The exchange between Senator Jim Webb and the next United States ambassador to Singapore, Mr David Adelman, at his nomination hearing before the US Senate Foreign Realtions Committee, is bound to rankle one octogenarian:
Mr Webb: The Economist Democracy Index ranks Singaporea as 82nd in the world in terms of democratic development, below neighbours such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Philippines. Reporters Without Borders ranks the country 133rd out of 175 for press freedom. What is your view in terms of whether and how the United States should engage Singapore on these issues?
Mr Adelman: My view is the United States must engage Singapore on these issues. You identified the area where, quite candidly, Singapore needs the most improvement if it were to live up to the ambitions Americans have for democracy.
Make no mistake, currently Singpaore is not a multi-party democracy, and I intend, if confirmed, to use public diplomacy to work towards greater press freedoms, greater freedom of assembly and ultimately, more political space for opposition parties in Singapore to strengthen Singapore into a multi-party democracy.
The Straits Times was quick to neutralize Mr Adelman, claiming that he was not authorised to speak the press until the nomination process was complete. PAP styled ad hominem attack followed by highlighting Mr Adelman's posting would be his first time working overseas. Former Singapore High Commissioner to Malaysia, K Kesavpany, joined the barking dogs, "My experience, as a diplomat, has been to first settle into the post, study the lay of the land and (then) decide on what I want to do." In other words, beware the defamation suit.