Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Singapore's disgraceful judges.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

You have read the bad news. The Singapore legal profession is shrinking. Students are not choosing a career in law. And lawyers are leaving the profession.

One major reason for this is the unpleasantness in appearing in Lee's courts.

One cannot help but feel extremely uncomfortable the moment one walks into a Singapore court room. For one, the judge seems so unhappy, so angry or so stern, hard to say which; almost as if he is suffering from a severe bout of indigestion or because someone had just insulted his mother!

No smile on his face at all, does not even look at the lawyer or his client, going about his work with unnecessary solemnity and seriousness. No good mornings, no pleasantries; not even a passing smile. It is as if, the judge was not human at all; like as if he was some God, who finds it demeaning even to look you in the eye!

As if this arrogance due to fear or for whatever reason was not enough; you are required in addition; to further rub salt in your wounds; to address them "Lords" or "Your Honor", in the British courtroom lingo.

Every lawyer knows that these so called judges are not judges in the true sense of the word at all, but merely agents of Lee Kuan Yew, placed there to do his bidding. This makes addressing them with these terms of respect unbearable.

Their job routinely includes tailoring false charges and false judgments and awards to impoverish bankrupt and imprison Lee's political opponents shamelessly; in total disregard for the law which they are sworn to uphold. They do this for money and job security. There is a word for it and it is corruption.

With the Singapore judges and the courts, having lost all credibility and respect; any young man with any prospects in life and looking forward to a respectable career would stay a mile away from the Singapore legal profession. Thus the shrinking Singapore Bar.

For an example of the dirty work these judges routinely do, a good example is a recent case before Judge Belinda Ang. Not too long ago, Lee Kuan Yew, as it is his normal practice of using the law to silence his dissenters; sued Dr. Chee Soon Juan, Secretary General of the Singapore Democratic Party with his favorite cause of action, defamation of character; since Chee was beginning to be a threat and had to be silenced. So the order was promptly given out to this woman to punish Chee by finding him guilty and bankrupting him.

She did her dirty work with great efficiency. Without even getting off her chair in chambers and not even permitting Dr. Chee to say a word in his defense, with lightning speed of no more than 30 minutes or so, she not only delivered judgment of one half million dollars against him, but also took the opportunity of calling him names, thinking that this will please her master Lee even more!

I have heard many lawyers tell me during my time in Singapore that they never appear in Lee's courts preferring rather to do commercial paper. At the time, I did not understand why but I do now. They find it distasteful appearing in courts for which they have no respect at all!

Most Singapore judges are young and inexperienced in life, having been specially chosen for their obedience, submission and willingness to act dishonorably; not their independence, wisdom, maturity or experience.

It is quire different in California where I have been practicing for more than 11 years, since leaving Singapore. Here it a joy to practice law.

For one thing, the judges here are judges in the real sense. They are not beholden to anyone but the law. Regardless of who you are, when stepping into any courtroom, you know you have an equal chance as your opponent in the matter. If justice is on your side, you will win. Unlike in Singapore where you win just because your name is Lee Kuan Yew. Here one respects the courts and their judges, unlike in Singapore where there is only derision, ridicule and contempt for the law and its judges, Belinda Ang being a prime example.

With a population of about 27 million, California has more than 200,000 lawyers and law continues to be a very popular career choice among the young, with ever increasing numbers wanting to pass the Bar Exams. In Singapore, with total population of about 4.5 million, it has only 3,400 lawyers, the same number as in 1997, 10 years ago! And what is worse this serious lawyer shortage in Singapore is worsening, with increasing numbers leaving the profession. This inability to attract the young to enter the law comes as no surprise; since the profession and its judges have lost all modicum of respect. It is seen as an instrument of tyranny and oppression; Lee's tool to silence and destroy political dissenters.

The Singapore legal system destroys the spirit of Singaporeans and instead of doing any good, it alienates and intimidates them into submission, instilling hate and defiance into them. Anyone who spends any time in a Singapore courtroom will see what I am talking about. Firstly, the judge treats the accused with total disrespect, not even looking at him, as if he was nothing more than dirt. The police show no respect whatsoever to the accused. If he pleads guilty, he is promptly handcuffed and sent off to prison without a word.

There are no words of advice from the judge. No words of encouragement. No kindness at all. No attempt to treat him as a fellow citizen, even a human being; no attempt is made at all to speak to him, to improve him; so he can be a better citizen than he now is.

California courtrooms are different. In California the defendant is treated at as a human being. Quite often the judge himself greets the defendant with the usual "Good Morning Mr. Smith". The defendant is seated next to his counsel. The lawyers say what they want. Then the judge speaks to the Defendant like a father who would speak to his son. He has advise for the man or woman who had gone astray. You see a genuine attempt by the judge to help the Defendant better his ways, with the hope that he will never see this defendant in court again. After the court session, you respect the judge for his sincerity and his wisdom and the Defendant himself begins to realize that committing crimes is not the best thing to be doing.

This is the good feeling that I have in courts in California USA everyday that I appear before these courts. I respect these judges because they are worthy of respect. They are real judges. They are honorable men of integrity. And the judges in their turn show me the courtesy that I deserve as an officer of the court, and especially as a human being.

At the end of the day, in California courts, you feel wanted. You feel respected. And you realize that we are all in it together and we improve and advance and become better citizens. This is something that Singapore judges are unable to understand, since after all, they are only interested in their work of pleasing their master Lee Kuan Yew and bending the law as and when called upon.

In these circumstances, should we be surprised why Singaporeans do not want to be lawyers!

Gopalan Nair
39737 Paseo Padre Parkway, Suite A1
Fremont, CA 94538, USA
Tel: 510 657 6107
Fax: 510 657 6914
Email: nair.gopalan@yahoo.com

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