Ladies and Gentlemen,
If ever I have read a more cryptic, a more disguised, veiled, statement or threat of any person, this is it. I am referring to the article in Singapore’s state controlled newspaper the Straits Times of April 04, 2008 titled "Let all have access to justice: CJ Chan".
The entire report, no matter which way one wants to look at it, appears to be one thing, and one thing alone. A mea culpa. It appears the Chief Justice has finally had pangs of conscience hurting him, and now it is time for him to admit once and for all, that the Singapore legal system is not that free at all!
A careful reading of the state controlled newspaper report looks like this.
He says "Singapore Lower Courts have been placed high in international rankings but what matters is the quality of justice people here receive".
Just what is he saying here? Is he finally admitting that these international rankings that the government so proudly publishes are rankings not to judge whether the law is impartially applied; but instead, to judge how fast cases are dealt with and money recovered.
Is he admitting that all respected international organizations who truly judge whether rule of law and human rights exist; such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have stated repeatedly that Singapore courts do not exercise the rule of law?
Is he therefore admitting finally that Singapore does not practice the rule of law, and that Singapore is nothing more than a dictatorship ruled by Lee's dictates? Is he now saying that the time has finally come for Singapore judges to actually behave as judges and not as PAP politicians?
Chief Justice Chan says "While ranking matters, they should not detract from what matters".
Again, we see what appears to be an admission that these rankings such as PERC, a Hong Kong based organization which caters to multi national businesses, gives high marks consistently to Singapore legal system; because it is more concerned about how much profit off shore businessmen can make in Singapore; not how much justice an ordinary Singaporean Dr. Chee Soon Juan can get in Singapore’s courts.
When he says "they should not detract from what matters" is he now admitting there is in fact a serious problem with the state of the law in Singapore, because of a lack of an independent judiciary, and that something should be finally done about it?
"We should not allow them to dominate and overwhelm our own assessment of the quality of justice that we administer to our people" Are we seeing an admission that he has neglected to examine the quality of justice in Singapore; that rule of law is indeed lacking and that something now has to be done about it?
He then goes on to directly and deliberately admit that these foreign rankings that Lee Kuan Yew has selectively relied upon were "limited to certain aspects of justice such as how fast litigants can get a judgment from the courts and enforce them, as in cases in debt recovery and bankruptcy".
Is he therefore finally admitting that Lee Kuan Yew and his government have been downright untruthful and dishonest all these past 40 years when they routinely went around trumpeting the fact that Singapore follows the rule of law based on these one sided reports; but they knew all along that Singapore judges are not impartial, beholden to Lee Kuan Yew and the law is nothing more than decrees which he executes through his compliant judges.
Is he finally admitting that not only Lee Kuan Yew but he himself has been somewhat untruthful all these years!
And here he finally admits that “these rankings surveys serve as a useful purpose in alerting foreign investors to the potential strengths and weaknesses of the judicial or legal systems of the countries".
Is this therefore an admission, belated, but still welcome that these business orientated rankings, do nothing for the average Fatima binte Kastari, in her claim that she did not violate the law, in the exercise of her constitutional right of freedom of assembly, when she protested at the Tak Boleh Tahan, in front of Parliament House?
I have no doubt in my mind that the Chief Justice of Singapore was trying to tell us something. Since if he was trying to say two and two are four, he could have done a much better job.
Let us hope that our expectation is indeed correct. That Mr. Chan Sek Keong, the Chief Justice of Singapore has finally seen the light, realized the folly of his ways and has finally picked up the courage as Thomas Beckett did in King Henry's court; and has finally declared that business cannot go on as usual. The time has finally come for the rule of law and democracy!
And let us hope that finally he has decided after all to become a judge, and not carry on in those robes as a PAP politician.
If that is in fact your intention, well done old man. But the question is, if you did what you threaten, will you end up as a bookseller just as JB Jeyaretnam and Dr. Chee Soon Juan have become, after inviting the wrath of the tiger, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew.
Please tell us more, Mr. Chief Justice.
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