lee, as plaintiff, was cross-examined for two full days by Geoffrey Robertson QC, from the English Bar. Every item which could possibly discredit his credibility was pressed on him. But when it was the turn of Derek Davies to give evidence on the accuracy of his article, he decided not to give evidence. Then the judge ordered damages and costs.

History will decide which value system makes for more successful societies: Asian values (including Confucianism) with some Western characteristics, or Western democracy as presented by the Western media. Dogmatic assertions that Western democracy will inevitably triumph over Asian values only remind Asians of the fervour with which Communists once proclaimed the inevitable triumph of Communism.

Singapore's leaders do not claim to have all the right answers to the future. But they are sceptical that the Western-style democracy prescribed by the Western press today is the universal answer, especially in Asia.

Yours sincerely, ABDUL AZIZ MAHMOOD High Commissioner Singapore High Commission London, SW1

23 January The `Independent' regrets the factual inaccuracy pointed out above. The statement that the `Far Eastern Economic Review' `admitted liability' was mistakenly introduced in the editing of Derek Davies' article. A correction was published on 19 January.