Monday, February 21, 2011

Singapore. One law for some and another for others. The case of American Kamari Kenyada Charlton

Ladies and Gentlemen,

What Alan Shadrake, the English author who has been under arrest since July 2010 in Singapore for writing a book, Once a Jolly Hangman, critical of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew's judicial system had said is turning out to be true time and time again.

Alan Shadrake had said without mincing any words, that Singapore' judiciary is corrupt and gives preferential treatment to those connected to the government or seen to benefit the government in one way or another, while others are given the blunt end of the stick.

Here we have another classic example of this abuse of legal process. Once again it is one law for the rich and connected, another for the poor.

Singapore's state controlled newspaper the Straits Times of Feb 22, 2011 reports "American jailed for phone scams".

American, Kamari Kenyada Charlton, aged 38, had been arrested last year for cheating numerous Australians of Croatian and Serbian descent of large amounts of cash by getting an accomplice to ring them claiming to be from their embassies and asking for money to have their relatives released from jail in Singapore.

He was given a jail term of 16 months and with the time already spent in jail and with 1/3 of the sentece remitted for good conduct, Charlton will be going home this July!

But what is more important in the Singaporean context is the fact that Charlton had overstayed his visa for 169 days, nearly 6 months, which under Singapore's draconian middle ages law, renders him liable to be caned, an unbearable torture of having to endure bloody beatings on his posterior, which always leaves permanent scars and very often permanent crippling physical and psychological disabilities; a Singaporean punishment which has been the butt of macabre jokes all around the world.

If the law was to be fairly administered, Charlton should also have been caned just as everyone else guilty of this crime; after all no one is above the law, or that is what we thought.

The law in Singapore mandates caning for males between the ages of 18 and 50 for the offense of overstaying their visas.

The only times when caning may be dispensed with is for medical reasons, when the victim of the caning may die as a result of a preexisting condition, such as weak heart or kidney disease.

Since Charlton was 38 years old, in perfect health and moreover an American football player, there is no way in the world, for him to be excused from the punishment which everyone else gets.

That is of course is if the Singapore legal system has the rule of law, which we see now in the Charlton's case, and time and time again in almost every other case, there is not.

Conveniently the court proceeded with only the cheating charges while the overstaying charge, which in this case is the most important, as it entails the most brutal punishment, is conveniently ignored.

In fact no Singapore media made any mention of it!

Without a free press, all this is conjecture of course, but I can only assume that in Charlton's case there was some pressure from the American embassy to favor their client.

Moreover Singapore does a great deal of trade with the US and is ever ready to lick the boots of Obama anytime and anywhere he wanted, and since trade and diplomatic advantage is on the line if Charlton gets a beating, best to give him some slack.

In any case who is there to complain anyway?

Singaporeans themselves are so terrified of Lee Kuan Yew and have retreated into their cocoons of indifference and silence long ago that there is not the slightest possibility of any complaint from that direction.

As for the rest of the world, the Americans are not going to complain and neither are the Europeans since this is the exact result they wanted.

If there is anyone complaining, it would be those hapless Indian and Bangladesh construction workers and coolies who have been beaten so badly and their buttocks mercilessly sheared and shredded into a mess of bloody flesh and hanging skin.

They probably overstayed in Singapore to make some money to send home to their impoverished families in India and Bangladesh.

But since there is no one to speak for them and no one will hear their cries anyway, who cares if they are beaten or even killed. In Lee Kuan Yew's Singapore they do not matter because they are unimportant and inconsequential to Singapore's diplomatic trade or business interests.

Not surprisingly Charlton's case went through some twists to arrive at this most favorable treatment.

He first engaged a controversial lawyer who has represented a death row inmate.

This lawyer, although Singaporean, had used some very unconventional practices in the Singaporean sense such as organizing public protests and claiming to have contacted the United Nations on his client's behalf.

Since all these tactics would only work in a free society, it appears that instead of helping his client's he has in fact made matters worse, while at the same time annoying Lee's government.

If this lawyer had got anything out of these unusual lawyering tactics in the Singaporean sense, it was publicity. But in Singapore under Lee Kuan Yew, publicity does not necessarily translate into winning cases.

In fact very often, it can be a serious impediment to success, if it is the wrong type of publicity, as in this lawyer's case.

It appears that while the government goes to great lengths to paint a positive picture of itself around the world, as a free fair and just society, all nonsense of course, this lawyer is shoving a spanner into the spokes and turning out to be a perpetual source of embarrassment for them.

Since in Singapore Lee Kuan Yew controls the legal system, as he does everything else, needless to say, when you annoy him, you are going to lose your cases in his courts.

Very quickly Charlton was advised, I suppose from those in the know, of his mistake in retaining this lawyer, when he switched to Anwarul Haq, a Lee Kuan Yew confidant who in turn gave it to another lawyer in the same preferred law firm, Rajah and Tann.

Charlton played his game with the Singapore legal system admirably.

He got rid of his lawyer who Lee Kuan Yew disapproved, got himself a lawyer who had his blessing and in the process, in a manner of saying, got away almost unscathed.

The important rule to remember in Lee's Singapore is this. Try to be Confucian in your thinking, which I suppose would mean, never upset the Emperor.

I suppose this is a tenet the young rambunctious ebullient lawyer in the death penalty case, and who lost a client in Charlton, is yet to learn.

I am sure the thousands of lesser mortals who had committed the same or even lesser crimes who were so mercilessly beaten in Lee Kuan Yew's jails would have cried foul to high heavens had they heard of how Charlton got away, but even if they did who cares? Lee Kuan Yew doesn't in Lee Kuan Yew's Singapore.

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

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Anonymous said...

thanks for pointing this out

Anonymous said...

People power will arise sooner or later. Too much institutional damage has been done to the rule of law to become rule by Lee Kuan Yew's law. It is further entrenched in the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy of the National University of Singapore.

Gopalan Nair said...

To Anonymous, Feb 22 0729,
Thanks that was reassuring. You said "sooner or later". I hope if "later", it is not too much later. In the end, we are all dead.

That is what I have been trying to tell Chee Soon Juan who is the only one putting up some sort of a fight in the island. I hope he will do it. At the moment, he is our only hope.

Anonymous said...

You wrote:
"The important rule to remember in Lee's Singapore is this. Try to be Confucian in your thinking, which I suppose would mean, never upset the Emperor. "

I say, it depends on luck as well. If LKY does not like you, you can kiss that million$ salary goodbye.

Have you heard about the mass defection from Reform Party. Is it true?

Anonymous said...

amazing insight. i lived in sg for 3 years. my application for pr was not approved so i left and decided to move to the us instead. jet lee and gong li were given citizenship in an instant. difference is obvious. i have no money, they of course do. in sg, if you have money or come from the higher echelons of society, or in this case a first world country, you are treated favorably. unfortunately i dont come from the latter.

Anonymous said...

Loose morals in Singaporeans are taking its toll. Greed if you will call it is now landing Dr Susan Lim in trouble for disciplinary action by the Singapore Medical Council. She allegedly inflated a $400 bill to $211,000 just because the patient is related to the Royal family of Brunei


Dr Susan Lim was a top Colombo Plan scholar, medical researcher and surgeon who also received the Distinguished Alumni Award (2005)from the Monash University, Australia.

The pressure to make money in Singapore is so great that even top luminaries have to embrace the magic of thinking big. Will the rule of law govern its outcome of the proceedings by the Singapore Medical Council or is this another case of rule by Lee Kuan Yew's law? Quite smartly she chose a Lee Eng Beng SC to be her defence counsel hoping that the "Lee" magic will do its trick.

Anonymous said...

I think the outcome of Dr Susan Lim's case is fairly obvious if the rule of law prevails. Dr Liow Siew Choon lost his licence to practise medicine when he charge a patient $138 for a flu consultation in the 1980s.

Anonymous said...

Chief Justice: Legal system should break away

MORE should be done in Singapore to build up a legal system independent of English law, said Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong at the opening ceremony of the Singapore Academy of Law conference on Thursday.

Speaking to some 500 legal professionals at the event, he said Singapore's system of law is mostly inherited from English common law.

Although it is much easier for courts to apply English decisions, Singapore should try to build up jurisprudence so that local decisions can be cited first in courts.

Held once every five years, the conference allows legal professionals in selected areas of expertise to share their perspectives on trends that have taken place over this period.

The topics discussed range from family law to criminal law and procedure.

For more on the conference, watch RazorTV.

Anonymous said...

Singapore jurisprudence is a political realist and it is "Lee Kuan Yew's law is the law and no one is above the law except Lee Kuan Yew and his cronies."

Anonymous said...

Daring to call the Prime Minister a liar over the airwaves, this is true freedom of speech.


Anonymous said...

gn pls give up ur lawyer job and help stage a peaceful protest in sg

Anonymous said...

Yet again Lee Kuan Yew is doing a con job.

Title: S'pore submits human rights report to UN
Source: Straits Times
Author: Lydia Lim, Deputy Political Editor

Legal News Archive

SINGAPORE'S first report to the United Nations (UN) on the state of human rights here highlights its achievements in health, housing and education.

It also takes a firm stand in areas such as the death penalty, detention without trial, and limits on certain freedoms including those of speech, assembly and the press.

Singapore respects the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the report released yesterday makes clear. But it maintains that the manner in which all rights are attained 'must take cognisance of specific national circumstances and aspirations'.


Singapore submitted its report card on human rights to the UN earlier this month as part of a peer review process known as the Universal Periodic Review.

The next step for Singapore will take place on May 6, when Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam will lead a delegation to Geneva, make a presentation to the UN Human Rights Council, and take questions from member states.


Singapore, the report stresses, considers 'human rights to be indivisible, with economic, social and cultural rights as important as civil and political rights'.


In preparing its report, the Government consulted CSOs active in promoting human rights.

In the area of political and civil liberties, where Singapore could come in for critical questioning in Geneva, the report emphasises the challenge the diverse society poses 'in balancing social harmony with the preservation of human rights'.

Singapore stands firm on its right to carry out capital punishment and detention without trial. It considers capital punishment to be a criminal justice issue that remains legal under international law.

The Internal Security Act (ISA), which allows detention without trial, is used to pre-emptively neutralise threats to national security such as racial and religious extremism, espionage and subversion.

'Governments around the world increasingly recognise the need for preventive powers within a comprehensive institutionalised legal framework to deal effectively with terrorism,' the report says.

Mr Siew Kum Hong, from human rights advocacy group Maruah, called the report a 'missed opportunity', with the Government reiterating its oft-stated positions and not engaging CSOs on issues raised in their submissions. Maruah, for instance, had called for the death penalty to be revoked and a review of the ISA.

It was also disappointing, he said, that the Government repeated the idea of national difference trumping universal human rights, as such differences 'cannot justify violations and abuses'.


Anonymous said...

UN Submission. Why no mention of the barbaric practice of caning (flogging) males?