Ladies and Gentlemen,
Singapore's state controlled newspaper Straits Times of April 14, 2012 has the story "By-election case: Resident seeks to strike out AGC's appeal" http://www.straitstimes.com/BreakingNews/Singapore/Story/STIStory_788675.html
This is the extraordinary story of a Hougang, a Singapore constituency, resident who has taken Singapore's Lee ruling family to court to compel the calling of by-elections there when the seat became vacant recently after it's opposition incumbent was kicked out of Parliament.
Both this litigant and her lawyer M Ravi have to be appreciated for the unprecedented courage and fortitude shown by their actions. Singapore is one country where the Lee ruling family have to treated as if they are Gods. They will tolerate no criticism and any attempt to even be remotely seen as an opponent of their government will result in a lifetime of harassment and victimization from this one party Lee family dictatorship.
Naturally under these circumstances, criticism or opposition to their government is almost unheard of. I say almost because there have been a handful few who had dared to openly oppose such as the late JB Jeyaretnam who has since died and present day Chee Soon Juan who have suffered unbearable punishment including imprisonment and bankruptcy for their actions.
Now suddenly we have this woman and her lawyer who have come out with the courage to take on this unforgiving and ruthless Lee family and taking them to task on the question of the by election in Hougang. My admiration and support go out to both her and her lawyer M Ravi. We all know what the outcome is going to be of course. She is not only going to lose but suffer great financial loss as the Lees are going to hit hard on this woman for her temerity to challenge Singapore's Gods.
In Singapore's unique legal system such cases are decided not by the judge as you may have thought but by the Lee family themselves. This matter is already before the Prime Ministers Office for Lee and his friends to consider what punishment is to be meted out in this case after which the order will go out to the judge to implement it.
Additionally, don't forget we have the ancient Chinese practice of killing the chicken to frighten all the monkeys. This resident Vellama Marie Muthu has to be used as that chicken which has to be killed so that Singapore's citizens, the monkeys, have to be sufficiently warned not to do what she had done. As Lee's son, the Prime Minister had himself said, if you have too many people going around challenging the government, he won't be able to rule. According to him, it would be a very bad thing to have more than on Vellama, a troublemaker, to be wasting his valuable time.
Her lawyer M Ravi too has to be appreciated although not for the reasons you may expect. For some time now, in representation of his young client Yong who is on death row for drug trafficking, he has filed numerous applications, and he appears to be continuing to do so, which has resulted, to his credit, in his client still being alive, as these delay the execution.
Some of this applications in that case were clearly without basis, such as questioning the Cabinet's involvement in Presidential pardons when he should know that all over the world, the sovereign makes such decisions based on his Cabinet's advice. That application, although without merit managed to keep his client alive.
In another case he argued that prosecutors have no right to charge co accused different from each other although involved in the same case. This too we know is wrong since that is exactly what prosecutors do all over the world. That is why it is called prosecutorial discretion. The equal protection clause of the Constitution had nothing to do with it, which is what he was relying on. This too managed to keep his death row client alive.
Vellama, whom we should all salute, is the proverbial sacrificial lamb. The Lee ruling family cannot appear to lose because according to them, under the Confucian philosophy, which they wrongly interpret, they would lose respect and therefore the ability to govern.
But they are in a quandary nevertheless. If they come down hard on Vellama and her lawyer, they would be seen as the ruthless dictatorial tyrannical rulers that everyone take them to be. On the other hand, if they allow Vellama to win, they would seen as weak and therefore, in Lee's confused Confucian (pun intended) reasoning, incapable of ruling.
I would say, this is a case of heads I lose and tails I lose as well, for the Lee ruling family of Singapore. When they are discussing the verdict at the Prime Minister's office in Vellama vs Singapore, they would be considering this very fact.
I am sure they are also struggling with what to do with lawyer M Ravi. It reminds us of the famous words of Edward the Second as to what to do with Beckett, "will someone not rid me of this troublesome priest". They simply cannot allow M Ravi to be going on filing these court motions to confound Lee's courts. Would they not bee seen as weak and incapable of ruling if they did nothing? And what is worse, what if more lawyers come out and do what Ravi is doing, emboldened by his actions. Either way, Ravi has to be stopped. The only thing left to be decided as to how and when.
Attorney at Law
Disbarred from practicing law in Lee's Singapore, imprisoned and refused entry to the island for criticizing Singapore's judiciary in this blog (see blogpost May 29, 2008 Singapore. Judge Belinda Ang's Kangaroo Court)
Actively practicing law in California and in good standing at the California Bar.
Member in good standing as a lawyer in England and Wales (Barrister).
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