- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Praising Singapore

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge praised Singapore as a “courageous” ally of the United States in the war on terrorism, as the city-state celebrated 39 years of independence.

Mr. Ridge said Singapore, a major shipping center in Southeast Asia, is a leader in efforts to secure its ports and borders, an ally in the reconstruction of Iraq and an “instrumental force” in the capture of suspects linked to the Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist group.

“Singapore has been an active, courageous and integral participant in the global coalition against terrorism,” he said at a reception last week.

Mr. Ridge added that the United States and Singapore are more than just allies.

“We are friends. We have been fortunate to work with you and, in the spirit of friendship, learn from you as well,” he said.

“We know that Singapore has done a great deal to strengthen and better coordinate its homeland defense. We welcome the collaborations that have grown from a mutual goal that we all have to protect our homelands and our world.”

Singaporean Ambassador Chan Heng Chee noted that her country is going through a generational change in leadership for the first time since it became a sovereign nation in 1965.

Goh Chok Tong, 63, has resigned as prime minister after 14 years in the post. His deputy, Lee Hsien Loon, is scheduled to be sworn in as the nation’s third prime minister today. He is the son of the country’s first prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew.

The younger Mr. Lee appointed Mr. Goh as a senior minister in his new Cabinet.

“The transition will be one of the most significant political developments in Singapore’s short history of nation building,” the ambassador said. “This is not just a new man taking over but a generational shift to a team of leaders that would take the country another step forward.”

She said her government is a strong supporter of the United States and noted that Singapore is the only Asian nation to reach a free-trade agreement with Washington.

“Singapore supports a strong U.S. military presence in Asia, as it helps maintain peace and stability in the region,” she said.

The ambassador added that Singapore’s free-market economy continues to grow at a healthy rate. The economy grew 11.7 percent in the second quarter this year, and analysts expect it will post a rate of 5.5 percent to 7.5 percent for the year.

“Miraculous, some may say, that a small country with no natural resources could do so well in a competitive world,” she said.

Venezuela’s future

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell yesterday called on Venezuelans to reject violence when they vote on a presidential recall referendum on Sunday.

A State Department spokesman added U.S. concerns over reports of retaliation against those who petitioned to remove leftist President Hugo Chavez.

Mr. Powell said, “Venezuela’s future is in the hands of its citizens.”

“If conducted freely, fairly and transparently, this referendum will be an important step toward the peaceful electoral, democratic and constitutional solution of Venezuela’s long-standing political crisis,” he said.

Mr. Powell said the Bush administration strongly supports the observer missions sent by the Organization of American States and the Carter Center.

“We urge that they be given the unrestricted access necessary to do their jobs,” Mr. Powell said. “The United States calls on all Venezuelans to reject violence and intimidation and to respect the rights of others.”

Spokesman Adam Ereli refused to speculate on the outcome of the vote but expressed concern over “reports of retaliation” against some nongovernmental organizations, an opposition mayor and voters who signed the recall petition.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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