Ladies and Gentlemen,
According to Singapore's state controlled media Channelnewsasiaof May 13, 2008, former law minister in Lee Kuan Yew's cabinet, S Jayakumar wants more Singapore lawyers to enter the field of international law; quite a daunting task since lawyers themselves are turning out to be an endangered species there.
In 1997 when the population was only 3.5 million in the island, there were 3,400 lawyers, a very small number even for Singapore of the time, already a city engaged in international trade, banking and commerce. After 10 years, today, you will be surprised to know that the number of lawyers have not increased remaining still at 3,400 despite the fact that business has increased 10 times and so has the population to 4.5 million!
In fact the Singapore legal profession is declining from reliable intelligence indicating today of not more that 3,000 actually doing any legal work. Resignations, retirements and emigration has been the order of the day.
Why the malaise in the profession? It should be obvious. With Lee Kuan Yew determined to use the law as a tool to eliminate political opponents, by suing them in defamation of character lawsuits and bankrupting them with the help of conniving compliant judges, the law has lost all respectability.
No self respecting human being would want to join the profession in Singapore which means joining a large firm and doing corporate work while willing lawyers are used to sue Lee's opponents, while everyday the Constitution is violated by arresting peaceful protesters and imprisoning them and while the Internal Security Act is used to detain and torture innocent citizens who challenged Lee's political authority.
So we should tell Mr. Jayakumar not to raise his hopes. If he cannot even increase the numbers in the profession, how can he increase the numbers in a selective field such as international law.
The article also refers to how he "discovered" the new Minister for Law while he was a professor at the Singapore University. He says he noticed the young Indian student, recognized him as a good student and invited him to his office to invite him to enter politics and "serve". Coming from a state controlled media you probably guessed that is not the whole truth.
Perhaps it is more like this. Since the age of 10, this young man had realized that the only way to succeed in Singapore is to sell his soul to the devil, that is to serve his master Lee Kuan Yew unconditionally; never mind the constitution, never mind the laws, never mind nothing. In other words, he had decided from an early age that he was going jump anytime and as high, and as many times as Lee Kuan Yew wanted. Whenever Lee flicked his fingers. In other words, he was a sterling member of Hitlers Youth wing, sorry Lee's "Young PAP".
It is true that Jayakumar had asked him if he wanted to serve. What he meant, and what Shanmugam understood to mean, is of course, whether he was prepared to serve Lee, unconditionally; not serve the country.
So, there you have it.
My dear Mr. S Jayakumar. It is simply not going work. Don't raise your expectations.
If I am to give some advice to Jayakumar, it is this. If you want a vibrant legal profession, engaged in the country and in their work, then introduce democracy. Introduce the rule of law. Otherwise the profession will continue to decline, Singaporeans will emigrate and you will find only yourself and your chosen disciple Shanmugam left. In an English speaking western thinking country like Singapore, most people are uncomfortable to jump just becasue Lee wants to see it.
There may be some like this Shanmugam, but most would decline the invitation.
Thanks but no thanks.
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