Using power to give immunity to the powerful

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.

There are two grizzled “justifications” for such a law.

The first is that justice is so crucial to the healthy working of society, it would be extremely damaging if people did not trust and respect the courts and judges who give form to it. Indeed, this is hardly in dispute. But giving blanket immunity, shielding the administration of justice from criticism, is surely a bizarre and counterproductive way of promoting that trust and respect.

From the ethics of charity management to the capabilities of public transport, there is nothing as healthy as to let the light of public examination shine into inner workings. Why should the administration of justice be any different? If anything, a truism needs to be borne in mind: It’s the cover-up that breeds even more suspicion.

The second “justification” is that judges, unlike other citizens, cannot defend themselves against public criticism. Others have at their disposal defamation law to protect their reputations, but it would be unbecoming of judges to resort to that. So the law of “scandalising the judiciary” is there in lieu of it. I don’t think anyone should be so easily persuaded that judges cannot defend themselves from public criticism. If priests and cabinet ministers can, why not judges? Even if judges were to hold their tongues, in a society with a culture of free and open debate, there would be no shortage of people coming to the defence of criticised judges, just as they come to the defence of pastors and politicians of various stripes.

In any case, the best defence there is is for judges to deliver well-reasoned decisions. Not to issue sloppy decisions and then hide behind a purdah.

* * * * *

Six days after the Attorney-General’s Chambers demanded I apologise for scandalising the court by my comments in a recent article, an interesting story appeared from Malaysia. Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak said his government was going to repeal the Sedition Act and replace it with a National Harmony Act.

Malaysia’s Sedition Act will be repealed and replaced with another law to protect racial harmony, Prime Minister Najib Razak announced yesterday, as part of his continuing series of political reforms.

He said the government realised that the people perceived the Sedition Act to be a law to suppress dissenting views.

‘Although this perception is baseless, we have to abolish this perception. Hence, the new provisions will not prevent the people from criticising the government or the administration of justice,’ he said at a dinner of the Attorney-General’s Chambers.

— Straits Times, 12 July 2012, Malaysia to replace Sedition Act: Najib, by Carolyn Hong. Emphasis mine.

Singapore’s Straits Times carried a similar story, but what I found interesting were the phrases omitted from the Singapore version of the story compared to the report in Malaysia’s New Straits Times:

The decision was made as the government wanted to find a mechanism that could best balance the need for freedom of speech with the provisions stipulated in the Federal Constitution, he [Najib] said.


“I remember the viewpoint of British prominent philosopher John Loke [sic] who said ‘the end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom’.”

— New Straits Times, 12 July 2012, PM: Sedition Act to go, by Azura Abas and Ili Liyana Mokhtar

(It should have been John Locke.)

Of course, I am aware that the New Straits Times also has a reputational problem, especially among supporters of opposition parties in Malaysia. And until one sees the actual wording of the new law, no champagne should be popped. But still, it is nice to see at least a cursory nod to the principle of freedom of speech. The Singapore government is not even there yet, and our newspaper’s version omitted to inform Singapore readers of the applicability of this concept.

* * * * *

If Malaysia is not exactly an inspiring example, then I suggest you read the speeches made on 2 July 2012 in the UK House of Lords. The background to the debate was this:

Former Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain was accused of “scandalising a judge” for something he wrote in his recently published memoirs. He had criticised a judge’s handling of  judicial review of Hain’s decision to appoint Bertha McDougall, the widow of a policeman, as an interim victims’ commissioner for Northern Ireland. The current Northern Ireland Attorney-General, John Larkin, in March/April this year, then decided to prosecute  Hain for contempt of court.

It sparked an uproar. Former Home Secretary David Blunkett

…  told the [House of] Commons people were entitled to “fair comment”.

He described the legislation being used to prosecute Mr Hain as an “outdated and discredited law”.

“Shouldn’t respect for the independence of the judiciary be balanced by the rights of individuals to fair comment on that judiciary,” Mr Blunkett said.

Responding, Prime Minister David Cameron said he had sympathy for that argument.

— BBC, 18 April 2012, Peter Hain contempt proceedings criticised by Blunkett. Link.

Late April, Hain’s lawyer, David Dunlop, said the contempt of court proceedings may have no basis in common law. He also questioned if it complied with the European Convention on Human Rights. Responding, Larkin said that while he was not arguing that all criticism of judges was contempt of court, such criticism that undermined public confidence in the administration of justice should not be permitted – basically, the first justification I described above.

Concerned that an obsolescent law – it had not been used since 1931 – was being resurrected, several members of the House of Lords moved to attach an amendment that would definitively abolish the offence to a government bill.  The PDF file that is raised by clicking on the image at left carries the debate. As you can see, even a former judge spoke up for abolition.

In the end however, the government persuaded the movers of the amendment to withdraw it on the grounds that it was already under consideration in an ongoing law review and there might be complications because Scottish law would also need to be changed at the same time. Nevertheless, the sense was that the law should go; it was only a matter of finding a neater way of doing so.

(With thanks to friends who provided me with the transcript)

* * * * *

Two important principles should inform our approach to such matters.

1. The more public the role/institution, the more leeway should be given to comment

The first principle is that the more public a person’s role is, the more transparent his actions should be, and in furtherance of this, the more leeway there should be for fair comment (including highly critical comment). Generally speaking, someone performing a public role impacts a lot more people than one acting privately, and therefore it becomes a matter of public interest to monitor and dissect the performance of that role. Public, even scathing, criticism should be recognised as an inherent part of the job and an essential component of the larger public good.

The record in Singapore points to the opposite. We seem to be acting on the basis that the more public a role is, the more “important” the person is. This then mutates into the notion that he has more to lose than the average guy should his reputation be damaged by criticism. Therefore vigilance and penalties need to heightened to protect these “important” people. Hence our history of certain personalities launching defamation suits at the drop of a hat, and the huge demands they make for damages (because, it has been argued, their reputations are “worth” so much more than the average guy’s). In the same vein, the quick resort to contempt of court charges, because – so goes the thinking – the more “important” the institution, the more there is at risk when criticised.

As you will surmise, I think we get a valuable principle the wrong way around.

2. Knowledge begins with hypothesis; to ban the latter risks never reaching the former

I begin by anticipating a line that state may take: Not all criticism of the judiciary is banned, but don’t speak until one has proof. This is disingenuous and unrealistic.

Knowledge is not born fully-formed. This is the second principle we must bear in mind.  Knowledge is acquired through process, starting from ponderings, conjecture and hypothesis, and then developed by argument, the search for evidence and refutation. Some hypotheses are eventually debunked in the course of this process; others are validated. You may think I am talking about the scientific method, but in fact that is how any person and any society collectively acquires knowledge.

To stop all conjecture and hypothesising is to never embark on enquiry since no discussion can even begin. If we are never allowed to explore our justice system through debate, we will never arrive at any knowledge of what really goes on, and what worth (or worthlessness) it is.

As examples of how we choke the process of enquiry into public-interest issues, take both the City Harvest Church and the National Kidney Foundation scandals. The first whiffs of trouble came without proof. There were murmurings; a few available dots were connected to suggest a plausible problem, but there were not enough dots to provide unassailable proof. In both instances the first wave of suspicions were suppressed. In the case of the NKF,

In August 1997 and December 1998, NKF volunteer Archie Ong and aero-modelling instructor Piragasam Singaravelu respectively were hauled to court separately for defamation when both said that T.T. Durai had been flying first class. The former mentioned in April 1997 that the NKF “squandered monies” in a casual conversation with former chairman of NKF’s finance committee Alwyn Lim, while the latter has claimed that he had personally seen Mr Durai in Singapore Airlines’ first-class cabin. Both paid an undisclosed amount of damages to the NKF, and apologised.

— Wikipedia, accessed 14 July 2012. Link

In the case of the City Harvest Church, the first whistle-blowing occurred in 2003, but

Two weeks ago, Mr Roland Poon Swee Kay contacted the press to complain about what he said were improper practices by Rev Kong and his wife.

Last Friday, the 53-year-old businessman issued four apologies in The Straits Times, Lianhe Zaobao, Lianhe Wanbao and Shin Min Daily News. A fifth apology appeared in The New Paper last Saturday.

In all, they cost $33,372.06. A source close to Mr Poon said yesterday that the amount was paid by an anonymous donor who knew of the businessman’s financial difficulties.

— Straits Times, 27 January 2003, Poon says sorry; pastor asks church to forgive, by Samuel Lee

Years after the first complaints – after millions more were squandered – the early whistle-blowers were vindicated. It should be noted however that the criminal cases against leaders of the City Harvest Church have not yet been tried, but the Commissioner of Charities has issued definitive findings and taken administrative action. Besides the NKF and the City Harvest Church, how many other scandals are lurking still, unseen by the public eye?

The lesson to draw is that the more we penalise conjecture, hypothesis and whistle-blowing, the more we delay reckoning, the more we collectively suffer as a result.

Consider this: If ever there is one day when one or more  judges are corrupt, how do we air the problem when allegations – with no more proof than anecdote or a curious pattern of judgements from the bench – are met with jail terms? Yet the curious pattern may be all there is at the start of any discussion or of any call to look more deeply.

And that is why this contempt of court law is so damaging.

Ultimately it is part of sickening pattern here in Singapore, across any number of fields: The use of power to give immunity to the powerful.

Related post: Using power to give immunity to the powerful, part 2

59 Responses to “Using power to give immunity to the powerful”

  1. 1 Jake 15 July 2012 at 10:38

    I applaud your obvious bravery to speak out on this after being issued with a warning against ” scandalising the court”. The whole phenomenon is also replicated in the msm’s treatment of PAP politicians. The argument being that they must not be overly bothered by scrutiny lest they flee back to the private sector and their private lives – what a huge loss it would be for Singapore I’m sure 😉

  2. 2 Lowell 15 July 2012 at 10:43

    I do remember that the govt also claims that the court verdicts and legal proceedings are openly accessible and judgements are scrutinized in law reports,

    • 3 yawningbread 15 July 2012 at 11:36

      My understanding is that (a) only some verdicts are provided in written form with grounds for decision — generally judges give written grounds only when one party wants to appeal; (b) there is no publicly available and comprehensive database of cases, verdicts and sentences — which is why gay activists have a hard time even compiling how many 377A prosecutions there have been over the years. This state of affairs gives the public even fewer dots to connect up. Even if such information is available to lawyers (and I don’t think so, because it is lawyers who tell me they can’t get information) the “closed circle” nature of such disclosure is inherently problematic. Thus, it is virtually impossible to “prove” anything when information is so restricted.

  3. 4 tworavens 15 July 2012 at 10:49

    I do think you should have every right to comment on specific judgements or officers, but not on the institution in general except through specific examples. We should never tar everyone in a group with the same brush just because some members of the group have evinced ‘remarkable’ behaviour.

    • 5 Poker Player 15 July 2012 at 11:37

      but not on the institution in general except through specific examples. We should never tar everyone in a group with the same brush just because some members of the group have evinced ‘remarkable’ behaviour.

      We do that all the time with the North Korean ruling class.

  4. 6 Alan 15 July 2012 at 11:05

    Supposing judges are not the real culprits of any favours granted in the courts but the real culprits are those cunning politicians working behind some crooked prosecutors to get things done in some preferred judgements, would such criticism from a few good men or women amount to “fair comment” as opposed to just a blatant “scandalising of the courts” ?

    If indeed fair comment can never be made against our courts without scandalising the courts, maybe our Law Minister would be brave enough to guarantee to every Singaporean that none of those working in our whole judicial system can ever err or made a wrong judgement ? What say you, Law Minister ?

    I note the the Law Minister has officially threaten to take legal action against Yawning Bread by addressing to the blogger in an e-mail without even bothering to send it to a proper official address. Unless I am mistaken, is it meant to be a joke as I understand that e-mails are not recognised legally as official correspndence ?

    • 7 Lye Khuen Way 15 July 2012 at 12:29

      That is a good one!

      We are just a civilized as the Thai’s if we compare this scandalizing the judiciary law with their untouchable Majesty law.

      Understand that WW case is still open, so we may yet see more dramatic twists in the coming months.

      By the way, I noticed a interesting trend of scandals involving top personalities every other week. No?

      • 8 yawningbread 15 July 2012 at 12:51

        Interestingly, Zimbabwe has also enacted a law that likewise makes it an offence to criticise or “undermine the authority of” the president. See

        Powerful people like such laws, don’t they?

        Once again, Singapore (which provides medical treatment to Mugabe) is in the same league as some rather odious states.

  5. 9 Win 60% first, then talk 15 July 2012 at 11:18

    Win majority votes (60%) and get more than 90% seats in Parliament first.

    Then can form the govt to be the executive and so can give the judiciary the right (not blank) cheque to do their job.

    There is no other way, least of all through blogging, which may elicit legal letters if blog the wrong way or thing and end up issuing $ cheque.

    • 10 Ian 15 July 2012 at 23:13

      To win the 60%, we need the 60% to know why they are voting for who. Pointless to just ask people to vote first, as they will reply “why?” in unison.

  6. 11 JEFFGOH 15 July 2012 at 11:21

    This seems to be the perception of many Singaporeans too.

    • 13 teo soh lung 15 July 2012 at 21:59

      I didn’t know about Brompton bikes till now. Thanks for the reference. Wonder why NParks need so many good bikes? Do the staff cycle every day as part of their job?

      • 14 nmj (@jnaina) 17 July 2012 at 16:56

        When you have delicate jewel-encrusted buttocks as the Nparks staff do, only expensive Brompton bikes, with seats weaved by virgin tibetan maidens from the dulcet silk strands of Amazonian spiders, will do.

    • 15 Name 25 July 2012 at 12:29

      How about the relationship with the successful bidder? There’re too many questions asked. If the only responses is to silence these questions. More suspicion and distrust breeds.

  7. 16 Poker Player 15 July 2012 at 12:12

    An article was removed (after it was mostly forgotten). A more damning one took its place. True geniuses running the show.

  8. 19 AttCch 15 July 2012 at 12:20

    A potential scandal is brewing as people digs deeper into NParks’ purchase of the Brompton bikes.

    In the past, the matter would have blown over and case closed after the minister publicly defend the purchase. Not the case now and rightly so, when questions remain unanswered and the truth is not completely known. Scandalise the minister and NParks by speaking up and in doing so potentially scandalise them.

  9. 20 Goop 15 July 2012 at 12:37

    Okay, sincere question time. Does anyone know what the history of the contempt of court provision is? Is it a British legacy?

    • 21 yawningbread 15 July 2012 at 12:44

      Yes. Essentially obsolete in the UK itself (as the outcry over the Northern Ireland case shows) but still in use in several ex-colonies. No such equivalent in American law and I dare say, American justice does no worse.

      This abstract from gives a gist of the situation:

      The form of contempt of court known as ‘scandalising the court’ – defined as ‘any act done or writing published calculated to bring the court or a judge of the court into contempt or to lower his authority’ (R v. Gray, 1900) – has long been used by small African and Pacific Island states as a mechanism for silencing media criticism of the judicial process. (See, for example, Attorney-General v. Namoa, 2000; and Chaudhary v Attorney-General, 1999; where it was used recently in Tonga and Fiji). In Canada the offence has been found incompatible with that country’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, in the United Kingdom it has not been prosecuted successfully against the media since 1931 and in the United States it does not exist at all (Weisenhaus, 2007, pp. 74-75).

      Sadly, it has been revitalised in Australia over the past decade at the very time members of the judiciary have begun to sue for defamation, presenting a dual affront to media freedom. It has also been used in a notable case in New Zealand and threatened in another. This is despite the fact that the legislature in New Zealand and the High Court in Australia have made moves to enshrine freedom of communication, in New Zealand with a Bill of Rights and in Australia within a series of decisions through the 1990s guaranteeing free speech on governmental and political matters. This paper considers briefly the background to scandalising contempt before reviewing the key cases in the field and considering the resulting implications for judicial critique in the media.

      • 22 teo soh lung 15 July 2012 at 22:05

        And Singapore uses contempt of court all the time. Many senior prosecutors are deployed for every case. In the famous kangaroo court case, 4 experienced prosecutors were busy with three poor kangaroos, two of them without legal representation.

      • 23 Goop 15 July 2012 at 22:56

        Thank you Alex for the wonderful reply. It’s certainly very enlightening. I guess one thing the establishment does best is to use laws instituted to control a colony and run with it. Contempt of court is just another in the list that includes the ISA.

  10. 24 yuen 15 July 2012 at 13:23

    >given our judiciary a blank cheque to be mercenary, biased, lazy and incompetent

    this is a dangerous comment to make, even though it is only suggesting “future possibility” rather than stating “past experience”; I am not sure officials reading your blog would be so forgiving.

    >The more public the role/institution, the more leeway should be given to comment

    as media coverage goes, politicians, major company executives, media celebrities, etc, who regularly court public attention, are less entitled to privacy; commentary is a somewhat different issue: since they enjoy publicity and know many people who have information about them, more data are readily available about them so we are entitled to expect more accurate commentary about them from journalists and others; however, errors made without malice are usually not legally penalized though retraction and apology might be demanded

    >Knowledge begins with hypothesis; to ban the latter risks never reaching the former

    while this would be generally acknowledged, it is not really applicable to the NKF and City Harvest whistle blowers, who were not banned by the authorities from making their comments, but were deterred by the threat of expensive lawsuits from NKF and City Harvest; in NKF’s case, the matter was pursued by SPH, which can afford lawsuits; in City Harvest’s case, the matter was picked up by CAD, which has the authority to search for and take possession of financial documents others have no access to

    • 25 yawningbread 15 July 2012 at 14:31

      Yuen, sometimes I think you see too many monsters under every bed.

      If one says: “The central bank has given a blank cheque to ‘too big to fail’ banks to be reckless, unethical and deceitful to small customers, by effectively extending a guarantee of bail-out … ” would it by any stretch of imagination been defamatory of banks? Is this not the kind of language one sees nearly everyday in these times?

      • 26 yuen 15 July 2012 at 16:58

        In my career I have encountered a number of monsters under my and others’ beds, and I am watchful towards all kinds of open and veiled powers (as you would have deduced by now from my comments)

        while “central bank has given a blank cheque to ‘too big to fail’ banks to be reckless, unethical and deceitful” is safe enough, naming a specific bank would be risky; however, under the contempt of court provisions here, a non-specific negative comment on the judiciary is still risky; Chris Lingle probably thought “intolerant regimes using compliant courts” would not get him into trouble, but it did; Alan Shadrake presumably did not expect to be arrested when he came here to promote his book, but he was

  11. 27 jimmy 15 July 2012 at 13:29

    Applauds. Very fast of coming up with a well argued article to follow up with your recent apology.

  12. 28 swh 15 July 2012 at 13:39

    “Knowledge is acquired through process, starting from ponderings, conjecture and hypothesis, and then developed by argument, the search for evidence and refutation”

    Continuing with your scientific method metaphor, it is also noteworthy that scientists often have an observer bias which makes them want to prove their hypothesis right, because no one does research in the hope of getting their own theory wrong.

    The thing is, if people start going about, as you said, hurling allegations at judges or prosecutors at every myth, hint or suspicion, pointing at various dubious claims in order to prove their point, you risk cultivating a witch hunt culture in Singapore. Yes, there are instances where with credible (and I emphasise – not full) proof such questioning should be encouraged, but how can you ensure the general public is able to be discerning in such a manner, to use so-called evidence responsibly and form logical claims based on it.

    Perhaps providing immunity from all criticisms takes things a little bit too far, yet your counter-suggestion seems ludicrous as well. Leaving aside the question of the judges’ reputation/privacy/right to discretion, such an attitude may undermine the criminal justice system. You implicitly admitted that such “allegations (are) with no more proof than anecdote or a curious pattern of judgements from the bench”, certainly bestowing the right of criticism unto the general public without stricter qualifications of what is to be considered as credible evidence is biased, lazy and incompetent itself?

    • 29 yawningbread 15 July 2012 at 14:12

      Observer bias works in all ways. While some may tend to see black, others tend to see white. The theory is that free speech allows one to contest the other.

      As for the rest of what you wrote, you need first to settle a fundamental question: Should the judiciary, alone among public institutions, have special laws to give it immunity? If yes, why? How is it that other countries with robust justice systems can do without? Only when one can first justify why the judiciary should have special protection, does one get into the details of how high or low the bar should be set.

    • 30 Chow 15 July 2012 at 21:11

      Just to highlight a point: Scientist do wish to prove themselves right (we all do) but the thing is that in Science the theories, protocols, and original data are subject to public scrutiny (let’s not get into the issue of paid journals) where anyone can redo your experiments or go through your theory and either affirm it or call it for what it is. It’s a way of self-cleansing and ensuring that the observer bias is reduced as much as possible because many eyes are on it now. I think you know by now what I am driving at. Things should be open to public scrutiny and discussion. There will always be cranks and conspiracy theorists but in general this way is, by far, the best way to ensure that the truth stands a chance of making it up to the top.

      On an off note, an eminent science philosopher remarked that the way to do Science is to aim to prove your theories wrong because that’s the only way you know it’s right.

      • 31 Name 25 July 2012 at 12:41

        Actually, you will not know that the hypothesis is right by failing to prove it wrong. You can accept the hypothesis.

        However, this is the best way to approach such matters. False accusations are easily proven wrong in many cases. In cases where it can’t, or are silenced, false accusations still stands (in people’s minds).

  13. 32 Willy 15 July 2012 at 14:36

    Are judges/prosecutors Infallible? They can do no wrong? What the current leegime is saying is basically that the EMPEROR[-deleted-] cannot be criticised whether they are still alive or not.

    With improvement in technology, like DNA sequencing and crime scene science,even previous criminal / rulings can be shown to be wrong. Would it be contemptuous to say that previous ruling were wrong then?

    [-one sentence deleted-]

    • 33 Jim Leow 16 July 2012 at 11:13

      dude, whereas mr au’s response is a critical analysis of one aspect of the judiciary in which he finds is flawed, ur response on the other hand, might really lead to a legal letter being served to u. the line between critical analysis n downright innuendos n insults is fine, do thread carefully.

      [Yawning Bread: the last sentence of Willy’s response, which Jim Leow has pointed out to be problematic, has been deleted]

  14. 34 SN 15 July 2012 at 15:04


  15. 35 LT 15 July 2012 at 16:03

    A well written retort (which is what I would have expected from you anyway) in the aftermath of your recent apology. Can’t help but to notice how generous a column straitstimes gave on this matter.

    Page 2 and a big photo. What publicity!

    Keep up the good work Alex, at least you know you have got their attention, and had them following, and reading carefully enough to disect each sentence.

    I am obviously a fan, and Yawning bread is more than just a blog.

    Keep it up!

  16. 36 gentleaura 15 July 2012 at 16:29

    GOOD. NOW Please leave it there for all to see and not take it down under any circumstances. The amount of publicity from the msm is going to drive readership to your blog. I owe you an apology for saying you have no balls after you took down the first ‘scandalous’ article. SMART MOVE, Alex!

  17. 39 kjeyaretnam 15 July 2012 at 17:07

    Alex, or you could look closer to home for an example. In my letter to the WSJ I criticised the use of defamation suits. Very much in the same line of using power to turn that power into a stranglehold.

  18. 40 Nelson. 15 July 2012 at 21:11

    Not allowing the people to criticize the judiciary openly doesn’t mean the criticism stops. It merely means that they go underground but it will continue and the volume will increase until it is so loud that those in power cannot pretend they mdont exist.. At that point it will be much harder to respond with reason.

  19. 41 tsk 16 July 2012 at 01:49

    I should think, there are legitimate uses for contempt of court proceedings, such as to ensure that the court have the power to ensure that legal proceedings progresses as intended. For example, public discussion of sub judice cases, ensuring identities of minors are not disclosed, ensuring orderly behaviour in court … there are many others along such lines.

    but yes, this should not include criticism of the court.

  20. 43 OldSingaporean 16 July 2012 at 08:04

    I like your cartoon. It neatly summarises the fundamental flaw in our system. A cartoon speaks a thousand words indeed.

  21. 44 devil 16 July 2012 at 10:16

    I think that we need to consider if a judge should be influenced by public perception in making his judgement. I prefer cold logic and precedence to apply for the sake of consistency. These can be tempered with mercy arising from the circumstances of the case.

    The current law appears draconian. But if the current law is repealed, something is needed to prevent public opinion from swaying a judge’s opinion. Otherwise we need a new criteria to pick judges — being really thick skinned.

    • 45 yawningbread 16 July 2012 at 12:25

      This is a separate issue, and it is covered by a different principle known as “subjudice”, where it is considered wrong to try to influence a judge or jury in any particular ongoing case through putting forth strongly a point of view in the media. I agree with this principle. But it is unrelated to the flawed principle of scandalising the judiciary.

  22. 46 Tsumujikaze no Soujutsu 16 July 2012 at 14:34

    At the end of the day, humanity is fallacy made universal. If the involved parties can’t even comprehend what this means on a 100% mutual basis, then quite obviously everything will be going nowhere for reasons most obvious. The only scary thing? I’ve seen way too much of such a problem on a global basis.

  23. 47 george 16 July 2012 at 15:00

    You would note that in the UK case, it was an AG who decided to prosecute and in response an ex-Home Minister who protested and finally a current PM who openly expressed sympathy. We have to expect a miracle for such a thing to happen here.

    The judiciary is but one more arm of the governing octopus here, made in its image, like the rest of the tentacles. The signal has to come from the top.

  24. 48 Anon u3fD 16 July 2012 at 15:15

    2005 December « Singabloodypore
    19 Dec 2005 – Jun: Courts seal files relating to the defamation suit brought by Chief Justice Yong Pung How against his former remisier Boon Suan Ban, who …

  25. 49 george 16 July 2012 at 21:49

    ” Courts seal files relating to the defamation suit brought by Chief Justice Yong Pung How against his former remisier Boon Suan Ban, who ”

    So exactly what happened here when files are ‘sealed’? Under which law of this land were the files sealed? Isn’t the ex-CJ the same as every citizen when it comes to the law? He is no ‘pow ching tien’ obviously.

  26. 51 eek 17 July 2012 at 18:06

    YB, could you pls enlighten us on which facts exactly did you misrepresent according to the AGC? Would give the rest of us a better idea if the AGC has a genuine case.

  27. 52 Rabbit 17 July 2012 at 18:35

    I just heard over the radio that AGC is still sour about Alex putting up the above article. I am completely speechless why AGC is so stubbornly defensive over a robust discussion like this to keep people thinking.

    Singaporeans are not mind dead citizens, we are not a child and we have gone through several storms to build Singapore together. Nobody should be alone to make decision that affect others. So Why can’t we talk and question something we felt might not be consistent and need improvement?

    We are all educated fellow citizens to think, question and seek answer which is the most fundamental of being a patriotic citizens. It is perfectly healthy for country to have citizens wanting to be involved in building a fair and equal nation based on JUSTICE AND EQUAILITY, not someone self-beneificial lobsided systems. When PAP asked Singaporeans what we want of Singapore, I want at least half of what our Students have been singing and pledging every morning and evening in school. I want a country that I can stand proud and salute to our flag during national day and not threatened to do so or fake patriotism to show the world we love this country we were so fearful of, at least to speak up. This is not my Singapore to prosper.

    We need more than just economy term, we need human touch, compassion, fairness and logic to begin with before we start calling Singapore our home.

    I hope AGC will just leave us alone to talk about a future Singapore which Singaporeans want to see. Libel lawsuit will not bring us far other than sign of insecurity at play. We need a system that is opened and tested, not shielded. In this days and age, even surgeon, lawyers and accountants are not perfect. LKY admit he is not perfect, SMRT is not perfect so why should our judiciary be out of the radar in an imperfect world?

  28. 53 Rabbit 17 July 2012 at 18:42

    Last but not least, everytime the govt tried to skin the peoople over an innocent queries,it creates a much deeper wound – raw and bloody. This is not uniting the people but destroying us using “law” that doesn’t make sense. If govt want the people to love them & respect them more, they should start hating us less.

  29. 54 Jeremy Chen 17 July 2012 at 21:57

    We also note that Alex Au has made references to the announcements by
    Malaysia on its law on sedition. This is a non sequitor, of no relevance
    whatsoever to the subject at hand. Contempt has nothing to do with sedition… – AGC Corp Comms (17 July 2012)

    Using a non sequitor alleging a non sequitor… wheeeeeeeeeeeee….

  30. 55 AGC Boleh!! 18 July 2012 at 00:10

    This is turning out to be PR disaster for AGC, IMO. Personally I think this blog is merely expressing that the common man feels about WW case. What AGC should have done is to explain clearly in layman’s language what and why Yawningbread’s point(s) is wrong, without any threats. Anyway AGC has the full attention of the local MSM to broadcast their argument and logic. AGC can even ask YB nicely to publish their reply on this blog.

    A calmer and more reasonable approach (reasonable by today’s standard) would have scored points for AGC. People are not stupid, we don’t need legal threats against a mere blogger to decide who is right, and who is wrong.

    • 56 Name 25 July 2012 at 13:01

      Hi, so can anyone enlighten me on the reason for discrepancies of the verdict of WW case compared to the previous ones(I read the previous YB post). And to me it is still unanswered, many citizens and I still wonder about this.

  31. 57 The Pariah 18 July 2012 at 15:29

    Agree with Alex that in SIngapore ‘the more public a role is, the more “important” the person is. This then mutates into the notion that he has more to lose than the average guy should his reputation be damaged by criticism.’

    In fact, the more public a role is, the more “important” the person is, the tigher is the level of scrutiny and the higher is the standard expected of that person. That purportedly is practised by the Pay And Profit (PAP) Govt who seemingly screen all MP candidates, top civil servants, judicial appointees, etc, very rigorously.

    So how does curbing the leeway for comment help in such scrutiny and upholding of standards?

    So why did the PAP Govt pass some law that prohibits investigations into, eg, the private affairs of ministers unless authorized by the Prime Minister. Wonder who then authorizes investigations in the PM’s private affairs? The President? And vice versa?

  32. 58 george 18 July 2012 at 16:57

    Don’t you think the whole things smacks of some religious edit or tenet that the faithful must never question or else face eternal damnation?

    That’s exactly what the AGC comes across as – that it is like the high priest of a religion called Singapore law which FORBIDS the people to question God’s words. The rules are man made and there have been through the millennia hundreds if not thousands of man made rules/laws that were eventually overturned as unjust with the dawn of enlightenment.

    Putting something as the decision/sentencing of courts BEYOND questioning would ensure that the people would never be able to question the powers that be that made the laws. It can only be a regressive step.

    The fundamental flaw in the law of contempt of court law/judiciary is that it serves only to protect those who made the law, namely, the govt, and NOT the judges or judiciary which were merely the gate keeper, the dispenser of ‘justice’.

    So if a law is ill-conceived, and there are many such laws as men are not infallible nor necessarily just by nature, a law to ‘protect’ the judges’ decisions would not necessarily lead to better administration any more than the questioning of it would lead to chaos.

  33. 59 Aaron 2 August 2012 at 07:44

    agree with all your cautioning about the lack of freedom of speech and what it can do to a society when leaders are corrupt.

    However, just a thought, and i know you have touched on them before, in the case of CHC and NKF, and for other similar cases, shouldn’t the whistle-blowers approach the respective law enforcers by lodging a report? I.e. Where’s the police in all these?

    While i’m not that naive to say the police can always be counted on, especially in countries with corrupted leaders and the long arm of the law only applies to those who oppose, i’m also a believer that human agency and morality can triumph in such adversity by doing the right thing, and that not everyone in a corrupted system is corrupt. So surely, if gone by the proper channels via law enforcers/watchdogs (assuming they are not corrupt in the first place), more legit inquiry can be achieved? Rather than people churning up the rumour mills and a situation whereby the neutrals searching for answers get lost in a sea of whoremongery?

    Other than this burning feeling, an enlightening read!

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