Ladies and Gentlemen,
You are quite right. The title is wrong. Mr. JB Jeyaretnam, is not a senior counsel. In fact, just the opposite. He is a disbarred lawyer, a former criminal having gone to jail, and a bankrupt. That is according to Lee Kuan Yew and the Singapore legal system.
But anyone who knows Jeyaretnam, knows that if there ever was one man in Singapore deserving of the title, senior counsel, it has to be Mr. Jeyaretnam. He was before he was struck off the Bar, the foremost criminal lawyer in Singapore, with a brilliant career at the law. Educated in London as a Barrister, he returned to Singapore to join the legal service where he was elevated to become the highest Judge in the District Courts, the position of Senior District Judge. He left the legal service in protest at Lee's politicising the Singapore Legal Service by appointing his supporters in prominent positions. He then started his own legal practice and enjoyed a lucrative practice in criminal law for many years, defending many murder cases, and making a name in the criminal bar. The problem started when Jeyaretnam decided to go into politics against Lee in 1974. From that point on, the highly respected Jeyaretnam was steadily turned into a criminal.
We have heard the story many times, even with others. Lee began forming trumped up charges against Jeyaretnam. He was brought to court and promptly convicted by highly paid corrupt judges who were acting as Lee's politicians rather than judges. In short order, Jeyaretnam was convicted, sent to jail, disbarred from practice, repeatedly sued for libel and slander and slapped with crippling damage awards amounting to millions and destroyed completely. Destroyed not only monetarily but also his reputation destroyed.
And for for anyone who knows Jeyaretnam, he is an upright man of integrity, a brilliant lawyer and a great asset to his country.
Who then are Singapore's Senior Counsel. The position of Senior Counsel was created in Singapore as a parallel to the British system of Queen's Counsel. Senior Counsel are supposed to be lawyers with great experience, probity and integrity and an example to the Bar. But in Singapore, truly, it is not your legal qualifications that enable you to be elevated to this exalted position. It is your political stand.
It is like this. Anyone who really wants to succeed in Singapore by fair means or foul, join Lee's Peoples Action Party, the Party in power in the one-party state of Singapore, if you don't count the two miserable opposition Members of Parliment. For children, there is the PAP youth wing. You are then indoctrinated. Just as an opportunist under the Third Reich would have joined the Hitler Youth to get along in the Nazi Administration. Once your loyalty remains certain, and you are seen to do well in your exams, you are then co-opted so to speak to high office in Lee's government. If a lawyer, you get jobs in the large law firms who support Lee. In these law firms, these minions, are then given sufficient important legal work and gain experience. Since they have the experience, they are then made Senior Counsel by Lee and his politicians. Outwardly, they will pretend that it was the Law Society who appointed them. But in fact, since the Law Society itself is in the pocket of Lee and company, it is in fact Lee and his friends who decide who is to be made Senior Counsel.
As I have said in the past, as you you all know, the law in Singapore is abused at will anytime by Lee and his son and their government. There is no real law in Singapore. What they call Senior Counsel are lawyers who have completely sold their consciences, for personal gain. These Senior Counsel, have no complaints about the constant detraction and abuse of the rule of law. They make no protest when Lee abuses the Constitution by denying the right to free speech and expression, the right to peaceful assembly, the right to form independent unions for workers, the right to a free press and media. These Senior Counsel have no comment on any of these violations. None of them have ever defended or will ever defend a political dissident such as Dr. Chee Soon Juan. None of these have any views about anything. They will of course tell you that Singapore has the best legal system and other things that their masters want to hear.
You would expect all praises too from any successful German lawyer in the Third Reich for Herr Hitler. It is a sad case of you scratch my back and I scratch yours, and the hell with the law.
Lee, it now appears, has gone too far in his openly abusing the law for his political ends. The Jeyaretnam case, followed by his punishing a string of other political dissidents has become well known. And this is hurting the reputation of Singapore in their so-called commercial hub position which they claim to have.
Singapore relies a great deal in international banking and commerce, areas where it is mandatory to have an independent judiciary. The sanctity of contracts depends on an independent judiciary. If the independence of the judiciary is suspect, it becomes risky for your investments.
And this is the problem, I fear is now facing Singapore. While these Senior Counsel benefit themselves by singing praises to father and son, Lee and Company, they are risking the future viability of the country as a commercial center.
Like Mr. Chiao Hick Tin, the Singapore Attorney General had said recently, (Straits Times article, January 9th, 2007, please see my earlier post) the law is the foundation of a society's existence. If it is undermined the country's very existence becomes uncertain. In this point, Mr. Chiao, I agree with you. Please stop abusing the law for your political ends.
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