Ladies and Gentlemen,
Except for Dr. Chee Soon Juan and his colleagues, there is a total nationwide apathy and indifference for politics in the entire island of Singapore. No interest in civil liberties, no interest in how the country is run, no interest in anything at all that happens around them. The people appear only interested in having a job, sufficient income, the more the better and a comfortable life. As to how the country should be run, they leave it entirely to Lee Kuan Yew, his son and his friends and relatives.
This strange attitude, this total indifference to government and politics, is strange and unique; different from people's behavior in every other country. Why are Singaporeans disinterested? Since they are citizens of their country and since their money goes to pay the huge salaries of the Ministers their relatives and friends who run the country; should it not be natural for them to demand to be heard in matters that affect them? Well apparently in Singapore, they don't see the need to complain or make suggestions on governance.
I now know the reason why.
The reason for Singaporeans to believe that they are helpless in complaining to the government their grievances or making suggestions is because the vast majority is unaware that they have such rights. The vast majority, through ignorance, believe that they do not have such rights.
The fault for the sad state of affairs in Singapore where Lee Kuan Yew and his government are able to continue to rule unchallenged by any Singaporean; the blame for this sad state of affairs lies entirely on the lawyers, those educated in social sciences such as philosophy, sociology and political science. It is they who are aware, because of their training, of the principles of democracy, of the rule of law and the way a modern civil society should be run. But these people have shamefully let the country down because of their fear to oppose Lee Kuan Yew and the dire consequences that will follow. So to protect themselves, these very people who should be leading the way in making sure that Singapore is indeed a democracy that was intended in it's constitution; have let the people down by not ensuring that each man and women is made aware of his or her rights, so that this country, like other first world countries is governed for the benefit of the people; rather than for the benefit of Lee Kuan Yew, his relatives and friends as is the sad situation now.
And the ignorance which the majority have about their rights is not their fault. The idea of democracy, the need for it, and why it is necessary, are things that have to be learned. They are not things that people would automatically know. And the duty to make the people realize their rights lies with the lawyers; these lawyers who have miserably failed their fellow citizens and betrayed their calling.
I have a friend, Thanabal. I speak to him very often over the phone. I knew him since childhood. He lived in PUB flats in Somerset Road. His parents knew my parents. Although a good student when young, it was not good enough for the Singapore education system of the time. He did not manage his O levels well. He ended up as a store man and now is security guard.
I asked Thanabal why he is not agitating for his rights, since he is a Singaporean. His answer was basically that the government has some bad laws and policies which he disagrees with. But beyond that, he had nothing more to say. He did not even believe that he had such rights as to protest, to demonstrate or peacefully assemble to demand his rights. It is not because he is particularly stupid. It is simply because no one ever told him that he has such rights. He has never read the constitution of Singapore and even if he did, would not know the importance of its provisions.
It is not just Thanabal. It is almost the entire country that is kept in the dark this way. For Lee Kuan Yew and his family members who reap the rewards of the toils of Singaporeans like him; it serves Lee very well to keep my friend Thanabal in the ignorant state that he is in; in politics or government. The less Thanabal is told about matters such as the Constitution, the better for the Lee family. I could safely say that the vast majority of Singaporeans, even those who are educated in non legal or non philosophical subjects, graduated from the University of Singapore are not much different from my friend Thanabal. Surprisingly, they display the same level of ignorance in political matters. In college, they have all been deliberately kept in the dark on matters such as the Constitution or the people's rights.
And Lee Kuan Yew being the corrupt dictator that he is; he deliberately ensures the people's ignorance in government, thereby able to govern them easily.
And as equally disgraceful as Lee Kuan Yew and his family; are the Singapore lawyers. Why, because lawyers are aware of such things as the constitution and the rights of citizens and yet they do nothing, because they fear; fear to encourage the people to demand their lawful rights. And because these disgraceful Singapore lawyers remain silent, having abandoned and abdicated their duty to the people and the law; Lee is able to run roughshod over his people at his pleasure.
Since I came to the United States, I have been in regular contact with lawyers whom I knew. I want to tell you what they say and generally it is the same disgusting line of thinking that they conveyed. All of them, the moment they know it is me on the telephone; almost invariably start off by saying that they are not interested in politics. This is because they expect me to ask them what they thought of the government's refusal to refund CPF payments; why is the government constantly arresting Dr. Chee for his peaceful protests; are they not aware that the constitution allows peaceful assembly; and why are they not doing anything about it. These are embarrassing questions for them which they prefer not to answer. They are ashamed. They know that they should do something. They are afraid. Afraid for themselves and afraid for their families. They are afraid of Lee's retribution. So they remain silent. In fact they prefer not to speak to me at all.
One Indian woman lawyer in Peoples Park Complex or center; I do not know which but the building across the parking lot from Subordinate Courts; will ask her secretary whether it is Gopalan Nair on the phone or some other Gopalan; and if it happens to be me, she will conveniently say that she was not in! I had expected her to have a little more courage; she has been practicing for many years and had assisted Dr. Chee behind the scenes by notarizing affidavits for court appearances; but beyond that, there is no more passion to do anything so daring as to walk out and hold a placard demanding "We want justice, or Lee get out". Poor woman, her courage appears to go only as far as notarizing Dr. Chee's affidavits in private. Her courage does not appear to extend beyond that!
We have the Indian lawyer who recently had represented Dr. Chee until his suspension from practice. Among other somewhat strange behavior that he exhibited, he had for some reason decided it was about time that he did something dramatic. Not finding anything else, he chose to sue the Mariamman Hindu Temple in South Bridge Road on the preposterous claim that the constitution of Singapore, because it refers to equality between the sexes, should therefore mean that women should be permitted to officiate from now on in temple prayers; something that has not been done since the birth of mankind! I understand that his claim was promptly thrown out by the court and he is having some difficulty in more ways than one.
We have not seen him lately at the Burmese gathering before the Burmese Embassy in Singapore, even though he always claims to be a Human Rights Specialist among other of his self proclaimed talents. Perhaps, he too has joined the other lawyers who find it fashionable to say that they are not interested in politics. Only time will tell. He remains suspended from practice. Poor man.
One other lawyer, a Chinese woman, also someone who had practiced for many years was somewhat shocked when she heard it was me, as I did not know her too well. When I told her about the latest injustices that went on, she said she did not know! When I said, it was printed in the Straits Times, she said, for want of something more believable; that she only read foreign papers, and not the Straits Times! End of story.
And then there was an Indian lawyer who works in Mallal and Namazie, a lawyer of some 25 years of experience. The problem with him is, as with many lawyers in Singapore, is the desire to be seen as supportive of the Lee Administration, which would mean in turn that if you are recognized by the Lee Kuan Yew and his friends; you stand to gain a great deal professionally and financially, meaning you may get good cases, and you would advance in your career. Therefore the need to discredit anyone who even suggests that Lee is a tyrant.
In this man's case, there was an exchange of Email correspondence. His responses were generally like this a) all countries are equally bad, even USA since they are attacking Iraq 2) USA is bad because they are killing the Arabs 3) it is not right on my part to compare Lee with Hitler since Lee did not kill anyone yet 4) I am talking a whole load of rubbish 5) when I mentioned Rousseau or Montesquieu on the constitution, he said he did not know and neither did he care and then his attacks became personal. He clearly does not understand why Dr. Chee does whatever he does because he claims that Dr. Chee's actions are against the law. I think it is all right to name him here, because his ignorance or his pretence is so startling for a lawyer.
He is Bala Chandran son of A Kandiah of Mallal and Namazie. His phone number is 6225 6511. It is quite a sad case really. Even after many years in practice, it cannot be said that he has succeeded, really. So the need, the distressing need to continue to be politically correct, in Lee's eyes. Even if he has to utter absolute nonsense, it does not matter.
I understand he plays soccer with PAP members; presumably in the hope that this association with the PAP, will benefit him in his failing career. For some reason, the association with PAP soccer team has not done him much good financially. Well, it is not all bad. At least the exercise keeps him fit.
Actually Singapore lawyers are not really lawyers in the true sense. They are there to draft contracts and prepare legal documents and to plead in mitigation in Magistrates Courts. Nothing more than that. But to really challenge the government on the laws relating the client's fundamental rights such as freedom of speech or expression, there will be no one.
As has been seen in Dr. Chee's inability to find a single lawyer; repeat, one single lawyer, to represent him in his political cases. That itself speaks volumes about the state of the legal profession there. Now since the octogenarian 83 year old JB Jeyaretnam has been reinstated to the rolls, let us hope that he will be such a lawyer, a real lawyer who will fight for his client’s rights. But alas, I think he may be losing his hearing. After all he is 83 years old.
I will too if I was 83.
Let us hope that JB Jeyaretnam's hearing problem does not become too much of an obstacle to his practicing law, and let us also hope that he lives a long life to a hundred. That way my claim that there is not a single true lawyer in Singapore will be proven false.
I will have to concede then, that there is, after all, one real lawyer there.
This is the sad state of lawyers in Singapore. In no other country in the world, is the situation so pathetic or tragic.
39737 Paseo Padre Parkway, Suite A1
Fremont, CA 94538, USA
Tel: 510 657 6107
Fax: 510 657 6914