The recent controversy about a ‘riot control exercise’ reveals a blind spot among ministers and not a few decision-makers and ‘grassroots’ surrounding them. They seem unable to see a point of view that is emerging in Singapore: what I would call the ‘Post-independence generation’ outlook. This outlook is subtly but importantly different from that of the People’s Action Party and its devout followers in terms of how they see race and nationality in our society. PAP et al see race and nationality as a reality we have to accept and work with, but the new outlook puts a moral (dis)value on such distinctions and want us to actively avoid using them. Continue reading ‘Khaw finds obedience school ‘meaningful’’
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’
Bad news this morning. The Court of Appeal, Singapore’s highest court since we abolished appeals to Britain’s Privy Council, has ruled that Section 377A of the Penal Code is not unconstitutional. Section 377A criminalises sex between men, and is the key piece of legislation that justifies a plethora of other rules and regulations that discriminate against gay people.
I haven’t had time to read the 100-page judgement — thus a short post today — but snippets reported in the press this morning, such as this below, suggest that it is going to be a screamer, crying out for deconstruction. Continue reading ‘So now, the constitution’s the problem?’
Ministers can’t be very happy with the Sunday Times for a story the newspaper carried on 26 October 2014. Of course, that’s only if they understand how public opinion is shaped. They may not. Going by the tone-deaf way they have conducted themselves across a whole range of policies, they may have no feel for the public pulse.
The story about the High Court slashing lawyers’ fees may at first seem to have nothing to do with the People’s Action Party. But netizens quickly zoomed in on one name: Alvin Yeo, senior partner of the law firm WongPartnership LLP . Alvin Yeo is also the PAP member of parliament for Choa Chu Kang GRC. WongPartnership was retained by the Singapore Medical Council to represent them in the Susan Lim case. Continue reading ‘Twist in Susan Lim case widens affective divide’
Parts 1 to 3 dealt with the specific stings that the Attorney-Generals’ Chambers complained of, from two articles on this blog Yawning Bread: “377 wheels come off Supreme Court’s best-laid plans” published on 5 October 2013 and “Church sacks employee and sues government” published on 12 October 2013. My lawyers vigorously contested the accusations, describing the AGC’s case as a “house of cards”. Part 4 dealt with the legal burden and examples from the Shadrake case.
During the trial on Tuesday 21 October 2014, several other issues were also addressed that did not refer specifically to any statement complained of, but were nonetheless important overarching issues. I will record what was said on these points here in this fifth (and last) article. Continue reading ‘My trial for contempt of court, part 5: mens rea, tone and tenor’
My lawyers Peter Low and Choo Zheng Xi submitted, citing the Court of Appeal decision in Shadrake, that for the AGC to succeed in its application for my committal,
it must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the Publications prose a real risk of undermining public confidence in the Judiciary… The real risk test will not be satisfied in a situation where the risk of undermining public confidence in the administration of justice is remote or fanciful. Further, a Respondent will not be liable for contempt of Court if his comments amount to fair criticism. The legal burden is on the Prosecution to establish that the impugned statement does not constitute fair criticism, although the evidential burden is on the party relying on it.
My understanding of the AGC’s position is that it more or less agrees with the above description of its legal burden, with two areas of possible dispute. Continue reading ‘My trial for contempt of court, part 4: legal burden and Shadrake precedents’
Christ and the woman taken in adultery, by Nicolas Poussin, 1594-1665
In his oral submission, Peter Low, arguing in my defence, took only about twelve minutes to address the allegations made by the Attorney-General’s Chambers with respect to the second article “Church sacks employee and sues government”. The written submission however was more substantial.
Peter cut to the chase which was why he didn’t need much time. In addressing paragraphs 67 to 97 of the AGCs’ written submission (dealing with the second article), he reiterated that “what is alleged is not borne out by the plain words of the contents of the second article.” Within those 31 paragraphs from the AGC, he said, the AGC relied on the word “insinuation” six times, the word “imputation” three times and the word “implication” once. Continue reading ‘My trial for contempt of court, part 3: the second article’
The other part of the first article “377 wheels come off Supreme Court’s best-laid plans” that the AGC took exception to concerned my description of events leading to lawyer M Ravi (pictured at right) withdrawing his client’s application to intervene in the Kenneth and Gary appeal. I had written in the article that
M Ravi … in August 2013, acting for his client Tan Eng Hong, made an application to the High Court to be recognised as an interested party in the Court of Appeal hearing on the Kenneth and Gary case. The argument is that since the outcome of Kenneth and Gary’s appeal will affect Tan’s case (for which the High Court judgement was still pending at the time) Tan should be permitted to intervene.
This move must have upset the best-laid of plans. From a legal point of view, it would be very difficult to deny such an application. The fact of the matter is that the two cases are very similar. Whatever ruling comes out of the Court of Appeal in Gary and Kenneth’s case, it would clearly impact Tan Eng Hong’s case. Continue reading ‘My trial for contempt of court, part 2: first article, second sting’
Opening my defence, my lawyer Choo Zheng Xi said the Attorney-General’s Chambers’ case relied heavily on reading innuendo, insinuation and imputation into my words. The words used in the prosecution’s submission to describe the allegations I was supposedly making against the judiciary do not exist in the articles complained of, he said before Justice Belinda Ang, and that it would be important to always keep this in mind when considering the prosecution’s case. He further characterised the AGC’s case as full of hyperbole.
In written submissions, my lawyers had also written that “the Applicant [i.e. AGC] has had to twist Mr Au’s words out of context and to editorialize to impute sinister innuendo into his article where none exists. In so doing, the Applicant has mischievously ignored the caveats in Mr Au’s article that clearly flag out to his readers that he is theorizing, as opposed to making statements of fact.” Continue reading ‘My trial for contempt of court, part 1: first article, first sting’