Thursday, September 17, 2009

Singapore. There has to be a mistake! Is it 3500 lawyers or 3600!

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Not unlike the state controlled papers of the old Soviet Union under Stalin whose statistics can change as required; the figure on the number of lawyers in Singapore quoted by it's similarly controlled newspapers appear to fluctuate by the day!

Singapore's Straits Times online edition of Sept 12, 2009 has this story "Help lawyers adjust". The first line of the story has these words "Law Minister K Shanmugam on Saturday night threw down the gauntlet to the Law Society: Help it's 3,500 member lawyers adjust to the liberalization of the legal industry".

Further down the page there is this "These challenges will stretch the society's leadership role as the self regulatory body for the 3,500 practicing lawyers here, he noted at a speech at the Society's annual dinner and dance".

The next day, Sept 13, 2009, not only in the same newspaper but also written by the same reporter has this story "Help lawyers adjust. Law Society can be "thought leader" in dealing with the industry's liberalization!" It's first line says "Law Minister K Shanmugam on Saturday night threw down the gauntlet to the Law Society: Help it's 3,600 member lawyers adjust to the liberalization of the legal industry!"

Are we to assume that even though the number of lawyers has stagnated over several years at about 3500 or less(this figure is disputed, the true figure may be much lower) suddenly over a day, the number of lawyers appears to have jumped from 3,500 to 3,600? Has the profession which has been shunned by almost everyone for lacking independence or the rule of law, suddenly rebounded miraculously!

Or is it really another statistic which the Singapore government and their state controlled bodies such as the Law Society churn out as and when convenient!

You can see the ruse here, I am sure. It is very easy for anyone anywhere to quote an exact figure. At this moment of time, it is possible to state definitely that there are x number of members in the State Bar of California to the last man or woman. But in Singapore it is always "about 3,500" or is it "about 3,600" when convenient! Why is it not possible for the Singapore authorities or the Singapore Law Society to state that there are 3561 members, for instance or any other exact number?

In fact, if you read my post earlier in this blog, the Law Society of Singapore simply refused to answer my question, period, on the number of lawyers there!

You want my guess on why they do this, which is this. They are ashamed to quote the figure. The number of lawyers did not jump from 3500 on Sept 12, 2009 to 3600 on Sept 13, 2009, an increase of 100. In fact the number may have declined to less than 3,000. Embarrassing for them to admit this in a so called first world country that deals with banking and international commerce! So they carry on with the usual number of "about 3,500" or "about 3,600" or whatever other round number that comes to mind.

You can understand why, of course. The legal profession of Singapore has been disgraced. Singapore's judges have been disgraced. The International Bar Association has said so. The New York Bar Association had said so. So has every other respectable international monitor of democracy. They have been seen shamelessly abusing the law to protect Singapore's strong man, Lee Kuan Yew, his family and his government. It is public knowledge now for many years. When they repeatedly punished an innocent JB Jeyaretnam. When they repeatedly bankrupted and imprisoned a citizen Dr. Chee Soon Juan for no crime or reason. When the did the same to Francis Seow, to Tang Liang Hong, and to me, the world was watching. So were the Singaporeans. Mr. K Shanmugam, Lee Kuan Yew's recently handpicked Minister of Law can make as many grandiose speeches as he wants in the state controlled press; which now gets their figures wrong as well.

The fault lies in Lee Kuan Yew and his men taking Singaporeans as a bunch of imbeciles. That is what is wrong.

You see, it is like fitting a square peg into a round hole. On the one hand you ask law students to study subjects like the Constitution and the Bill of Rights which are mandatory subjects. As you know this tells us of our individual human rights which we are expected to have. Second, we learn it in the English language,not in Chinese, or North Korean or Burmese, which means that you could read John Stuart Mill's "On liberty" as well. And after having passed the exams, the student is required to take the lawyer's oath that he will uphold the Constitution of Singapore. And after all that, you punish him if he dared to exercise the very right he was supposed to have, if he spoke his mind!

This sort of logic simply doesn't work. More simply put "No can do".

This is crazy. I know it. And so does every other young man contemplating a career. If he had any sense, he won't go into it. And if by mistake he had, he will drop out of it. That is why the Law Society of Singapore is ashamed of the figures and that is why K Shanmugam cannot make up his mind whether there are 3500 or 3600 lawyers in the lawyer deficient country.

And even if this figure were correct, which it is not; whether 3500 or 3600, it is still totally insufficient for a country of 4.8 million people, a so-called international city state with banking commerce and international trade! For a country such as this to function normally, it needs 20 times that number, at least!

If he wants lawyers who will merely do as they are told, he should be making them study it in Communist China in Mandarin and not in English. That way he will have as many lawyers as he wants, the type you will find in the People's Court in downtown Beijing.

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

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