Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Singapore. M Ravi, the Hougang by elections case, a most entertaining national theatrical comedy.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

For those who are in the know about Singapore, the things that this Lee Ruling Family do and the equally funny responses of their subdued citizens sometimes can be tragically funny, as in what we can call the M Ravi Hougang case which is now going on Singapore's center stage.

It is all being published daily in the island's state controlled press.

It all started off like this. Some months ago, the opposition Member of Parliament for the constituency of Hougang was suddenly dismissed from his post for his extra marital indiscretions. Therefore it would require the government holding elections there for the Parliamentary seat to be replaced. This the Lee ruling Family did not do immediately, causing a Singapore lawyer M Ravi, a rather controversial character to commence a lawsuit through a citizen to compel the government to act.

This lawsuit was misguided from the start. First there is nothing in Singapore’s laws compelling the government to hold elections in vacant parliamentary constituencies. However since Singapore law is supposed to be based on English law at least on paper, even English law makes no such requirement that elections be held except that English gentlemen would as gentlemen be expected to hold elections within 3 months. Remember England does not have a written constitution.

From this alone, one would have thought the action was completely lost but something even worse happened for this litigant; the government decided to hold elections very soon thereafter, even before the case came to court which made the entire case of M Ravi moot, since there was nothing left to fight about. In fact if you were looking for the perfect example of a case of barking up the wrong tree, you would not have found any better.

As if these incidents up till now were not comedy enough, the theatrical performance takes an even added twist from here.

Suddenly on the day of the High Court trial of this totally unnecessary case of the Hougang by-elections, or much ado about nothing, on July 16, 2012; a phantom gentlemen by the name of Wong Siew Hong suddenly appears in the court room with what appears to be a letter in his hand. That letter we now know is from Dr. Calvin Fones, a psychiatrist, whose letter declares the lawyer for the litigant M Ravi to be presently suffering from a mental derangement making him unfit to practice law.

From this point there are several things which are puzzling and downright amazing. Firstly, the Law Society of Singapore which is the controlling body of lawyers admit that he is one of their officials. Having admitted that much, they however say that his appearance in court in an attempt to stop the lawyer from representing his client which is down right unethical and improper was something they did not know! What is worse, they say that Mr. Wong's actions are excused because, according to them, he did it with best intentions!

If indeed Mr. Wong, an official of the Law Society of Singapore went to court and interrupted proceedings to prevent M Ravi from representing his client without the knowledge and consent of his superiors, then he too deserves to have a mental check up just as M Ravi does (if indeed he has to) because only a man out of his mind would do such things without either an order or request from his superiors.

And if the Law Society of Singapore wants us to believe that they did not know of the intended actions of Wong, one of their employees, you might as well ask us to believe that they thought pigs could indeed fly as well.

And as for M Ravi, I have this to say. One has to feel sorry for him. He has done a great deal uncaring to his own interests for the good of the down trodden in his island. He has worked tirelessly for the abolition of the death penalty and other causes of the underdog, which no other Singaporean lawyer would have the courage to do even a fraction of what he did.

Having said that, I also know that M Ravi does indeed suffer from a mental infliction. I remember seeing him in Subordinate Courts in 2008 during my so-called adventure in Lee Kuan Yew’s island when I ended up in jail for criticizing the judge Belinda Ang Saw Ean. Watching M Ravi in Singapore in that Singapore courtroom was not a pleasant sight. He was as you would know taken to hospital from court that day.

I understand that bipolar disorder which M Ravi suffers from is something that can be contained provided the patient regularly and punctually takes the medicine. When he does not, he can become wild and unpredictable which was what I observed on that troubling day in 2008.  

The problem with being a lawyer under this affliction is this. It is all very well if you are taking your medicine with discipline. What if you did not? And what if you were acting for a client when you have missed the medication. And what if you have a relapse.

I understand that the Law Society of Singapore has allowed him to practice under the care of another lawyer, his partner, F Violet Netto who has publicly stated that there was nothing wrong with him or something to that effect. I can appreciate her trying to defend Ravi for whom many Singaporeans have affection and respect. But I think, her loyalties aside, she is not being entirely forthright having known the repeated instances of Ravi’s relapses.

I have no answers to a case such as this. This is a tragic situation, especially so in this case where you have a lawyer with such great promise. It would indeed be a pity to take away his license. But at the same time, what do you do when a lawyer can suddenly turn into the greatest comedian without any notice at all, as I had observed him in the Subordinate Courts in 2008.

What you have in Singapore is a tragedy. You have a Law Society which outwardly claims to be champion of citizen's rights but yet works hand in glove with the Lee Ruling Family to destroy any lawyer who dares to stand up to them. And then you have one sole human being, a lawyer, the only one with any guts to challenge the Lee Ruling Dynasty, but unfortunately for him, he has bipolar disorder. And lastly you have an entire lawyer population, who one would have expected to have the courage to defend the people's rights, but have all been so intimidated and subjugated that they are indeed more afraid of the Lee family than their fellow citizens.

This is a Singaporean tragedy, one which can outdo even the best of Shakespeare’s most celebrated tragedies.

Gopalan Nair
Attorney at Law
Fremont, California, USA
Tel: 510 657 6107 or 510 491 4375 


Singapore Injustice said...

Nice posting, Mr Nair.

You will be interested in this "Using power to give immunity to the powerful"


and this "Using power to give immunity to the powerful, part 2"


Friend of Rumpole of the Bailey said...

Mr Nair, I break my posting into 2 parts because of the number of words restriction.

(Copied from Sammyboy)

It has been reported in the National (United Arab Emirates), that a judge was caught sleeping while hearing a case before him.
Nakheel, the developer behind the Palm Jumeirah, Dubai, had on 11th July dem&ed a retrial in a US$15.5 million case in the Dubai World Tribunal on the ground that one of the judges, a certain Michael Hwang hailing from Singapore was falling asleep during proceedings.
The incident took place on 9th May at a hearing into a dispute between Nakheel & an investor in the project. Clifford Chance, one of the world’s leading law firms with 34 offices in 24 countries & some 3,200 lawyers, requested a video of the proceedings 11 days later & made an application for a retrial 25 days after the incident. Chief Justice Michael Hwang was accused of nodding off for six minutes & drowsy for about 40 minutes before finally succumbing to the inevitable.
The barrister for Nakheel, David Thomas QC argued that anything short of a retrial would damage public confidence in the judicial system of Dubai & would be unfair to all parties involved.
The Chief Justice of the Dubai International Financial Centre Courts & chairman of the Dubai World Tribunal, Sir Anthony Evans, conceded that there had been a “breach of duty” & that Michael Hwang “gave the impression of being inattentive”. However, the application was dismissed on the grounds that evidence produced during the six-minute period when the judge was “inattentive” or in slumberl& was not relevant to the case.

So who is this Michael Hwang & how is it relevant to Singapore?
Well, he was a Judicial Commissioner of the Supreme Court of Singapore for a fixed term from 1991 to 1992. It is claimed that a JC is the equivalent of a High Court judge. However, in all truly FIRST WORLD countries, a High Court judge or equivalent has what is called “security of tenure” i.e. once duly appointed, he cannot be removed unless there are good grounds such as dereliction of duty. If you want to continue to be appointed as a JC after your initial term of 2 years, would you be making those kinds of judicial decisions which you know would not find favour with the Executive branch which decides whether or not your appointment is going to be renewed?

Friend of Rumpole of the Bailey said...


Michael Hwang was called to the Singapore Bar in 1968, joined Allen & Gledhill & became a partner in 1972 & retired from that firm at the end of 2002 after serving as Head of its Litigation & Arbitration Department for 10 years.

In the context of what has been happening in Singapore’s own Courts lately, most ordinary citizens would instinctively know that this piece of news about a judge hailing from Singapore falling asleep while hearing a case in Dubai is relevant. Recent happenings in our backyard shining an unwelcome spotlight on our own judicial system include:
- A plastic surgeon fined a mere $1,000 for asking an old & vulnerable employee to take the rap for a speeding offence not once but twice

- Counsel for the applicant in a case of potentially great constitutional significance (i.e. whether the Prime Minister has absolute discretion as to whether or not to call a by-election) has been subject to a form of character assassination in a bid to prevent him from continuing to act in this & other pending cases

The Attorney General’s Chambers invoking an archaic law known as the offence of “sc&alising the courts” to cause a blogger to issue an apology & remove an offending article which has accused the courts here of being biased, to which we may add that the blogger was merely expressing a perception which is widely held

It is also relevant in that there has been disquiet over public figures holding too many directorships & other “honorary” posts that they don’t really have the time to do anything well hence such debacles & fiascos like the MRT breakdowns, government agencies pointing fingers at each other, etc. Some are even speculating that this may be the reason why less than a quarter of Parliamentarians were present for a session of the House at which important bills were to be passed causing the passage of these legislation to be delayed due to the lack of a quorum.
Well, our dear Michael says on his own website that besides his appointment in the Dubai Courts, he is currently a director of YTL Pacific Management Reit Ltd, the manager of Starhill Global REIT (a listed Real Estate Investment Trust in Singapore) &:
1) Chairman of the Singapore Dance Theatre
2) Chairman of the Appeals Committee of the Singapore Stock Exchange
3) Board member of the Board of Legal Education
4) Fellow of the Singapore Institute of Directors
5) Member of the Supervisory Committee of the Asian Bond Fund (ABF) Singapore Bond Index Fund
6)Member of the Ethics Committee of the Public Accountants Oversight Committee

Since the Law Society has been in the news lately for all the wrong reasons, it is worth pointing out that Michael Hwang was President of the Law Society in 2007.

Perhaps, the man should shed some of his numerous public posts & focus on just one or two. Sleeping on the job, physically or metaphorically, does not endear you to the enlightened masses, be it in Singapore or Dubai or Timbuktu, especially if the job involves the discharge of an important public function such as the administration of justice.

Soul Man said...


Have you forgotten the fact that the Singapore media and government and even the infrastructure is made to frustrate, belittle and dehumanize all those who are not in line with the government? In fact, they OUTRIGHT lie as well, e.g., Devan Nair is made to be an alcoholic (probably not true, based on recent evidence, but rammed down Singaporean and the world’s throat by the Singapore authorities for decades), even you, Gopalan are portrayed as “combative and unrepentant” in court during your 2008 trial and they have done a lot of propaganda that you are a bad lawyer, unfit to practice law, does not know how to keep his cool etc. Do you agree? No, you do not, as it is propaganda, right?

Next about M Ravi, for his anti-government stance, he has been “marked” by the government for career destruction. Anything he does is frustrated—he loses cases, he gets negative publicity in the press, he is made to be a clown. About his occasional outburst in court, like in 2008, is that more due to frustration and the need to vent rather than a mental illness?

Think about it. What all has he endured, plus. a man insulting and belittling him in open court and being employed by the law society and gets off Scott-Free? Are these things rather too inhuman to bear? Maybe he lashes out in frustration—yes, that is not right, but it is human! I remember in my NS, a guy was constantly picked on, eventually; he lashed out and was further punished. They called him mentally ill. Last I checked, he left Singapore, is happily settled in the West and has NO mental illness and is doing very well. He had situational depression and frustration, caused by his accusers!

How do you know Ravi has bipolar illness? What makes you think a doctor was not hired by the Singapore government to make a false report for the purposes of this trial to humiliate Ravi? This is Singapore, the government can do anything. Remember, they took Devan Nair’s medical records and falsified them!!!! Ravi has gone through innumerable pain due to him standing up to the government. He can only be deemed to have a mental disorder, if a non-Singaporean objective psychiatrist evaluates him.

Think carefully before you judge M Ravi. Also, consider, had you not left Singapore when you did, you too would have become frustrated, with all kinds of accusations, false and half-truths hurled at you. Maybe you too would have been deemed to have a mental condition? Maybe right? THIS IS SINGAPORE my dear Gopalan…

Gopalan Nair said...

To Soul man,
You miss the point. I am not trying to detract M Ravi from all the good work he is doing. What I am trying to say is that I am personally aware, repeat, personally aware that he has a serious mental condition. I have personally seen him in court completely beside himself, behaving just a thug would do, in Subordinate Court Singapore in 2008. I was there in the Singapore courtroom. And so were many other lawyers. I compeltely accept the fact that it was not his fault. He apparently had a mental relapse.

Again I am not trying even to suggest that the Singapore government and their agents do not routinely and disgracefully misuse the state controlled media and using the 5th Column to discredit anyone they do not like. I know that and so does everyone else. This is not what I am talking about. I am saying that it is sad that M Ravi suffers from a serious medical condition that may at times adversely affect his client's interests, not to mention the demeaning effect upon any court, even the Kangaroo courts in Singapore.

Since I personally know what M Ravi is capable of, I felt a need to say so. For M Ravi to take out a video yesterday, looking cool and calm and perfectly proper in a moment of ludidity does not detract from the fact that he is laible, through no fault of his, to be compeletley out of his mind.

He suffers, according to my observation as a non medical expert from a serious condition of bipolar disorder. This is an incurable condition and can only kept in bay through life long medication.

Gopalan Nair said...

To Soul man,
Let me tell you some other personal instances when I was in 2008 in Singapore. I was seated at the coffee shop across the Subordinat Court in 2008 waiting perhaps for my own trial for disorderly behaviour or one of numerous cases of Dr. Chee Soon Juan.

As M Ravi was passing me, I had made a not altogether kind remark at him which need not be mentioned.

His reaction was compeltely out of this world. He started yelling at me, calling me an American and other abuses, at the top of his voice in public. Needless to say, I was embarassed. Dr. Chee was seated next to me and serioulsy warned me never to provoke him again.

On another day in the same court room, Uncle Yap, or Yap Cheng Ho, another activist, had decided to discahrge M Ravi from acting for him as his representation in court was becoming too confrontational. Becasue of that in the same cofee shop M Ravi passed him by, again in public was yelling at him at the top of his voice. I must say Yap took it very calmnly and never said a word in repsonse. It was very nice of Yap.

It is becuase of these personal observations that I say what I say. I certainly would not want M Ravi to represent me for anything.

Again I wish Ravi well but these are unfortunaley facts. You can attribute them to whatever cause but at the end, the question is, can you trust your case to a man like this. That is worrying.

Anonymous said...

I had a very bad run-in with Mr Ravi and his female companion at a Hindu temple in Chinatown. I know there are many who love and care for him and respect for what he has done; but his actions in the temple were really disappointing. As a Hindu I value my religion and I respect the place I worship at however he did not do so. He was fully adorned in a monk's orange wrap and started shouting about how senior Lee is going to die. He blatantly disrespected the priests in the temple so much so that everyone was annoyed with him and especially his companion. I am 19yrs old-I have yet to learn more about my environment; but just like any 19yr old I do have fun-simply said I have short hair which is unorthodox for a Indian girl, his companion was so enraged by my short hair that when my father and I went over to give them food (God's offering as we do with everyone else) she rejected it started to criticize me in a way which was traumatizing. Till then I honestly have not heard of M. Ravi; and I am not a person to judge especially on a man as respectable as him-I have OCD and Bipolar disorder myself but what he did that day in the temple along with that woman was really shocking.The numerous cases Mr Ravi fought for (which I learned of today) is really admirable (really!)- but with behavior like that and associating oneself with someone like 'her' just makes it impossible for the message he is carrying to be projected on to others, right?

Anonymous said...