The Leader of the Opposition in Singapore has written a letter to Helen Clark over her neglecting to mention freedom of speech issues to the PM of Singapore. He reminds us that Singapore ranks 140 out of 16 for press freedom.
I’m fairly moderate when it comes to how human rights issues should be raised. I’m not one of those who thinks you should refuse to trade with any country with imperfect human rights as that would leave a small trading bloc of New Zealand and Sweden probably. I don’t even believe one has to use megaphone diplomacy (even though sometimes you must) and rebuke other leaders in public.
But when you have private one on one sessions PM to PM, that is the time you raise them. It doesn’t have to be confrontational (the diplomats will be pre-warned) and can be something along the lines of:
“Many people in New Zealand react with concern when they read a leader of a political party faces prosecution merely for delivering a speech, and hope that you will be mindful of the need to balance your laws with your commitment to freedom of speech”
It just reminds the other head of government that people are watching how they proceed.
And in case people think I gave National an easy pass on foreign affairs when they were in Government, someone should ask a certain former foreign minister how welcome my remits calling for the National Government to recognise Taiwan and withdraw from UNESCO were!! He even devoted one of his conference speeches to reasons why my remit should be voted down!!