Archive for the 'law, crime, court cases' Category

“Rule of law” in Singapore is so thin, it holds no more meaning

pic_201309_22It 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’

The case for anti-discrimination legislation — from an unexpected quarter

Vanessa Ho speaking at Hong Lim Park, 24 August 2013

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’

Book: Legal Consensus, by Tey Tsun Hang

pic_201308_38The 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’

Slightly less homophobic Singapore to protest gay-murdering Russia


Russia may seem a distant place from Singapore. We have very little trade with it; the language and culture vastly different. But on Saturday, 24 August 2013, a protest demonstration will be held at Hong Lim Park aimed squarely at something that’s happening there.

We need to join many other countries in expressing our outrage at the rising homophobia in Russia. Encouraged by the Putin government, intolerant mobs have taken to lynching anyone suspected of being gay. Two men are known to have died, one of whom might not even have been gay. Continue reading ‘Slightly less homophobic Singapore to protest gay-murdering Russia’

Asked to be a snitch, law prof refuses to stay compliant

pic_201308_17It is widely believed that the surveillance state has tentacles reaching everywhere, but only now do we have a hint of it by someone recruited by the system. A short essay in the Australian magazine The Monthly (August 2013 edition) opens with Tey Tsun Hang’s experience.

Almost three years 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. . . .  “It’s a necessary evil and compromise for me,” Tey wrote to a colleague in September 2010.

The weak point that the ISD exploited was the fact that Tey was a Malaysian citizen, yet with his career invested in Singapore since 1997. He was well aware that the ISD could revoke his permanent residency anytime. Continue reading ‘Asked to be a snitch, law prof refuses to stay compliant’

The right to burn the flag


Helen Saada-Ching complained in a letter to the Straits Times (Life! section, 27 July 2013) that at a recent performance of Alfian Sa’at’s Cook a pot of curry, many in the audience did not stand up for the national anthem. Then the play ended with a “cheap gimmick” when the stage curtain — the Singapore flag — “came loose and plummeted to the ground”. Quoting another playwright, Eleanor Wong, she lamented the desecration of national symbols. Continue reading ‘The right to burn the flag’

$1.7 million worth of questions the government is disinclined to answer


In any real democracy, there would likely be demands for an independent commission of enquiry. Wrong-doing within the ranks of an anti-corruption agency is serious stuff. Any government that truly aims to live up to the highest standards of accountability will agree to one.

Instead, we have a longish statement from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) that contains no information as to how it occurred. Continue reading ‘$1.7 million worth of questions the government is disinclined to answer’

Death behind high walls and carefully scripted statements


It was disturbing to read that there will not be a coroner’s inquest into the case of Dinesh Raman Chinnaiah who died inside Changi Prison on 27 September 2010.

Responding to queries from The New Paper, an [Attorney-General’s Chambers] spokesman replied in an e-mail: “In view of the conclusion of criminal proceedings, the inquiry has been discontinued.”

— 24 July 2013, The New Paper, Coroner’s Inquiry into prisoner’s death stopped

Continue reading ‘Death behind high walls and carefully scripted statements’

Home Affairs hits out at filmmaker for ‘contempt of court’

He Junling

He Junling

A few days ago, the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) issued a letter of warning to filmmaker Lynn Lee  for “having committed contempt of court”. It asserted that two video clips released by her, featuring interviews with former bus drivers He Junling and Liu Xiangying, “amounted to contempt of court by creating a real risk of prejudice to criminal proceedings which were pending then”. Choo Zheng Xi and Andrew Loh, writing respectively at The Online Citizen and, have criticised this move by the AGC, albeit from slightly different angles. Both however are concerned that this represents a usurpation of judicial power by an executive branch.

I can imagine a retort that the AGC’s warning is just that:  “rather than proceedings in Court to commit Ms Lee for contempt of court” (words from the AGC’s statement), it is a warning that prosecution will occur if she repeated her act. That said, the opening sentence in the statement itself — “for having committed” — would undermine such a rebuttal; it sounds like passing judgement. Amazing how AGC lawyers can’t even write clearly! Continue reading ‘Home Affairs hits out at filmmaker for ‘contempt of court’’

Second of two 377A challenges may have to wait a long time for a decision

pic_201303_01aWednesday, 6 March 2013, was the day Tan Eng Hong’s challenge to the constitutionality of Section 377A was heard in closed court. Section 377A of the Penal Code is the law that criminalises “gross indecency”  between two men.

This follows quite soon after the court date for another challenge to the same law, mounted by Gary Lim and Kenneth Chee and reported in First of two 377A challenges heard in closed court.

In the Tan Eng Hong case, there are pages and pages of arguments, but my sense, on reading them, is that the issue is being distilled to a few crucial points. And these crucial points are not specific to the “gay issue”, but will prove important to any future constitutional challenge that is based on Article 12 (the equality provision) of our constitution. Continue reading ‘Second of two 377A challenges may have to wait a long time for a decision’


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