Friday, February 22, 2008

Singapore laws. Itself a travesty of justice.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Singapore's state owned and controlled newspaper the Straits Times, just as all the other news media in Singapore which are all completely owned and controlled by the Singapore government, reports in it's Feb 21, 2007 story, "Court of Appeal dismisses alleged drug lord's plea against detention", a case where a suspected drug runner continues to be held in detention, since 2005, without any trial.

If you find this an outrageous denial of justice, wait till you hear that they are for suspected crimes not even committed within Singapore!

This is the sort of "justice" that goes on in Lee Kuan Yew's self professed first world country! We always thought that this sort of thing only happened in places such as Dafur!

Singapore permits detention without trial under the Criminal Law Temporary Provisions Act, which by the way is not "temporary" at all; where the government feels the Defendant is guilty of criminal offenses, but is unable to produce any witnesses; yet the interests of public safety required their imprisonment.

This was a law originally enacted in the 1950s, when Chinese criminal gangs were rampant; intended to keep these criminal gangsters in jail where it is difficult to obtain convictions against them in court; because of intimidation and threats made against any witnesses.

Since witnesses were afraid to testify against apprehended gangsters at trial, it meant that they invariably went off scot free. To prevent this happening, the government gave themselves powers to detain them 2 years at a time, for an indefinite time, merely on the statements of police officers.

Although one could possibly make a colorable argument both for and against such as law that goes against the very principle of common law jurisprudence; on the one hand that no one should be detained without a free fair and open trial; and on the other hand that since you cannot have a free and fair open trial when you are unable to secure any witnesses out of fear and intimidation, incarceration is justified; in this reported case, there is no justification whatsoever for the defendant to suffer imprisonment. No justification whatsoever.

The Defendant Edmund Wong Sin Wee, aged 49, a former lawyer, was accused of being a drug kingpin from early 2004 to April 2005. During this period he was accused of being responsible for movement of narcotic drugs from Malaysia to Taiwan and from Malaysia to Communist China through Hong Kong. From these facts any lawyer will see that Singapore has not a single good reason to imprison this man.

First, the offense was not committed in Singapore. Any first year law student will tell you that Singapore has jurisdiction only for offenses committed within its jurisdiction.

If the offense was committed within the jurisdiction of Malaysia, then only Malaysia has the right to try and punish the offender.

It is true that there are instances where Singapore has the right to try offenses committed abroad, but such right only arises through international treaties and agreements, one instance being that a high jacking on board Singapore registered aircraft can be punished in Singapore even if the offense was committed over Italian airspace; the reasoning being that the aircraft is Singapore registered, therefore Singapore law applies; even though over Italian airspace. This right accrues through international agreements.

Second the very spirit and intent of this law, Criminal Law Temporary Provisions Act is defeated in this case. The days of Chinese gangs such as the Ang Soon Thong are gone. Today, if the government has the evidence, it can produce the witnesses.

Furthermore, since you have trial by judge alone, what problem is there for the government to conduct a trial and instruct the judges to return guilty verdicts; since they do it all the time anyway? We know this sad fact through government judges such as Belinda Ang, who will return a verdict of guilt against Dr. Chee Juan for defamation of character in favor of Lee Kuan Yew without even a trial, within 5 minutes from her private office without even hearing Dr. Chee!

Singapore justice has been compromised anyway. What is the difficulty of compromising it yet again in this case?

And the lawyer for Edmund Wong, undoubtedly a courageous fellow for taking up the argument for Edmund Wong; which means that his future at the Singapore bar may not last much longer; having done the unthinkable of challenging the very basis of Lee Kuan Yew's laws; he had made another excellent argument that Singapore’s public safety will not be threatened in any way by releasing him since all the alleged acts were done outside Singapore. This argument is a compelling one for his release; since the sine qua non of this law requires a threat to Singapore’s safety.

Indeed what is more troubling in this case is the impression that both the local and international public may have on the legal system of Singapore and how it may affect the public confidence in it! Here we have a situation which offends every bit of what anyone would expect of rule of law.

Firstly the government incarcerates a man without trial. Second, it is for something which was not even committed within Singapore. And thirdly, it is not a case where the government cannot obtain a conviction if it wants to, since with Singapore’s political judges such as Belinda Ang, it is possible to obtain a judgment in Singapore declaring that the Moon was made of cheese!

In the light of the Singapore government giving short shrift to the rule of law, should one therefore be surprised to know that foreign financial organizations are increasingly becoming alarmed about the security of their financial dealings with Singapore; that Singapore Bar has the largest number of lawyers running away with their clients money anywhere in the world; that the Singapore legal profession in a country with more than 4 million is only 3,400; that lawyers, cooks and musicians, are all emigrating to Australia and Singapore is progressively becoming the number one pariah in the region.

No surprise at all. This is not only a country without laws; it is a country that does not mind the public knowing it.

Gopalan Nair
39737 Paseo Padre Parkway, Suite A1
Fremont, CA 94538, USA
Tel: 510 657 6107
Fax: 510 657 6914


Anonymous said...

Singapore judges are a joke. Their judgments often cannot be justified on the facts or the law.
Pray tell me how did they ever become judges.
How well do they sleep at night.

Gopalan Nair said...

To anonymous,

Very pertinent questions. They should be especially directed to Singapore High Court Judge Belinda Ang who has estabilshed a world record in deciding a defamation of character case in Lee Kuan Yew vs Dr. Chee in a straight 5 minutes flat, without even geting off her chair in her private chambers. In this recording breaking speed, she found Dr. Chee guilty of defaming Mr. Lee Kuan Yew ordereing Dr. Chee to pay one half million dollars and immediatley thereafter bankrupting him.

A record breaking judge, a record breaking woman, and a record breaking defamation of character case. It is in the Guiness Book of records, and if not, it should be!

Ceddie O'Hotch said...

Saturday, February 23, 2008 3:13 PM
Subject: Singapore laws. Itself a travesty of justice.

I really doubt the soundness and rationality of Singapore judgments, and hence Singapore judges. The laws in Singapore became a travesty when the English left Singapore. Aggravated travesty arose when the link to the Privy Council was abolished.

The Privy Council has overturned many Singapore judgments. The leading JBJ case is an example. Without the Privy Council, Singaporeans are left with wrongly decided law. Imagine what recourse JBJ would have had if there was no Privy Council in his time?

Laws of Singapore will be justifiable if Singapore judges can think like their English counterparts. Unfortunately, and as demonstrated on myriad occasions, they cannot. The importance of thinking like an Englishman is premised on the oft-quoted statement that Singapore law is based on English law. What an insult! (to English law!)

Let's perform a simple thought experiment. Suppose all the Singapore judges were replaced by English judges. Would the laws of Singapore become fairer? I submit, yes.

Now, suppose all the English judges were replaced by Singapore judges, what would happen to the laws of England. I say, unequivocally, the entire English legal system will be brought to disrepute instantly.

Ceddie O'Hotch

Anonymous said...

My friend, if Singapore judges ruled in the U.K. you would probably hear them mutter, "What to do?"

As you said, put U.K. judges in Singapore and in my opinion Lee would have been dead a long time ago.

Anonymous said...

Every enlightened country has a judicial complaints body to oversee the conduct of judges. Such a body is absent in Singapore. That speaks volumes.

Even if there is such a body, I very much doubt it would be independent.

In Singapore, not only is injustice done frequently, but is clearly seen to be done - an outright breach of the fundamental tenet in any enlightened legal system that justice must not only be done, but must also be seen to be done.

Anonymous said...

But these are the bad guys, aren't they? So, what's the bother. Law abiding citizens really have nothing to fear. I have faith that the relevant authorities have done their homework. You just don't talk justice with drug runners. When you enrich your coffers by ruining the lives of others, you have no right to demand justice. Hell is the only place fit for you.