Ladies and Gentlemen,
Lee Kuan Yew's recently hand picked Minister for Law, the recently appointed K Shanmugam spoke, at the orders of his master perhaps, to the New York Bar Association who had met at a seminar in Singapore on October 28, 2009.
As expected of someone trying hard to argue the unarguable, his speech was a total flop. For one thing, the first 5 pages of his 10 page speech had nothing to do with law. It was a history lesson on Singapore since 1959 up till date, which any one of the Americans listeners could have found out himself without having to come all the way to Singapore. You know what I mean; the same old drivel, that we are a small island, blah blah; that we had nothing in 1959, blah blah; and now look at us with this beaming office etc etc.
Another man in history could have made an identical speech, and that was Adolf Hitler. He too could have rightfully said that in 1920s Germany was in shambles, the Reich Mark was worthless etc etc, and look at us today in 1938, the strongest country in Europe. And so what? It doesn’t prove anything. What is the point of having all these glass buildings and opulence if you have to live in fear everyday as Singaporeans do; fear of Lee Kuan Yew? If you don’t have the rule of law?
In fact in the very first Para of his speech, he was alluding to the grandeur of the recently built high tech and ultra modern building which is intended to house legal conferences and so on; as if that by itself raises the standard and the quality of justice in Singapore. In fact, I think the people would much better prefer to sit under a banyan tree and have real and true justice dispensed, rather than this opulence with a corrupt and biased legal system that you have in Singapore.
And mind you, so had Adolf Hitler in 1938. His courtrooms too were the best in the Europe of the time. And just like in Singapore, you didn’t have any real justice in them.
And after the history lecture, he gives a law lecture. He tells the American lawyers the elements of the rule of law, what it entails and what it requires. Surely these bright and experienced lawyers from New York need not have come to Singapore for that!
And then this Lee Kuan Yew's man trying very hard to protect his master as well as his own position; since if his master is gone, he wouldn't have any of those millions of dollars that he is paid; goes on to justify Singapore’s unjust law of detention without trial comparing it to the American's Guantanamo. This is an unjust comparison and the Americans know it; and by saying it to them, he is insulting their intelligence.
Americans were almost all against Guantanamo. But there is one difference. Under the Articles of War signed in Geneva after the War, enemy combatants in an armed conflict can be held without trial and released at the end of hostilities. The Americans by a stretch claim to be in a war, which they call the war of terror, and therefore claim the right to hold enemy combatants until the end of hostilities.
Second, Guantanamo is not US territory which requires due process. It is as you know in Cuba. And so Bush conveniently argues that since Guantanamo is not in the US, enemy combatants there are not entitled to due process in the same way as someone within the US. As far as I know, no one within the US has been detained without trial. Only one person Joseph Padilla, was initially held in this manner, but was subsequently given a trial. In Singapore none of these considerations hold. Singapore is not at war with anyone. Second, Singapore does not have a detention facility abroad. In these circumstances comparing Guantanamo to Singapore’s detention of people without trial is totally misplaced. I trust the Americans can see through this and put this man in his place.
That is why I have always said that Mas Salamat Kastari was unjustly detained in Singapore and now is similarly detained in Malaysia. There is no basis to hold him without trial. If there was evidence against him, he should have been brought to trial and if guilty, sent to prison. The very fact that he is not given a trial is clear evidence Singapore had nothing to hold him. This is an abuse of the law and has a chilling effect on everyone which is one reason why there is almost a mass exodus of Singaporeans wanting to emigrate and leave Singapore permanently.
Then he justifies caning people because he claims the British introduced the law in the Middle Ages to Singapore or slightly after that, and therefore he is obliged to retain it. If the British had introduced burning a man on the stake, would he have kept that too? Caning is a barbaric inhuman punishment. The very fact that Singapore manages to retain it without any opposition clearly shows the people have no say in how the country is run.
Then he justifies Singapore’s unjust criminal laws which deny the Defendant any real opportunity to dispute his accusers by alluding to the fact there is less crime in Singapore than in New York. Of course there is less crime. What else did you expect with such brutality inflicted on those who committed even petty offenses like vandalism, who will be beaten on their butts (caning) until their skin flays and their bottoms are bloodied. I know another country where it is very safe, Saudi Arabia. Over there your hand is chopped off. And unless you want to be a one handed ex convict, you better not commit any crime. I was told the Japanese Military Police formerly in Singapore, also kept very good law and order. If not, your head was chopped of off that very minute with a samurai sword. Not wanting to a headless ex convict, Singaporeans too under the Kempetai kept law and order. But what sort of stupid argument is that? And of all people in the world, he is trying to argue this stupidity to New Yorkers who love their liberty!
And then he tries to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes by arguing that Singapore criminal defendants are allowed legal representation just like American defendants, a shameless lie once again. Let me tell you this from personal experience. On May 31, 2008 while in Singapore I was arrested for allegedly criticizing a Singapore judge Belinda Ang Saw Ean for her bias. After I was arrested I was kept in solitary confinement at Central Police Station for 14 days or so. During this time, I was repeatedly interrogated both day and night with all sorts of threats and inducements such as the threat of extending my stay in solitary unless I co-operated.
Numerous statements were taken from me day and night and at each time I was asked to state that there were no threats or inducement even though there was clearly a threat to extend my confinement and further threats that I would be charged under the Sedition Act which meant I could spend 3 years in jail. During this entire time, my lawyer was not permitted to see me and I had no legal representation whatsoever. As I was a lawyer and I believed in my rights, I was able to withstand their torture, and their denying me a right to legal representation. Had I been any other person, I would have confessed to anything they wanted just to be released from solitary confinement. And this man K Shanmugam has the cheek to say that they have the rule of law! What law? Lee Kuan Yew’s law?
In Singapore he says people have no right to protest and engage in other forms of civil unrest. In Singapore according to him, the people are entitled to vote and once they did that, the rulers can do anything they want. This is exactly what happens in Singapore. And what he does not tell the Americans is the fact that the elections themselves are rigged. Remember the Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew’s son himself had said he will "fix" the opposition.
And then he says there is no corruption. And what does he call paying the Ministers, including himself, $3.9 million dollars a year? Salary? If that is not corruption, what is it? In fact Singapore is far more corrupt than Indonesia or even Burma. I don’t think the military junta in Burma pay themselves $3.9 million a year like the Singapore Ministers, him included!
And then he says, Singapore judges are not corrupt and their tenures are guaranteed. Tell me, who would want to leave the judgeship or be corrupted if they get paid millions of taxpayer dollars each year. There is no need for them to be corrupted. Their salaries themselves are corruption.
I can go on but there is no need. This man has tried to mock the intelligence of these American lawyers as if they did not know better. And I tell you what; it is not K Shanmugam who has had the last laugh. It is these well read worldly American lawyers who have permitted him to make a fool of himself.
One thing he should always keep in mind though. He is not as safe as he thinks he is. The batteries in his Benefactor and Patron are fast running out. Lee Kuan Yew is 86 years old. Perhaps this recently selected Minister for Law should think what sort of speeches he would make when his patron has gone to his Maker.
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