Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Hearing From The Court

The Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) said, “AGC would like to take the opportunity to reiterate that the proper forum in which factual issues in a pending matter before a court should be determined, is the court itself.”

Yet, in its statement of 29 July 2013, the same AGC said it has completed its review of the investigation papers relating to a cartoonist and decided not to take action against him under the Sedition Act. Meaning, the serious matter of sedition - overt conduct, such as speech and organization, that is deemed by the legal authority to tend toward insurrection against the established order - has been decided upon without the determination of the court.

The court, a panel of one's peers (as in jury system), or panel of appointed judges in Singapore's case, is meant to hear and determine disputes between litigants, and in criminal matters, to determine the liability of accused persons and their sentences if they are convicted. It's always a collective assessment of minds to deliberate aired arguments about what is truly at stake. Not the whim and fancy of one sole individual.

In the bad old days, yes, we had one Chief Justice who's attitude of the law depended on his satisfaction of what he had for breakfast. Same chap who ruled that some molest or rape offenders will have their sentences doubled if their lawyers persist in asking questions that harass or embarrass the victim. In another benchmark case, he said that offices, clubs or restaurants may be open to the public, but a visitor can still be hauled up for trespassing if the management had banned him from entering the premises. Those were the bad old days.

Law academic Thio Li-Ann, in an article in the Hong Kong Law Journal, noted that the courts here have tended to protect the public interest of upholding the integrity of government leaders, rather than make judgments that protect the right of individuals to make public criticisms of conduct by public figures. Whatever your take of the system, at least those outcomes resulted from a publicly convened court of law. At least we get to hear both sides of the story.


  1. why Thio Li-Ann's mother neBer pray for to almighty to keep the "scale" in balance

    after all, they claimed they prayed and successfully kept the tsunami from singapore

    1. Singapore is already inundated by a tsunami of 2M foreign trash lah...

    2. omfg ...... so prayer made it worst?

      cum 2016, will these ft be eligible to vote?

      so native-born be lead to the promised land?

  2. Almost 3 yrs ago, Singapore’s Internal Security Department (ISD) approached Tey Tsun Hang, a Malaysian-born law associate professor at the National University of Singapore (NUS), about becoming a “listening post” – meaning that he would provide information about goings-on in the law faculty, including his own work. In return, Tey would meet the ISD’s boss: someone who could “protect” Tey in the future. Left unsaid was that the ISD, Singapore’s secret police, who hold the power to detain indefinitely without charge or trial, could have easily revoked Tey’s permanent residency status


    Some people behave as if they have the mandate of the Heaven.
    Some people behave as if they have the mandate of the Emperor
    Some people behave as if they have the mandate of the people.

    One would be blind not to see the massive abuse, injustice, and hypocrisy in our society today. When you have individual with unlimited access to power and no accountability, offering protection in their own fiefdom, you know the kind of rot is in violation of the way. No amount of new coins minting with the eight sided kua will help you.

    1. Good article must not be censored. Continued..

      “It’s a necessary evil and compromise for me,” Tey wrote to a colleague in September 2010 about the arrangement. “I feel cowardly. Without academic spine.” The colleague counselled a softly, softly approach, to “engage and persuade, not confront and antagonise”. Tey countered that the results would be “half-truth scholarship” and he would be a “collaborator [who] pretends [his work] is not censored when it is”. Still, the next day Tey sent copies of all of his academic work to his ISD contact, asking the officer “to let me know which parts/pages/paragraphs/lines are not allowed and must be taken out”.

      Even without direct interference from the ISD, Tey had found it impossible to publish work critical of the Singaporean government in local journals. In 2010, a few months before the ISD made contact, an article arguing that the country’s strict contempt of court laws were a tool to curtail the constitutional right to freedom of speech had been accepted for publication in Inter Se, the Singapore Academy of Law’s journal. Just three days later, British author Alan Shadrake was arrested on charges of criminal defamation and contempt after the release of his book, Once a Jolly Hangman, which criticised Singapore’s application of the death penalty. Inter Se got cold feet, and the article was never published.

      Unsurprisingly, Tey’s experience is at odds with official reports regarding academic freedom in Singapore. Simon Chesterman, the affable NUS dean of law (an Australian, Chesterman is married to the daughter of the Singaporean president), says that many academics publish abroad because Singapore is a very small market. He is quick to point out that both local academics and visiting professors at NUS have been critical of Supreme Court decisions, the use of the Internal Security Act, prohibitions on homosexual conduct and the death penalty. “No one’s ever had to run anything by me prior to publication,” he insists.

      According to Chesterman, Singapore’s human rights story is one of incremental improvements, and, echoing the advice given to Tey in 2010, he says “academics who’ve been quietly critical of this process” have played a significant part. “We’re not issuing shout-from-the-rooftops criticisms of the government,” he explains. “I’m not certain that would be the most effective way of bringing about change in Singapore anyway.”

      Tey’s experience is a case in point. In 2011, he decided to go ahead with publishing a number of articles highly critical of Singapore’s judiciary without approval from the ISD. “I am no longer willing to self-censor,” he wrote to the same colleague who had advised him. “I certainly do not want any longer to compromise my intellectual honesty.” Perhaps thinking of Alan Shadrake – who received a six-week jail term and S$20,000 (A$17,180) fine, but also significant international support from Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders – Tey prepared to defend himself against charges of criminal defamation or contempt of court. “I make my bed,” he wrote, “and I hope I shall have the courage to lie in it.”

      Tey sent copies of all of his academic work to his ISD contact, asking the officer “to let me know which parts/pages/paragraphs/lines are not allowed and must be taken out”
      In February 2012, it looked as if Tey was going to get his chance to prove his courage. In a speech, Singapore’s Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong launched an extraordinary attack on critics of Singapore’s legal system. Referring specifically to two of Tey’s articles, Chan made it clear that he had crossed the line.

      Despite warnings from several colleagues, Tey stayed in Singapore. Just two months after Chan’s speech, the 41-year-old was hauled in for questioning by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau on charges relating to a relationship with one of his students, 23-year-old Darinne Ko.

    2. And that's not all...

      Any questions about academic freedom were quickly overshadowed by the unfolding scandal. The local papers came to refer to him as the “sex-for-grades prof”. When I met Tey during his trial in June, he scrolled through the headlines on his phone, complaining to me in his urgent, formal manner. Every article was “downright inaccurate”. Sex scandals are effective ways of destroying reputations in socially conservative Asian countries, Tey explained, pointing to the multiple sodomy trials of former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim in Malaysia.

      His whole trial, he insisted, was a sideshow. Despite the tabloid epithet, there weren’t actually any allegations of grade tampering. Instead, he stood accused of having obtained sexual favours and gifts (a fountain pen, an iPod, two tailored shirts, dinner) with corrupt intent, in that he had represented that he could boost Ko’s academic grades.

      But Ko, the prosecution’s supposed star witness, testified that she had fallen in love with Tey. Later she claimed that she had been coerced into making up parts of her statement and that she had given Tey presents because they were in a relationship. It appeared that Tey had breached the university’s code of conduct, which would usually be resolved via internal disciplinary proceedings. Instead Tey was convicted on six charges of corruption and sentenced to five months in prison. Hours after the conviction, he was dismissed from NUS. Tey told me Chesterman had called to apologise a few days later, saying that he had merely been the executor of orders from upstairs.

      “I no longer have any faith in the legal system here,” Tey said over the phone recently, a few days before he commenced his sentence. His Singaporean colleagues have only been supportive in private. Few made it to his trial, and none spoke to me apart from Chesterman. Instead, Tey hopes his links to the University of Melbourne and Monash University will help draw support in Australia. But Western universities seem loath to meddle in Singaporean affairs: recent concerns about academic freedom at a new Yale–NUS liberal arts college were quietly swept aside by the administrations of both universities.

      With nearly ten thousand Singaporean students at Australian universities, and Singaporean government research funding becoming an ever more lucrative source for Western institutions, Australian universities may not regard Tey’s cause as worth the trouble.

  3. In an ideal world...7/30/2013 11:04 AM

    The laws here have its roots in English law.

    But Singapore was a colony and during times of unrest, the masters ( ang-mohs) created laws to deal with "emergencies" a period where communist ideology had some traction.

    Some famous person saw that these laws were useful in creating an environment to achieve objectives without interruption. The simple adoption of the ideas behind the laws and in some cases, complete copy is what we have today.

    We have many, many learned professionals in the legal fraternity. However, none is able to rise. Perhaps never.
    We have many, many learned business professionals. However, all are focused on survival and convenience.
    None will fund causes that will upset the status quo.

    Our eyes are focused on our balances in our bank accounts and the worth of our assets. The benefit of money far outweighs the challenge to create rules that helps us grow our liberties, ensure our freedom in being creative. It will be a long, long time to arrive at maturity.

    Instead it will be slow ( unnoticeable ) death as a people.

    1. Singaporeans are focused on survivability. Maturity in politics, individual freedoms and free press cannot be.

      Damocles sword hangs above.

      Ask the Spaniards if they would trade their country's financial ills for their freedom of speech.

      Ask the Japanese if they would trade their economic woes for their freedom to hunt whales.

      Ask a Singaporean if they would trade their car, for the freedom to write, say anything about politics...

      Not quiet there are we??

  4. The AGC has unlimited discretionary powers. One judge even said that "Is it proper prosecutorial discretion to salami slice the physical evidence?" It's whether they, or the powers that be, want to hang you or not, isn't it?

    "It is for the courts, and the courts alone, to exercise judicial power and decide the question of guilt, in a trial." - Walter Woon

  5. In any contempt of court case, shouldn't the judiciary members themselves instead of the AGC be the ones to initiate proceedings against any accused ? Now that the sedition charge is dropped, so did anybody or was it a judiciary member who made a police report against the cartoonist for contempt of court?

    Essentially if the judges themselves are not offended by those political satire cartoons, why should the AGC himself be so incensed to take immediate action but then take ages to finally file charges against the cartoonist ?

    Is it not as if he is trying to play with time by delaying the case because he is just trying to bully the cartoonist into a guilty submission ? But if the cartoonist is indeed guilty of sedition as originally charged, then what about LKY's past incidents criticising about the Malays ? Is it because of this that they decided to drop the sedition charge ?

    1. Right. All such cases should be submitted to a judicial review, subject to which charges can be initiated. Otherwise the AGC is playing GOD or the Devil's Advocate.

    2. With LKY departing soon, there is a good chance ah loong and his stooges will become the opposition party. With a new govt in place, a referendum could be initiated to replace existing judicial members, and those who have acted without fear or favour in dispensing justice should not fear the idea of being subjected to polygraph tests, but embrace it....even face up to the consequences.

    3. are judges "GOD"; else how cUm they can pass judgements and dish out appropriate sentences?

      Karma is a bitch

    4. "Karma Chameleon"...Boy George (not Yeo).