Thursday, May 20, 2010

You Have The Right To A Lawyer, But Not In Singapore

Opening the parliamentary debate on proposed amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC). Law Minister Shanmugam spelt out the principles that underpin the Singapore administration of justice:
" should not be a system which gives the offender every possible technicality to escape conviction." The corollary of this is that the police has always been given every technicality to ensure conviction, regardless of innocence or guilt.

Said lawyer and MP Michael Palmer, "For too long, defence lawyers had to operate in the dark without sight of any statements or evidence until the trial." This bugbear of criminal lawyers, who say they become aware of what they are up against only when the trial starts. Rules of discovery, what's that? Singapore police are also given the discretion to decide whether an accused person may see a lawyer, which would normally be available when investigations are finally over, typically weeks or even months later. Talk about stacking the cards.

Dwelling on same subject, Palmer asked why the Government threw out a recommendation by the Law Society that an accused person be told of his right to a lawyer upon his arrest. "We should not shy away from ensuring that the accused person's rights are safeguarded and that he is aware of those fundamental rights. " he said. All those hours watching Hollywood movies have defracted us from the ugly truth, that Singapore is a Disneyland with a hanging sentence.

Undaunted, Shanmugan made it clear, lest he has to apologise later for giving the wrong impression like fellow Minister Ng Eng Hen recently did, he will not budge from what would appear to civilised nations as an obvious aberation of human rights: "In Singapore, the law is that the right to counsel may not be exercised immediately upon request, but only within a reasonable time." Period, end of debate. Of course, "reasonable time" is as defined by Big Brother.

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