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Singapore violates human rights, but personal attacks unwarranted

I am writing to protest Matthew H. Hersch '94's use of his opinion column to personally attack David B. Mercer '92 ["Singapore's problems remain," Nov. 6]. Whether or not he agreed with Mercer's defense of Singapore's prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, calling his letter "mindless drivel" was unwarranted.

Sarcastic comments about Mercer's "extensive diplomatic experience with Singapore" does nothing to defend Hersch's viewpoint. He says he has "known a citizen of Singapore for five years." Mercer has been a long-time citizen of Singapore.

Hersch justifies insulting Mercer by claiming he was "frontally assaulted by a barrage of namecalling" in Mercer's letter ["Singapore column misleads," Nov. 2]. I see nothing in the letter which can be called namecalling.

Perhaps he objects to Mercer's comment on his "ignorance of the geographical, historical, and political situation of Southeast Asia." Yet in his original column ["Tech banned in Singapore," Oct. 30], Hersch fails to support any of his statements with anything other than comments on the "neo-Leninist totalitarianism" of Singapore. Apparently, Hersch does not realize that Singapore has a thriving free-market economy not even vaguely resembling a "neo-Leninist" state.

Hersch criticizes Singapore's prime minister for imposing "an unusually hash sedition standard for a democratic nation." Maybe Hersch believes that all of the world's democracies resemble the open societies in Europe and North America. This is simply untrue.

Freedom of the press, a traditional bastion of democracy, has indeed been curtailed in Singapore, and the government there is guilty of many human rights violations. But Hersch chooses to take these problems too far and compares Singapore's leader to Lenin.

He then goes on to personally attack someone with a differing opinion. Not very democratic.

John T. Choi '93->