The ghosts of absent lawyers

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.

The judge sent Wong packing on the basis of a simple test: Does Ravi have a practising certificate? He did.

In quick succession, Wong then “gatecrashed” or attempted to, two other court hearings in which Ravi appeared as counsel.

At first the Law Society suggested in a statement that Wong was acting on its behalf: “The Law Society informed the judge of the contents of the letter as it felt that it was in the public interest to do so, and as officers of the court.” But this statement was withdrawn within less than a day and replaced by one that said Wong was acting on his own volition. The society said that its “Council was not in possession of the full facts” when the first statement was issued.

For a fuller account of the story as it unfolded, TR Emeritus might be your best source:

Psychiatrist ‘wants’ lawyer M Ravi committed to psychiatric institution

Lawyer M Ravi: Doctor’s letter to LAWSOC ‘ridiculous’

LAWSOC: We merely informed the judge of the contents of the letter

LAWSOC determined to gatecrash all cases represented by lawyer M Ravi?

Law Society made 3 attempts to stop M Ravi in 2 days

Can the Law Society please make up its mind?

Law Society retracts its 16th July statement to the media

Criminal lawyers’ association criticises Law Society over M Ravi incident

Online postings have also raised questions about the professional ethics of releasing a psychiatric report.

By the end of the week, M Ravi was making statements about suing the Law Society and possibly Fones. But there was some chopping and changing, and as of the time of writing, it is not clear what his next step will be.

Meanwhile, on Sunday 22 July, Ravi held a one-man protest at Hong Lim Park. I wasn’t there but the Yahoo News report was scathing: Lawyer M Ravi in bizarre tirade at Speaker’s Corner. The news report came with a photograph of Ravi hugging a tree that prompted an “Oh my god what a picture” response from a fellow lawyer, followed by three exclamation marks.

So the week started with the Law Society appearing farcical; it ended with Ravi trying to outdo them.

There is a real possibility that M Ravi’s practising certificate is at risk, and that more powerful forces might use this turn of events to totally discredit all that he’s been doing. At this moment, four public interest issues remain live, their passage through the courts uncompleted:

1. A challenge to the constitutionality of Section 377A, the law that criminalises male-male sex.

2. Various cases involving young men sentenced to death because they were minor drug mules; Ravi has been fighting to save their lives.

3. Madam Vellama’s suit regarding by-elections.

4. Kenneth Jeyaretnam’s challenge to the constitutionality of the Singapore government extending a loan to the International Monetary Fund without parliamentary debate and approval.

What will happen to all these cases if Fones and the Law Society succeed in having him committed to a psychiatric institution?

It is at this point that an eerie question rises out of the dark water: Why is Ravi the only lawyer taking on these public interest issues? Why must everything rest on his shoulders?

Why don’t we see, in Singapore, several more lawyers, perhaps prominent and well-established ones, taking on public interest cases on a pro-bono basis?

In the US, the two lawyers fighting the challenge to California’s 2008 Proposition 8 are David Boies and Ted Olson. They are top lawyers, who were best known for arguing against each other in the Supreme Court battle between George W Bush and Al Gore, over the results of the 2000 presidential election. Proposition 8 was the referendum-style decision by California voters to define marriage as between a man and a woman only. Olsen and Boies are arguing (and succeeding so far) that it violates the equality provision of the federal constitution of the United States.

Are the lives of our top lawyers too comfortable, incomes too rich, for them to take on “risky” cases that challenge the ruling People’s Action Party’s preferred model?

Over dinner last night, I mentioned this thought of mine to a friend. He then recalled something that another friend had said a little while ago. It wasn’t pertaining to lawyers, but it comes close. The mutual friend had said (we can’t provide an exact quote now, but something along these lines):

In Singapore, sensitive issues are far more often surfaced by artists than by academics — though as intellectuals, that should be a role of academics. But perhaps it is no coincidence that academics are far better paid than artists.

Here’s another depressing side to Singapore.



61 Responses to “The ghosts of absent lawyers”

  1. 1 nick 23 July 2012 at 14:13

    wonder if yong the drug trafficker knows that his lawyer is a unstable tree hugging nutcase

  2. 3 Tan Tai Wei 23 July 2012 at 14:29

    It may be that, rather than taking Ravi’s doing so much for what he believes to be justice to be evident of his sanity and, perhaps, also the efficacy of psychiatric treatments, our psychiatric community has been prone to take all that to be evidence of “relapse” of some mental disorder. Recall LKY’s saying under oath in court that Chee Soon Juan, as he had been diagnosed by a psychiatrist acquaintance of his (who we can assume never met Chee, leave alone met him clinically), was “a psychopath” to be raising all those issues. So, perhaps, our “lawyers” feel they would put their sanity at stake should they try a Ravi?

  3. 4 yuen 23 July 2012 at 16:06

    > In Singapore, sensitive issues are far more often surfaced by artists than by academics — though as intellectuals, that should be a role of academics. But perhaps it is no coincidence that academics are far better paid than artists.

    I dont think that is unique to Singapore; I actually think the problem originated with Stanford – Stanford showed that professors can get very rich, so afterwards professors everywhere want to become very rich, distancing themselves from activities that might jeopardize that (I was a computer science professor; I am something of an exception in my profession in being a critic of Stanford)

    take the wall street crash of 2008: we had world renowned economists like Alan Greenspan, Ben Bernanke and Larry summers being active in the federal government for many years; they did little to prevent the crisis or just provide early warning; we also hear about nobel prize winners joining hedge funds to use their mathematical knowledge for risk management; unfortunately, the finance industry as a whole did very badly in risk management despite their help

    • 5 octopi 24 July 2012 at 11:02

      The problem is not only that lawyers think they can become very rich if they follow the system. I think an even bigger problem is that a large segment of lawyers can lose their livelihoods along with anything they have if they don’t follow the system.

  4. 6 groyn88 23 July 2012 at 17:24

    It takes a courageous maverick like Ravi to oppose what he perceives are injustices in the establishment. Most creative geniuses who have changed society for the better are also prone to severe mood swings. The important thing is that he has not broken any law and is therefore more than fit to continue practising his profession…something which he has done admirably, as the record shows.

    Most other lawyers are too ensconced in their financially comfortable cocoons or too chicken to tackle the quasi-insurmountable cases which Ravi has brought upon himself to undertake.

    Ravi is also a talented dancer and has an inimitable sense of humour which most Singaporeans, indoctrinated with the anal uptightness of the ruling party, fail to appreciate, even when the circumstances are appropriate for it, like his recent performance at Hong Lim Park.

    We should give him our utmost support and condemn the scurrilous efforts of the pro-establishment forces out to impede his advances.

  5. 7 Jentrified Citizen 23 July 2012 at 19:09

    In this little island, the system here is woven so tightly and spread out so widely that too many are entangled in the web, with too much to fear and too much at stake. This is why someone like Ravi is so special and brave to do what he does in fighting for causes. Bipolar or otherwise he shows more heart and guts than many others out there.

  6. 8 OldSingaporean 23 July 2012 at 21:16

    I was having lunch with a friend who is a member of the legal fraternity when our discussion drifted to Mr Ravi’s suitability as a lawyer. To make his point, my friend asked me if I have a case, would I be willing to take the risk of having Ravi representing my case. I told him no. But I added that if you have a politically sensitive case would any commercially minded lawyer in Singapore willing to risk their career/business to take up that case. The answer to that is rather obvious,… and sad. So, we still need to have Ravis around for quite a while.

  7. 9 Alan 23 July 2012 at 21:18

    One obvious questions jumps to the mind, why didn’t the AGC as officers of the court, charge Wong Siew Hong with contempt of court since so many netizens has expressed their opinion that there was a clear attempt to do so ?

    Of all people, a sub-committee member of the Law Society does not understand that it is very rude to gatecrash the court proceedings ? Who gave him the immunity to do so ? The Law Ministry ?

  8. 10 Why only PAP is strong? 23 July 2012 at 22:00

    “Why is Ravi the only lawyer taking on these public interest issues? Why must everything rest on his shoulders?”

    I think perhaps of much, much greater significance is to ask:

    Why is the PAP the only party able to contest 100% of seats at every election? Why must majority 60% voters have no equivalent or better choice than the PAP to choose as govt?

    Alex, although the topics are different , do you see the 2 sets of questions above similar and interlinked in some way, especially on answers?

    • 11 Alia 24 July 2012 at 20:48

      I strongly suspect this comment is made by the same person who keeps commenting on Lucky Tan’s blog (Diary of a Singaporean Mind). He harps on PAP’s 60% majority no matter what the topic of post actually is.

    • 12 Goop 25 July 2012 at 21:48

      What dumb rhetorical questions. Pick up an academic publication and read why and how the PAP has managed to maintain its power. It doesn’t have much to do with their awesomeness.

  9. 13 Disgusted 23 July 2012 at 22:27


    Thanks for the breakdown for those of us who may know about the context of stories sanitized in ST and skewed in favour of government. This is a sad turn of events. The pressure on Ravi must be immense and intense: he’s taking on the PM and fighting to repeal the death penalty, two highly sensitive and controversial issues. Kudos to him for his courage. Who can blame him for hugging a tree? Even the tree probably has more life than cowardly Singaporeans who only care to eat and buy/sell property. The lawyers we know and mingle with in Singapore don’t give us a good impression at all: arrogant to a fault – they look down on ordinary HDB folk – and they’re highly ignorant about social issues. Remember that the government used the law to silence dissent, and for years they did nothing about it. What do you expect? Then there’s the Rasif case? Says a lot about the legal profession in Singapore.

  10. 14 Goop 23 July 2012 at 22:33

    Sigh, perhaps it takes someone with the mania associated with bipolar disorder to feel like he’s able to take down the establishment. If that’s the case, then we need more bipolar lawyers. Bring them in by the dozen.

  11. 15 Ravi's classmate 23 July 2012 at 22:36

    I am proud of to be Ravi’s classmate. He has a keen sense of right and wrong from very early on and a strong sense of civic-mindedness and community. His humble family background has a lot to do with the causes he chooses. He knows what it is like to struggle in Singapore when you’re practically written off by the PAP system…

  12. 16 octopi 23 July 2012 at 22:48

    In the book Catch 22, Yossarian is trying to get out of flying missions. So he tries to get himself certified as being crazy. But he can’t get himself exempted because anybody who wants to get out of flying missions can’t really be crazy. So hence the Catch 22.

    M Ravi is the reverse Catch 22. Most lawyers don’t want to be taking his cases. The one who’s willing, and the only one crazy enough to do it, is probably also medically crazy.

    • 17 Roy Tan 24 July 2012 at 04:32

      The word “crazy” is a layman’s term and has no import in medical or legal situations.
      To be certified as having a pathological psychiatric condition, a patient has to display signs and symptoms stipulated in standard references like the DSM-IV-TR.
      Just because a professional has a medical condition like depression, diabetes or hypertension does not mean he is unfit to continue practising.
      His illness must be severe enough to impair his day-to-day functioning.
      In Ravi’s case, his bipolar mood swings do not affect his ability whatsoever to cogently argue any case in court. As such, it is irresponsible for any psychiatrist to certify him unfit to continue his work and unethical to divulge this information to any party other than Ravi himself or the committee of the legal body which requisitioned these reports.

      • 18 octopi 24 July 2012 at 10:51

        To be clear, I do not condone the law society disrupting the court and not following procedure.

        But – just do a little research on the web and you’ll agree with me that he is “crazy”. His dealing with the press on certain occasions makes it hard for me to decide whether or not he should continue practicing. Fortunately that is not my job.

      • 19 octopi 24 July 2012 at 11:03

        I support M Ravi’s causes – I just wish that they get taken up by a guy who’s in no danger of being certified medically unfit, which I think is the point of the main article.

    • 20 Coffee Chic 26 July 2012 at 13:17

      Ah just stop it. You’re fighting a losing battle and I suggest you major in psychiatry if you’re interested in the human mind. Pft, these days it’s super easy for anyone to use DSM-IV or a psychiatry book for diagnosing others or themselves.

    • 21 gentleaura 27 July 2012 at 12:51

      So going by your logic, anyone that is proud to serve NS is also ‘crazy’ because everyone knows that anyone will want to siam NS if given the choice??

      • 22 octopi 2 August 2012 at 15:45

        Number one that is an opinion expressed by somebody who is a fictional character in a work of fiction.

        Number two wartime army and peacetime army are like day and night. The purpose of the former is to ensure that a war will be fought. The purpose of the latter is to ensure that a war will not be fought. I did not siam NS, and I generally agreed with NS even though there was so much I didn’t like about it. As for whether I would fight a war for Singapore, that is a different matter and a different consideration.

  13. 23 Singaporean 24 July 2012 at 00:42

    Singapore feels like a country of eunuchs with only few brave men like Ravi.

    Singapore has tough time ahead and we need more non-conformists like Ravi to shake up the system.

    • 24 octopi 24 July 2012 at 05:09

      Long long time ago there was this lawyer who decided to represent the trade unions. Brave guy. Can’t remember his name. Lee Kuan something or another. Heard he later on did quite well for himself.

      • 25 yuen 24 July 2012 at 12:43

        actually his relationship with trade unions continues to this day; NTUC’s supreme leader has always been a PAP cabinet minister

        he also made a name for representing university student leaders who published anti-colonial newspapers; it is only relatively recently that professors became well paid fat cats with no (apparent) interest in politics, and students only want easy diplomas and nice careers that require no serious mental effort, thus posing no threat to the social system

      • 26 octopi 25 July 2012 at 01:19

        A lot of these things were down to the PAP policies themselves. The depoliticisation of our universities – it was down to the government. Closing down a university (nantah) because you don’t like its politics is pretty extreme but we did it. Easy diplomas – it’s down to the prevailing attitude of just looking at your grades and nothing much else. The requirement that students in hostels must have an ECA – I’ve never stayed in them but I understood that the reason was to do to the students what the PA is meant to do to the people – keep them so busy on official “approved” activities that they would not have time to publish anti-government propaganda.

        Maybe you are an old guy and you might have seen Singapore having fiery student leaders in your youth. This shit has been going on for 30 years which is most of my life. For Singapore to get back its dissident movement is like growing back secondary forest after the jungle was cleared for the first time. Only now are we seeing the shoots and I don’t expect to see it mature for another 5-10 years at least.

        The inclination of Singaporeans towards nice careers that take no serious mental effort is, if true, detrimental towards our economy and themselves. This is consistent with my experience of walking into an engineering graduate class and finding – to my horror – NO OR FEW SINGAPOREANS. Ever since the Age of the Internet tech startups has been vital to growing economies and if Singaporeans don’t give a shit we are all in trouble.

  14. 27 Jim Soh 24 July 2012 at 04:04

    Hmm…Someone should send this post to Pritam Singh and Sylvia Lim.

    • 28 octopi 24 July 2012 at 10:53

      Forget it man. They got enough work on their hands. Opposition MPs should steer clear of these things while in office. NGO stuff and political stuff are separated for very good reasons.

      • 29 Jim Soh 25 July 2012 at 16:11

        Dear Octopi,

        The WP could have done what Ravi and his client did in bringing the matter of the by-election to the courts. This is not “NGO stuff” nor is it “political”. WP would not have lost much political capital if they had not done this.

      • 30 octopi 26 July 2012 at 13:18

        This by-election case is PM vs 1 citizen. I don’t think political parties should get involved. PM is involved in his capacity as a government official, not as a PAP member. I don’t think the PAP is directly involved, and I don’t think WP is supposed to get involved in this.

        It is inappropriate for either the PAP or the WP to get involved in this because they have a direct interest in the outcome. If the government official happens to be a PAP guy, it can’t be helped. An analogy is: if the parents are having a divorce case and arguing for custody of the children, the children should not be involved in the court case as lawyers for either side.

        Usually people see the PAP and the govt as the same thing, which is why they get confused.

  15. 31 Saycheese 24 July 2012 at 04:59

    Like our overpaid ministers, lawyers here too have too much $$$ at stake. They need to preserve the status quo as rocking the boat is to risk their cushy career.

    Ravi may appear crazy at Hong Lim but that is a park and not a court. Wong Siew Hong tried his career-enhancing antics in court and nobody thinks he is mad?

  16. 32 tocqueville 24 July 2012 at 08:23

    No other lawyer will come to the aid of Ravi because none of them have a conscience or sense of right and wrong. Lawyers are part of the system and feed from the same trough and don’t want to upset the applecart. Shame on them.

  17. 33 for our futrure's sake 24 July 2012 at 11:20

    We are deeply taught by the Govt to value wealth over many,many things. Even those who stays at HDB flats need to have a big car to show that they have also reached that status.
    So is it any wonder that no lawyers in Singapore would want to take on the Govt? We are lucky already to have people like Chen shao Mao , Sylvia Lim, Pritam Singh, Gerald Giam, and others standing agst the Govt.

  18. 34 All for one, one for all 24 July 2012 at 11:38

    Nice picture of the tree in ST. Who planted the tree? A hothoused tree? Imported from Dubai from the thousands of species pruned to perfection in Singapore? What has his gold belt got anything to do with the story? At least he got gold. The elites are tight and in cahoots with one another. Editors, lawyers, government officials who all scratch each other’s backs (or married to one another). They all have a stake in status quo and will stop at nothing in bringing dissenters down. Who can forget Vivian’s chilling behaviour to out Ravi during the GE?

    • 35 yawningbread 24 July 2012 at 12:40

      You wrote: “Who can forget Vivian’s chilling behaviour to out Ravi during the GE?

      You’re confusing Vincent Wijeysingha with M Ravi. And Vivian Balakrishnan was trying to do more than out Vincent. He was trying to suggest that Vincent approved of child sex, doing this by taking Vincent’s words completely out of context.

  19. 36 figures 24 July 2012 at 15:48

    the ravi case sums up the spore sitn – 99.9% of the time people do not dare to break the rules. conventionality boxes in the sporean from the top to the bottom. any wandering from the straight and narrow is regarded as madness (pun intended) or stupidity.

    it’s one reason why people are so wary over chee soon juan and his party.

    for a country that claims its people are its only resource, this fearful attitude of the new and different, no matter how logical, is a death knell for singapore.

    it could explain why singaporeans are today deemed not to have it, and so many foreigners now lead companies, and work in them. a foreigner’s breaking the rules, trying something new, has always been more easily accepted than a singaporean doing the same. and today it is the case more than ever.

    i see ravi’s dance as a rather creative way of saying FU to his detractors, who would presumably understand his message if he had said F. U. in their faces.

    • 37 kumar 24 July 2012 at 23:11

      nicely said. since when has spore valued its own? go ravi. we are behind u. just dont get carried away with international reputation tarnished coz then u are no different from lky cabal, suing here and there out of mean bone and vindictiveness. u are better than that n them

    • 38 olympian 25 July 2012 at 13:19

      its just not true that we are “deemed not to have it” – we must challenge this PAP-created myth. the able and talented ones are all abroad or are forced to keep a low profile lest their medical, sexual or financial records are exposed. if we are deemed not to have it, then its either a big failure of our society moulded by the government or we would not have come this far as a country in so short a time. the pappies could not have done it all by themselves

  20. 39 Chanel 24 July 2012 at 17:55

    Straits Times really takes the cake on demolishing Ravi. The newspaper said that he performed secret society rituals simply because he danced with a fake sword!!!

    Does this mean that all wushu practitioners are crazy??

  21. 40 The Question 24 July 2012 at 20:27

    So what’s the difference between bipolar and senile?

  22. 44 walkie talkie 24 July 2012 at 23:37

    In the Judeo-Christian tradition, there is the practice where prophets did actions that appear to be crazy by their contemporaries, such as one of them going around naked for 3 years. The message is not only in their words but also in their actions. Ravi might have intentionally doing these seemingly crazy actions to give a message to only those who can see through those actions.

  23. 45 Amused 25 July 2012 at 00:14

    The answer is simple – everyone is scared of Lee family and his party.

  24. 46 Shah 25 July 2012 at 09:52

    The Law Society’s stunning behaviour only exposes their entitlement syndrome. Some princelings are more untouchable than others. The presiding judge did the right thing. It is the individual judges’ apolitical behaviour that helps the public have confidence in the law. Individual behaviour will help smash legitimate perceptions of judicial bias toward the elite.

  25. 47 25 July 2012 at 10:55

    Releasing highly personal medical info must be the lowest point in the history of fixing the oppo in singapore. utterly morally reprehensible. all sporeans should be outraged and very concerned that persons in authority will not do the same to them just because 40 per cent (or more) happen to disagree with their politics or policies. Oppo politicians should not remain quiet in this instance. Citing big work load is poor excuse. This concerns very basic rights in spore which should be taken up by more than one eccentric lawyer. just because the case is now a legal matter does not mean we should wash our hands off it.

  26. 48 25 July 2012 at 11:58

    What has happened to Singapore? A society so lacking in compassion for those down and out or falling through cracks. Could it be people are chasing money to pay for COEs, expensive mortgages, primary one positions in elite schools that they have no time to pay attention to societal issues?

  27. 49 The Pariah 25 July 2012 at 15:53

    Previously, Singaporeans hankered for 5 Cs:
    1) Condo, 2) Car, 3) Country club, 4) Career, 5) Credit card.
    COURAGE? Not a chance.

    Nowadays, Singaporeans hanker for 5Bs:
    1) Bungalow, 2) BMW, 3) Bank, 4) to be Boss, 5) Billions of $$$.
    Having BALLS? Not a chance.

    Lawyers, doctors, engineers, accountants, etc, took the most public subsidies for tertiary education and the academia who continues to sap public funds for research and post-grad studies …..

    How do they give back to SINGAPORE and to SOCIETY by being “See/Speak/Hear No Evil” Monkeys?

  28. 50 Anonymous 25 July 2012 at 18:31

    It’s not difficult to understand why no “top” lawyer would handle such cases. Which entities are the major shareholders of a number of Singapore listed entities in Singapore and/or have some sort of influence over prominent Singapore companies? Once a lawyer gets a blackmark, what’s the chance that he/her or his/her firm can get work from such entities going forward?

  29. 51 Coffee Chic 26 July 2012 at 11:59

    We need a lot more Ravis but so many potentials are eaten by the system and you see the lights dim in their eyes as years go by.

    Associate Professor Calvin Fones is a senior consultant psychiatrist at Gleneagles Medical Centre. Looks like he also teaches Medical ethics at NUS. Nice to see him setting aside his principles to suck up to the government. Government and law society are synonymous anyway.

  30. 52 Ang 26 July 2012 at 12:10

    PM Lee should be ashamed of himself. All he needed to do was call an early by-election or show that he has the interests of all singaporeans at heart. hes shown himself to be small minded, anti-democratic and has unleashed political forces in spore which are going to be hard to put back in genie’s bottle. its dangerous to have a PM whos so out of touch and whos contributing to a polarized society while living off millions from sporeans’ hard work to build this nation. shame!

    how much longer is this bullying going to go on for? JBJ, Chiam, CSJuan, and before them a long list of unacknowledged sporean heroes.

  31. 53 Thor 26 July 2012 at 19:13

    I felt sad when I saw the demolition job in the MSM. Sad, on two fronts. One, that Ravi might be really ill. But, I was not there and I have no context to what the MSM has portrayed. So, even that conclusion may not be true. The other reason I felt sad was that, if Ravi was really ill, then indeed it’s cruel and malicious to humiliate a person who is not well so publicly. I felt that some mental health organization perhaps should take the MSM to task, even in the courts if necessary. I always come to the same conclusion. We get the government we deserve. Sigh.

  32. 54 Martin 26 July 2012 at 23:03

    First they came for the communists,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

    Then they came for the trade unionists,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

    Then they came for me
    and there was no one left to speak out for me.

  33. 55 mirax 26 July 2012 at 23:23

    I wonder if the Law Society and the general educated populace even have a friggin notion of what bipolar disorder entails? It is an increasingly common diagnosis and many individuals with afflicted with it remain high functioning while following a treatment regiment. The dog whistling of “mental illness” is another just another form of ignorant bigotry. M Ravi has acted out previously but caused no actual harm to anyone.Even the ” offence to religious harmony” charge was negated by him being an equal-opportunity offender at two places of worship. M Ravi is not running amok with a parang nor is he the least likely to. His extra curricular treehugging shenanigans really have no bearing on his behaviour in court and should not be the basis of judging his competence as a lawyer.

    And yes, I would hire M Ravi as a lawyer because I just know that he would go that extra mile for the client. You cant say that for the vast majority of our legal fraternity.

  34. 56 starfuct 27 July 2012 at 13:18

    Dear Alex,

    Geoffrey Robertson, the QC who argued Chng Suan Tze v Public Prosecutor, says in his memoir The Justice Game (which for some strange reason is not to be found on sale in Singapore) that on the day he was scheduled to appear, his local co-counsel Howard Cashin, was named in an divorce petition by a PAP MP as as having had affair with the same. Robertson says and I quote, “Greater love for the party hath no man, than that he would lay out his wife’s infidelity to serve its interests.”

    Howard Cashin’s historic family home in Lim Chu Kang was later compulsorily acquired and left to rot. Having left Singapore 8 years ago I cannot determine whether the structure is still intact.

    My point is that the reticence of Singaporean lawyers to argue what should be open-and-shut constitutional cases can be understood if one takes into account the fate of those lawyers like Howard Cashin who, in past years, dared to oppose the government. JB Jeyaretnam, if we care to remember, was actually a district judge. So was Michael Khoo, who was coincidentally reassigned from his the bench after rendering a judgment in favour of JB Jeyaretnam. See John Mortimer, Murderers and Other Friends (another book by a QC for some strange reason not found anywhere in Singapore).

    These lawyers were all systematically humiliated and destroyed.

    As a practicing lawyer in another jurisdiction, I have often wondered whether the individuals we call “top lawyers” attain this title not by dint of their intellectual superiority or talent, but by the assiduousness with which they assist the rich and powerful in becoming even more rich and powerful. For instance, certain legal disciplines, such as restitution, chancery and conflicts are for some reason considered prestigious and the preserve of the especially bright and talented, for reasons that I have yet even to begin to fathom. This is despite the fact that public and constitutional law is probably the one subject in law school that excites the intellect of the most number of students.

    In any case, given the weight of vengeance that has been visited upon past Singaporean lawyers who dared step out of line, I am not surprised that M. Ravi is being driven up the wall.

    I wish him the very, very best.

  35. 57 Erica 2 August 2012 at 00:25

    If there are none willing in Singapore, I am sure there are several top quality QCs in the UK who would feel honoured to put forward excellent arguments in the Singapore courts, if asked, and granted the right to appear.

    • 59 The 3 August 2012 at 11:17

      Erica – that was the situation way back then. QCs were engaged and won the case, even against the government. Then the govt decided to plug this “loophole” – we are a sovereign nation and no longer a colony, so why should we use British lawyers. That was the rationale – but of course we know the real reason. Hence, Senior Counsels (SCs) were introduced in lieu of QCs. Only in rare cases can we engage QCs. I am not aware of any QCs arguing in Singapore courts for a very long long time.

  36. 60 3 August 2012 at 00:39

    Aw I m sick of you all blasting lawyers and asking them to fund the defence of our constitutional rights , start a fund , even animals in the US have it. is just a juvenile idea to have lawyers or anybody else to work for free.

  37. 61 Mike Zeng 3 August 2012 at 09:56

    Thanks Alex…..u r one of the great democrats. I’ve just signed up for regular emails to my emadd from your excellent blog Yawning Bread.
    Keep up the good work… have more supporters than you could ever imagine.

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