The past week saw a remarkable story of how people here rallied to redeem Singapore with no help at all from government agencies. After video surfaced of Vietnamese tourist Pham Van Thoai on his knees begging for a refund from a callous shop owner, over $14,000 was raised within a day on Indiegogo to help compensate him for his loss of $550. According to reports, news reached all the way back to Vietnam, earning much praise for Singaporeans.
Yet, I daresay that for every one Thoai, there must be a thousand more tourists and local shoppers scammed by get-rich-quick businessmen (and women). Ad hoc bottom-up indignation and fundraising, however laudable in one instance, cannot be a practical solution to a persistent cancer. We need a structural response, and in the nature of structural responses, the role of the state in implementing one cannot be avoided. Continue reading ‘How to help ripped-off tourists’
The judgement by the Court of Appeal, affirming the constitutional validity of Section 377A of the Penal Code, is a landmark… in the way that Elmina Castle in Ghana is a landmark. Section 377A is the law that criminalises sex between men and is the fount for a cascade of discriminatory policies against LGBT persons in Singapore. The judgement was released on 30 October 2014 and has since received very dim reviews from many observers, organisations and publications abroad, including the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Continue reading ‘Legal Elmina’
I had a sense of deja vu when Law Minister K Shanmugam said that allowing migrant workers to challenge deportation orders through the judicial process would mean that “every foreigner is entitled to stay here at taxpayers’ expense, housed here at taxpayers’ expense” (source), while the cases wend their way through the courts.
The same “it costs too much” argument was regularly deployed by supporters of the death penalty in previous years. It goes along these lines: society should not be burdened with having to feed and clothe a prisoner on a life sentence; it’s more economical to hang him. However, the government itself did not, to my knowledge, use this argument. It came from various members of the public. Continue reading ‘Not at taxpayers’ expense’
There rarely is any definitive explanation of any riot. There won’t be one of the brief incident — it lasted barely an hour — at Little India last night, Sunday 8 December 2013. The reason why definitive explanations are elusive is because there is always an element of chance and irrational behaviour. Moreover, riots are complex events involving many actors with many contributory factors. Continue reading ‘Riot in Little India: spark and fuel’
This is a diary of the case in which the Attorney-General’s Chambers accused me of “scandalising the judiciary”, to make it easier for friends to follow what’s going on. As with court cases, the technical details can sometimes be hard to grasp; I will try to make it digestible here. Since this has a diary format, from time to time, I will be adding to this, unlike other essays on this site which generally are finished by publication date.
Scroll down for the latest updates.
Continue reading ‘AGC versus me, the 2013 round’
April 2013 in Natal saw South Africa’s first gay wedding conducted according to traditional Zulu rites. Same-sex marriage has been legal in South Africa since December 2006.
I understand that the Attorney-General has alleged that this article is in contempt of court (scandalising the judiciary). My lawyers have advised that this article be taken down while the case is ongoing. See AGC versus me, the 2013 round.
Last Sunday, I was about to leave for a family dinner when the phone rang. It was a Bangladeshi worker on the line, someone I had worked with for the past two years over his employment problems. His present job is “OK”, he said. However, he wanted to bring a friend to meet me later the same evening.
“My friend, he have problem,” said Alamin.
I tried to shift the date and time, but it was near-impossible. Alamin works seven days a week and most evenings. He’s only free Saturday and Sunday evenings. Reluctantly, I agreed to see him and his friend at 9:30 pm, cutting short my family dinner. Continue reading ‘Human trafficking and shadow boxing’
Published 19 September 2013
law, crime, court cases
It is dismaying that a former Chief Justice has such a narrow conception of the rule of law. It is not altogether surprising, since the formulation he hinted at by his threadbare reply has been observed to be practised here for a very long time, and it accounts in large part for the erosion of true rule of law. The institutions that are charged with delivering justice fail us because the concept has been debased.
Choo Zheng Xi drew my attention through a Facebook post to an article in Today newspaper:
Prof [Tommy] Koh cited some Singaporeans’ view of the [Internal Security Act] ISA — which allows for detention without trial of individuals whose acts threaten national security — as example that Singapore had “rule by law, rather than rule of law”.
Rejecting the contention, Mr Chan said that the standard definition of rule by law was that the government is subject to the law and accepts so.
– Today, 17 September 2013, Panellists discuss LKY’s use of defamation suits and ISA Continue reading ‘“Rule of law” in Singapore is so thin, it holds no more meaning’
Vanessa Ho speaking at Hong Lim Park, 24 August 2013
Guest essay by Vanessa Ho
Foreword by Yawning Bread: As in all LGBT communities around the world, there is a tension between those who would adopt the language and styles of the mainstream to advance the cause of gay equality, and those who argue that such “progress” is meaningless unless we also help protect those who are more disenfranchised and voiceless than us. This is often oversimplified into “mainstream gays versus radical gays” — a caricature that does the complex debate a disservice. Setting aside that oversimplification, I have always wanted to have a voice for radicalism on this site, and am pleased that Vanessa has taken up my offer.
Yet, as she concludes, what appears at first as radicalism may in fact be a lot more beneficial to a wider scope of people, including those who aren’t sexual minorities.
Singapore’s LGBT community should shift away from talk about marriage equality. I am not saying that we should *not* fight for marriage equality, but that there should be a much stronger emphasis on fighting for anti-discrimination legislation. Marriage equality is great for people who believe in monogamy, who believe in the significance of marriage, and who are in monogamous long term relationships. But this is not the case for everyone. Not to mention that some within our community may not have the good fortune to meet “Mr/Mrs Right” and thus do not get to enjoy the opportunity to get married. Continue reading ‘The case for anti-discrimination legislation — from an unexpected quarter’
The book accuses the Singapore judiciary of inexcusable timidity. Our courts engage in “national formalism” and “textual literalism”, and judgements often lack “rigour and depth”, coming as they do with “insufficiently articulated assertions” (quotes from page 70).
In a cited case, it “upholds the letter of the Constitution at the expense of its spirit, and totally ignores the crucial judicial function of checking legislative power, deliberately casting Singapore judiciary in a severely limited role” (page 96). In perhaps different words, the same criticism is repeated in other cited cases. Continue reading ‘Book: Legal Consensus, by Tey Tsun Hang’