Rally in Singapore against plan to allow more immigrants


At least 4,000 people attended a rare rally in Singapore on Saturday to protest at a government plan to increase the number of immigrants, while controversial Australian senator Nick Xenophon was deported from neighbouring Malaysia for what he said was his “advocacy for clean elections”.

Both Singapore and Malaysia, which are neighbours, former British colonies and keen rivals, are run as authoritarian democracies, and both countries have been run by one political party for more than half a century.

Protests are rare in Singapore, which has been governed by the People’s Action Party since its foundation in 1965, as it likes to promote its image of stability and efficient governance. The PAP keeps a lid on opposition voices and a tight control on public demonstrations.

The Singapore demonstration took place at Speakers’ Corner in a park on the edge of Singapore’s financial district, which is not covered by strict controls on assembly.

A survey in September showed Singapore was the richest country in the world by gross domestic product (GDP) per capita. Last week parliament in the highly regimented city state approved a white paper that said the island’s population of 5.3 million could grow by as much as 30 per cent to 6.9 million by 2030. By then non-foreigners would form between 3.6 and 3.8 million, slightly more than half of the total.

Critics say the island is already too crowded, with a population density now higher than that of rival Asian financial hub Hong Kong. They say an influx of foreigners is affecting the quality of life in the city state, making housing expensive and keeping wages low.

Deportation from Malaysia

Across the border in Malaysia, the deportation of Mr Xenophon came as the Malaysian government prepares for an election in April, which is expected to be the closest in the country’s history.

The opposition, led by People’s Justice Party leader Anwar Ibrahim, is thought to have a strong chance of defeating the United Malays National Organisation, which has been in power for 56 years. An outspoken critic of Malaysia’s human rights record, Mr Xenophon was detained at Kuala Lumpur airport on Saturday, told he was a security threat and banned from entering the country.

Last April Mr Xenophon observed a street rally for electoral reform in Kuala Lumpur that ended in violence. He criticised the government’s handling of the rally and what he said was biased coverage by state media.

Mr Xenophon had returned to Malaysia on Saturday to meet opposition politicians, officials from the prime minister’s department, the elections commission and judiciary. Upon arrival back in Australia Mr Xenophon told media his deportation notice would take “pride of place” in his office.