Ladies and Gentlemen,
If there was an audition to select a suitable actor to perform the character Fu Manchu at the local theatre, the aspirant must be able to act the part. He has speak with sufficient sincerity and a straight face without giving away anytime, the actual evil within him. The idea is to deceive the gullible victim into believing him when actually Fu Manchu has other sinister plans afoot. Acting the part of Fu Manchu requires the ability to maintain a straight and honest face while at the same time, having some other nefarious plans. It takes skill and ability.
I have had the opportunity of speaking to a some who were at the speech given by the Attorney General on January 06, 2007 at the opening of the legal year. I have been told that the speech was a long one. He spoke of very lofty ideals such as the rule of law that he claimed exists in Singapore, and what an excellent legal system it has and why in fact it is the envy of legal fraternities throughtout the free world. And why those foreign legal fraternities drool with envy at the excellent legal system in Singapore! Of course many listeners listening to him, were repeatedly having serious doubts of whether the Attorney General had got the country entirely wrong, or was he if fact thinking of some other place in the world !
Even though the listeners, as they kept listening to his incredulous speech, were clearly becoming uncomfortable and beginning to have doubts of the identity of the country being referred to; not even once, I was told, did the Attorney General's countenance ever give away his personal doubts, of which I am sure he had, on the veracity of his claims. I was told that the Attorney General had no less than 25 times referred to the rule of law existing in Singapore, and not even once did he so much as wink! Clearly the qualities of a person with a promising career in the theatre. I wonder whether anyone has told the Attorney General that.
Let us look at what he said. He said he wanted Singapore to be a leading and global provider of legal services! For the avoidance of any doubt, he was referring to Singapore by the way. I do not know which planet he comes from but the truth, just as you and I know, is that it will not work. Singapore's reputation on the rule of law at present is so low that foreign disputants might even prefer Lagos Nigeria to Singapore for settlement of disputes. The repeated abuse of the law to stifle dissent against opponents such as JB Jeyaretnam, Dr. Chee, Tang Liang Hong, Mr. Seow is all well known. Not necessary to waste your time repeating them. Just as you the world knows them. So why Mr. Attorney General do you think that anyone would want their disputes to be heard in Singapore when they already know, repeatedly, that you and your judges are beholden to the government and not impartial? Why do you think, Mr. Attorney General, why do you think they would want to do that?
He then refers to the dwindling numbers in the legal profession, pretending he does have a clue why that is happening. You see, he does this with theatrical excellence. He does it with a straight innocent sincere face. I don't think you or I am capable of such a Stirling performance. Well for the umpteenth time, my dear Attorney General, the reason why people refuse to get into law in Singapore is entirely because the rule of law is absent. Why do you think I left? Why do you think the other hundreds of lawyers left for Australia. They leave because they wish to practice their trade. They leave because you and your dictatorial masters do not permit them to practice the rule of law.
You have suggested various ingenious methods to increase the supply of lawyers. Please, you can do what you want, but you will not get good lawyers to remain in Singapore. The ones who succed are the ones like you. The dishonest ones who work for government linked law firms with a complete disregard for their fellow men. You may be able to increase the numbers of these types, but the good ones will tell you, colloquially put, to go fly a kite.
At least for once you had been honest in your speech. You had said "A thinning Bar can be easily a sign of an ailing profession". That is quite right, Sir. But the reasons that you give for them, is unfortunately comical. Shakespearean. It is not because of long hours of work. Not because of stress. Lawyers can take any of this, and more. But what a lawyer cannot take, a good lawyer that is, is to have to appear before a cowardly unprincipled minion of a judge, and to have to call him your honour and to obey him. That for me at least, after a time became impossible.
Let me not have to tell you again, my dear Attorney General. The Singapore judges are corrupt. You are corrupt. The world as well as I, know this. And you can go on repeating until you become blue in the face that this is not true, but to no use. The world will believe that the Moon is made of cheese before they will believe that you have the rule of law.
I am reading your speech Mr. Attorney General. I must say, you have bored them to death. You have been speaking of various other grandiose plans to bring in foreign lawyers to work with Singapore lawyers for an international effect.
As I write foreign lawyers read my articles. They too can make sufficient enquiry. If you do get foreign lawyers they will be of the same genre as your compliant, opportunistic lawyers. Otherwise you may get those ignorant ones from Borat's country. Certainly not the good lawyers from the free world. I think the correct name for such aspirations is "pipe dream".
The last 4 or 5 paragraphs of his speech are devoted to the rule of law and why it is none other than Singapore, believe it or not, that stands as a beacon to the rest of the world as the prime example of such an honorable tradition. He spoke, it seems, throughout these 4 or 5 paragraphs being downright serious and sincere, showing a demeanor and countenance as if he believed every word of it as true, as if offering to swear on his mother's grave to the solemn veracity of these assertions, lest thunder and lightning strike him dead! Surely a theatrical peformance par excellence.
Permit me please, to say what I understand to be the rule of law. The rule of law is not abusing the law of libel and slander to falsely order crippling judgements against political opponents. The evidence of the abuse lies in the repeated use of the courts and through corrupt judges like yourself, to punish Mr. Jeyaretnam no less that 15 times, making him pay millions of dollars by illegal court awards, sending him to prison on false charges and finally bankrupting him. The rule of law is not misusing the law to steal millions of dollars from Tang Liang Hong and running him out of the country all because he had the temerity, according to your master, Lee Kuan Yew, to make a police report against him. The rule of law is not to arrest detain and torture Francis Seow all because he decided to run against Lee in national elections. The rule of law is not the arrest of innocent decent lawyers and other civic minded Singaporeans and social workers, falsely calling them a "Marxist Conspiracy" detaining and torturing them for days, then forcing confessions from them under torture and publicly defaming them. The rule of law is not the suing and bankrupting of Dr. Chee for slander merely because he told Mr. Goh Chock Tong that "he, Mr. Goh, can run, but he may not be able to hide". I cannot see any slander in that unless it is a court as one reads in Alice and Wonderland and the case of the mouse who stole the tarts. Please Mr. Attorney General, would you want me to go on. Ad infinitum! Please, if I know this, then the world knows this. Therefore can I say the same as what Dr. Chee told you. My dear Attorney General, you may be able to run, but you may not be able, regrettably, to hide!
The rule of law for any lawyer means this. The country accepting a code of conduct that is universally accepted as the rights of citizens. A code where the government and the people have equal rights which one would would accept as rights existing in a civilized society. Where these rights are equally applied for all, including the government. These rights usually are those enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Rights such as free speech. Rights such as an independent judiciary free of government interference. A free press.
And these rights are to be enshrined in a document normally known as a Constitution. And where it is declared that the constitution is the supreme law of the land which remains inviolate. And where other laws cannot encroach on these supreme laws. And where the judges realize their duties of impartiality and the need to uphold the constitution.
Do you want me to go on Mr. Attorney General. The sad fact is the moment, the first time, you decided to abuse the rule of law, from that moment the credibility of the Singapore legal system was fatally mortally terminally discredited.
You can do your Fu Manchu audition as much as you want. But otherwise, you have wasted your time.
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