Ladies and Gentlemen,
The state controlled newspaper the Straits Times has this article in it's online edition of July 28, 2009 "WIPO sets up Singapore office". WIPO as you know stands for World Intellectual Property Organization, one of it's primary objects being the prevention of intellectual property piracy, for example, to stop people from illegally copying videos and songs without paying for it, so as to protect the rights of their original owners. Except for the the protection of patent copyright and trademark rights, the WIPO has no other business.
But if you were to read this Minister for Law's remarks in the newspaper article, it would appear as if Singapore has managed an earth shattering success by the presence of WIPO office here, when in actual fact it's ambit of business is purely intellectual property law and nothing more.
The article refers to the soon to be set up WIPO ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) center there and this Minister's hope that it will attract ADR clients. First the reader must keep in mind that if there is going to be any ADR in Singapore which I doubt, it will only be in disputes relating to patents trademarks and copyrights and nothing more.
In any case, I don't believe Singapore will achieve any success as an ADR center even for Intellectual Property Disputes. You will recall 1 year ago, the International Bar Association put out a 72 page article on human rights in Singapore relegating it's human rights and the lack of rule of law to a level no better than Burma. In their unforgiving scathing attack on the legal system in Singapore, they stated categorically that Singapore has no rule of law, that it's judges routinely abuse the law to silence political opposition and Singapore lawyers are unable through fear to stand up to this repression. You should read the report for yourself.
With this 72 page detailed report which sets out a litany of human rights abuses and denial of fundamental rights and the rule of law, the world legal community already shuns Singapore the way they shun Burma or North Korea.
Furthermore the recent ugly spate of prosecutions of major newspapers such as The Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the harsh punishments meted out to their editors with crippling fines for the slightest criticism of the Singapore strongman Lee Kuan Yew is fresh in the minds of the international community of civilized nations. So is the jailing of 3 men in the Kangaroo T shirt trial by Judge Judith Prakash who I believe has left Singapore permanently with her family in shame. So is the jailing of myself, Gopalan Nair, last year for 3 months for questioning the impartiality of Judge Belinda Ang Saw Ean for prostituting her judicial office for personal gain.
The reputation or the lack of it, of Singapore is so low, just look at what happened today. I had gone to the Immigration Court San Francisco for filing some papers and was having lunch at the Chinese Ming's Restaurant on Second Street at the junction of Market Street. Across my table was a Chinese American and we got talking. This man was a highly educated individual whose card read "Head of Business Development" Dubai. We got talking. I told him I was from Singapore and asked him if he remembered Michael Fay, the American who was caned in Singapore. His immediate reaction was to say that he was caned for "chewing gum"! Yes, caned for chewing gum! I did not want to correct his mistake. One thing is sure, he is one man who is never going to step foot in Singapore!
The law, as any lawyer will tell you, is interrelated. In other words, Intellectual Property Law does not stand alone and apart from other laws such as the Constitution, Laws of Contract and every other law even including Criminal Law. And therefore if the one party dictatorship of Singapore can violate the Constitution of Singapore anytime they want by denying the right to free speech and expression, what guarantee do you have that the same tribunal will try an Intellectual property case in an impartial and unbiased manner?
And since the judiciary is not open to any criticism with any detractor either sued and bankrupted or sent to jail, what guarantee do you have that any tribunal in that one party state island has any reason to be impartial?
Trying to resolve an intellectual property dispute in Singapore is like trying to say that Singapore judges will abuse the law whenever they come across a political opponent but they will always uphold the law in commercial disputes? Is this possible? Is it not an oxymoron? Is it not an impossibility?
I reckon Singapore island unlike London, Melbourne, Sydney, Hong Kong or New Delhi, will find it very hard pressed to get any client to Singapore for any sort of arbitration whether it is in Intellectual property or otherwise. All they have to do is to pick up a copy of that dreaded (for Singapore that is) 72 page report of the International Bar Association for them to cancel all tickets to the island never to step foot there again.
You have to give it to this K Shanmugam, he is trying very hard. But poor man, he is up against an impossibility. Singapore has gotten such a bad name in the international scene, they might as well forget any aspirations in the direction of an ADR center.
Readers of this blog may want to do your part by writing to WIPO office in Switzerland and tell them, for their own good, not to set up this office in Singapore. By doing so, they would be doing a disservice to their members. Tell them there is no rule of law in Singapore, at all. And without it, you cannot have any judgement that has any integrity since they will all be suspect.
Please write to:
World Intellectual Property Organization
34, chemin des Colombettes
CH-1211 Geneva 20, Switzerland
39737 Paseo Padre Parkway, Suite A1
Fremont, CA 94538, USA
Tel: 510 657 6107
Fax: 510 657 6914
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