Readers of this blog who are unfamiliar with the goings on in Lee Kuan Yew's Singapore, may think reading the comments that there are many who think Singapore is a democracy based on the rule of law. The reader is warned that they may be Singapore government employees whose job is to discredit those who criticize Lee Kuan Yew's authoritarian rule. Please use your discretion as to how much weight you will give these comments.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Does your blood not boil to read K Shanmugam's plans to increase the lawyer population in Singapore as reported in Channelnewsasia report of Feb 13, 2009 "Singapore acts to lure overseas trained lawyers back home".
In order to increase the dwindling pool of lawyers in Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew's handpicked Minister for Law, whose head it seems needs a thorough examination; intends to shorten the 1 year mandatory training course for foreign lawyers replacing it with a 3 month optional course. This is where I say this man is either completely detached from the legal profession or is deliberately insulting the reader's intelligence.
The legal profession all over the world is among the most poplar of vocations. In every country, the problem is always too many lawyers with states grappling with ways to limit new entrants. In California with a population of 33 million, there are over 163,875 lawyers in active practice, (one lawyer for every 201 people) with ever increasing numbers wanting to join. In order to limit the ever growing numbers, the California Bar Examination is made so difficult that only that only 1 in 3 manage to to pass the bar, with most lawyers have to take the exam multiple times to eventually succeed. The reason for the attraction of a legal career must be obvious. The law is a respected profession and judges here are expected to have high honor and integrity; willing to uphold the Constitution at any cost. Lawyers are proud of law enforcement, proud of their judges and the judges similarly respected the lawyers.
Not in Singapore. With Lee Kuan Yew openly and brazenly using the law as a means to silence dissent, with Singaporean judges seen as willing agents in this political repression of Lee Kuan Yew's opponents; with judges like Belinda Saw Ean shamelessly using her court to bankrupt and impoverish Dr. Chee Soon Juan, Lee Kuan Yew's political foe, the people have completely lost any respect for Lee Kuan Yew's legal system. So what is happening now, in fact what has been going on for a long time, is Singapore lawyers leaving the profession and new applicants are not being found.
I called the Law Society in Singapore, a minute ago, to ask them what the total number of lawyers there are. They appeared so secretive, just as every other government organ in Singapore is. Immediately the woman on the phone transferred me to another woman, who asked me who I was. I told them I was a member of the public, to which believe it or not, her response was that I should send them a letter for this information. When I asked why should one have to send them a letter merely for general information such as this, she transferred me to someone calling himself Kenneth who happened to be the director. He told me there was about 3,000. When I asked for the exact number, again the same question as to who I was and why I wanted this information. I said I am Nair, a member of the public. He then asked me to hold and disappeared for far too long, when it did not make sense anymore to hold on to the long distance line. I can openly say, according to him, before Kenneth disappeared for a long time, that here are about 3,000 lawyers in Singapore. Why such reluctance to give out general information such as this is mind boggling. I guess it is the same in all secretive jurisdictions; fear that the truth will out.
I called him again. He said his name was Kenneth Goh. This time he too said I should write an Email to him for this information. On my pointing out that I am not asking for state secrets, this being general information, his answer was that in order to work out the exact figure, he needs time. When I said, a general estimate is fine, he finally said 3,500. From anecdotal evidence it appears that this figure is much less than this.
The figure is startling in the light of Singapore's population which last reported to be around 4.5 million. The figures work out to 1 lawyer for every 1285 Singaporeans! Imagine that, in a supposedly global city that thrives on private banking (a euphemism for money laundering and tax haven), you only have 3,500 lawyers! And what is worse, from what I understand, this figure is fast dwindling, with existing lawyers leaving and no new takers.
Why is the legal profession in Singapore so unpopular? 3,500 lawyers is hardly enough for a city state that claims banking and international trade as it's main industry. Well the answer lies in Lee Kuan Yew successfully undermining the credibility of the administration of justice, with judges brazenly abusing the law for Lee Kuan Yew political purposes; Lee Kuan Yew has managed to make Singapore law and its judges devoid of any respect in the public eye.
The reason why Singapore lawyers leave never to return is not because of having to do a one year course in order to practice. They would have climbed the mountain if that is what it takes to practice law; that is if they have any respect for it. So eliminating the need for the one year course, permitting second class lawyers also to practice and increasing the intake of lawyers at NUS is not going to change anything. These are acts of desperation by this Lee Kuan Yew's minion who has run out of ideas.
If you want lawyers to practice there, you first of all have to show there is law there in the first place. If as it is now, the law is at the mercy of Lee Kuan Yew's and his minion the Minister for Law, K Shanmugam's whims and fancies, the number will either remain at the miserable level of 3,500 or it will shrink even further.
There is one thing that Lee Kuan Yew's boy K Shanmugam can do. That is to stop making a fool of all of us and himself by facing the facts for a change. If he wants the profession to increase, he must do the obvious. Re-introduce the law in Singapore, not the pretence that goes on now.
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