I am back in Singapore for the first time for almost a decade. Inevitably, it is a bit of a trip down memory lane – the palm trees, the skyscrapers, the shopping. The government.
Ah yes, the government. I’m afraid that my strongest impression of Singapore was shaped by what happened when my reporting inadvertently setting off a row between The Economist and the Singaporean authorities. This escalated to the point where the magazine’s circulation was severely restricted in Singapore – with the threat of an eventual ban. I cannot remember the full details of the dispute – something to do with the publication of letters from the government. And, to be honest, it is probably not in my interests to make too great an effort to remember the details, since the Singaporeans appear to have strong feelings about repeating a libel.
But I do remember the feeling of being closely watched whenever I returned to Singapore after the great Economist row. I don’t think I was being paranoid. Why else would the girl escorting me to my room in the Shangri-La hotel have squeaked – “This is so exciting”, as she ushered me in. Maybe it was just my aura of brooding masculinity – but somehow I doubt it.