Singaporeans Kwik Chong Oei [not his real name] and Tee Seong Joon [not his real name] were deported by a neighbouring country last month after completing a short prison term for immigration offences. They were received by our own police and quickly put behind bars again.
Kwik and Tee are leading members of the Red Iron Gang which had been planning bank and goldsmith robberies for nearly 15 years. They had been casing several banks and gold shops in the late 1990s, and then decided to cross over to a third country to learn from the Preto Pantano Gang how to plant explosives and break safes. The Red Iron Gang considered themselves affiliates with the Preto Pantano.
When the third leading member of the Red Iron, “Popcorn” Soh, was arrested by police in 2003 for planning a break-in at a diamond dealer’s shop, Kwik and Tee looked into the possibility of sending an envelope of anthrax to the police headquarters as revenge. Continue reading ‘Security panic and the intoxication of power’
“Does it still hurt?” I asked Rubio that Wednesday evening.
He nodded and asked me for some painkillers.
Over the counter, there weren’t a lot of options. I did the best I could for him.
“What about clothes?” I asked. “Do you have anything else besides what you’re wearing?”
“No, don’t have,” he said. “Everything gone.” Maybe they had all been thrown away by the landlord when he failed to return and pay his rent. Continue reading ‘Torturing the poorest of the poor, in the name of law and order’
I see that not only is the gay and lesbian community pleased with the Court of Appeal judgement released on Tuesday, 21 August 2012, some folks are especially delighted with the arguments used within the written decision. For example: that 377A “affects the lives of a not insignificant portion of our community in a very real and intimate way”.
The Court of Appeal reversed the High Court decision on striking out, and thus allows the constitutional challenge brought by Tan Eng Hong against Penal Code Section 377A — the law that criminalises “gross indecency” between men — to proceed.
I would reach for a deeper understanding why the language of the judgement may sound so “gay-friendly” for want of a better word. It is simply because one of the two conditions that needs to be satisfied for allowing a constitutional challenge to succeed is for there to exist a “real controversy”. One could argue therefore that the justices of the court were highly conscious that they had to demonstrate clearly why they thought a real controversy existed, so they naturally had to give play to the arguments against 377A.
It does not necessarily mean they are leaning towards the merits of the case against 377A. Continue reading ‘Constitutional challenge to 377A to go ahead’
Lawsocgate is likely to rumble on for a while. Legal processes take their own time and there are probably some facts yet unseen by the public.
However, I will argue that the issue it has uncovered goes beyond that of the Law Society versus M Ravi. Athough Ravi, colourful a character as he is, has a tendency to steal the show, we shouldn’t lose sight of an even more troubling question about the law profession itself.
Just to recap, on 16 July 2012, a Monday, just as a court hearing concerning by-elections got underway, a Wong Siew Hong from the Law Society appeared in court. M Ravi was then representing Madam Vellama in seeking a declaration from the court that the prime minister does not have unfettered discretion as to when to call by-elections. In chambers straight after the open hearing, Wong produced a letter from a psychiatrist Calvin Fones saying in a nutshell that Ravi was unfit to practise law due to a relapse of his bipolar disorder. Continue reading ‘The ghosts of absent lawyers’
The Attorney-General’s Chambers issued a press release yesterday (17 July 2012) in response to my post Using power to give immunity to the powerful which was published on 15 July.
The press release opens with a re-assertion of one of the two usual justifications for the law on scandalising the judiciary. It said: “Accusations of bias diminish it in the eyes of the citizen, lower it and ultimately damage the nation. Such accusations can occur frequently, with the judges not being able to respond. That is why confidence in the administration of justice needs to be protected from such allegations.”
I had dealt with this so-called justification right at the top of my earlier post as well as in its final quarter. Firstly, there is no reason why judges should not be able to respond, and secondly how does one distinguish between allegations and truth unless the initial assertions are allowed to be discussed further and aired? Sometimes, allegations eventually turn out to be true. To prohibit all allegations is to choke off any further discovery. Continue reading ‘Using power to give immunity to the powerful, part 2′
The most striking thing about Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean’s statement in parliament regarding the scaling back of the mandatory death penalty was how he bent over backwards to say that capital punishment has been a huge success over the years in deterring crime, especially drug trafficking. He then made a special point to assure people that “we will maintain the mandatory death penalty for drug traffickers, in most circumstances.”
In other words, he was declaring that Singapore was merely tweaking the system at its edges; there’s no big change. Perhaps he was eager to avoid giving the impression that this strong-willed government was (gasp!) going soft and becoming susceptible to public opinion and international pressure.
Maybe he’s right. Maybe the whole thing is intended more as a public relations exercise, and the conveyor belt to the trapdoor will resume shortly. Whether it’s going to be a significant change, and exactly how big a change, we won’t know until some time has passed. Continue reading ‘Singapore retreats from mandatory death penalty by an inch’
The executive has effectively given our judiciary a blank cheque to be mercenary, biased, lazy and incompetent. It has done this by extending a blanket guarantee that judges will be shielded from criticism through the use of an archaic legal concept of “scandalising the judiciary” – a form of contempt of court.
Under this concept, any criticism of judges and their work is a criminal offence, unless the criticism can be proved, hammered in with nails large enough to crucify Christ. The problem with extending such immunity is that it creates a moral hazard. In fact, it is entirely logical that in the long run, that immunity itself will corrupt the judiciary. Continue reading ‘Using power to give immunity to the powerful’
It would seem to me almost inevitable that if you were a preacher who went on and on about how, if you believe, believe, believe, you would be blessed with material riches, then you yourself had better live a life of luxury. If you didn’t, wouldn’t you run the risk that a member of your church might point to your lack of wealth and question your own piety? That might be a tad embarrassing.
Embarking on the prosperity gospel is to take the road to excess.
Continue reading ‘Crossing over from gospel to vanity’
Wednesday, I attended two meetings with experts on the anti-gay marriage side of the debate here in Washington DC. I had hoped to be intellectually stimulated. I had hoped that the meetings would reveal arguments with more depth and nuance than what I have read on the internet. After all, they are the experts and I would be hearing from them directly, rather than be filtered via a reporter or blogger.
To be frank, I was disappointed. In two hours of discussions, all I heard was a rehash of the same arguments, with no more refinement than what had been reported in recent years.
Helen Alvare is an associate professor of law at George Mason University, and a specialist in family law. In a nutshell, she believes that gay people should never be discriminated against, but nonetheless stands firmly against legalising same-sex marriage.
How does she arrive at such an awkward position, I wondered? Continue reading ‘Rights “always in service of children” says family law professor’