Monday, November 2, 2009

Latest on Law Society of Singapore vs Gopalan Nair

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The following is the latest position on Singapore’s Law Society's proceedings to have me disbarred from practicing law in Singapore:

1. I received a letter from Disciplinary Tribunal Secretariat dated October 22, 2009 addressed to the lawyers for the Singapore Law Society, Colin Ng and Partners Singapore as follows:

The Disciplinary Tribunal has directed the Law Society to write to the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) to ascertain whether the Respondent, Mr. Gopalan Nair, is prohibited from entering/ re-entering Singapore or may only do so upon fulfillment of certain conditions. The Law Society is to inform Mr. Gopalan Nair and the Secretariat of any reply it receives. In particular, if Mr. Gopalan Nair is required to fulfill certain conditions before entering or re-entering Singapore, the Law Society is to ascertain the nature of such conditions and to advise the Secretariat accordingly.

The Law Society is to write to the ICA within 7 days from today"

As of today, I have no knowledge whether the Law Society has in fact written to the ICA as directed, or whether the ICA has decided anything.

But what is puzzling about this letter is this.

The Singapore Courts, either the High Court, Singapore or the Subordinate Court Singapore did not make any order removing me from Singapore. Instead, when I was released from Queenstown Prison, Singapore on November 20, 2008 after spending 2 months there for criticizing Singaporean judge Belinda Ang Saw Ean in this blog, about her conduct in the Lee Kuan Yew vs Dr. Chee Soon Juan case, I was driven in handcuffs straight from the Prison to the Singapore Immigration and Checkpoints Office. There I was again locked up, fingerprinted, my mug shots taken, my handcuffs released and given a letter from the ICA which said, I had committed an offense in Singapore, and that I will be breaking the law if I was ever found within Singapore. An Immigration officer specifically ordered me not to enter Singapore again without written permission and if I did, I could be sent to prison for 3 years.

In other words, Singapore Immigration and Checkpoints Authority’s order was that I cannot enter Singapore without written permission from the Singapore government and if I did, I could be sent to prison for up to 3 years! This was clear enough.

However we see something very different in this letter from the Disciplinary Tribunal if you read it carefully. They seem to know something that I do not know. They are suggesting perhaps that I was not really deported! Perhaps there is no absolute prohibition as the officer at the ICA told me when he handed me their order! Perhaps I could come to Singapore after all if certain conditions are fulfilled! And perhaps, the Disciplinary Tribunal Singapore knows a lot more about my removal from Singapore than I do myself!

This is another example of a country without rule of law but dictates and discretion of the men at the top! In any other civilized country, the only person who can exclude another, as they have done to me, is a judge of a court, duly appointed. Not in Singapore’s case, where the Immigration Department themselves can decide whom they would exclude and whom they don’t. And then, when they find themselves in a in a fix as they do now, not knowing what to do with Mr. Gopalan Nair, turn about and change it as they please!

As far as I can see, Singapore has no prescribed rules as to who can and cannot be deported. In my case, as far as I know, the Immigration Department had made a clear order that I was to be removed. Now, this Disciplinary Tribunal is trying to suggest that it may be something else! Which confirms what we know all along. Singapore law does not apply impartially to all. It depends on who you are. And it would be especially bad if you happened to be a critic of Lee Kuan Yew.

2. Now the question of “discovery”. In common law jurisprudence, which Singapore claims to adopt, there is a process known as "discovery". Under this process, in litigation both civil and criminal, each party to the case is required to disclose to the opponent whatever evidence they have that impacts their case or the case of the opponent. In a criminal case, the prosecution is required to provide the Defendant every bit of evidence that may further their case or may assist the Defendant.

This burden in a criminal case is very high, since the Defendant may be sent to jail or even put to death.

These rules are no different in my case. Here too the stakes are high. I stand to be struck off from the Rolls of Lawyers in Singapore. True, I personally do not care very much one way or the other whether I am disbarred from the rolls of a law society such as that of Singapore which is not treated with much respect, still it is my right to defend myself if I choose to, which I do.

As I have made it very clear that I intend to defend these proceedings; it is incumbent on the Disciplinary Tribunal to see to it that rules of "discovery" are complied to the fullest.

The question of what the real impact on me as a practicing lawyer in a foreign jurisdiction is immaterial. For whatever reason, I may still wish to defend my position on the Singapore rolls; it may result in my losing any opportunity to make a living as a lawyer in Singapore if I chose to; it may mean a loss of reputation and standing in the community.

I concede that these arguments are illusory in this case as I don’t have any respect for Lee Kuan Yew’s brand of law; still this is beside the point. If I choose to fight these proceedings for whatever reason it is my prerogative, which I choose to in this case. Therefore the Singapore Tribunal is required to act in fairness. And if they don’t I intend to say so publicly.

Furthermore, since I am physically in California, USA, and as compared to someone physically in Singapore, I am clearly at a disadvantage in defending myself, all the more, it is necessary for this Law Society to ensure that every bit of “discovery” is given to me.

But this has not been the case here. I had written to the Disciplinary Tribunal asking for the transcripts of the testimony of both my High Court case and the Subordinate Court case but to date none has been provided. These transcripts are crucial to my defense in these charges. I have also asked for the audio recordings of the hearing in the High Court, which are available, but I am yet to know whether they will be provided.

As of to date, I have not been told whether I will be permitted to enter Singapore to defend myself, and if so, whether I will be re-arrested for violating the court orders of the Singaporean Judge prohibiting me from criticizing the Singapore legal system and for criticizing another Judge Judith Prakash in my blog, both actions done since my return to California. As these actions on my part are clearly violations of these silly Singapore laws and punishable with imprisonment, it will be interesting to see whether the Singapore authorities will allow me to enter Singapore and if so, guarantee that I will not be arrested again!

This is a case of damned if they do and damned if they don’t. If they allow me to enter Singapore, they would have no choice but to guarantee my safe conduct, which they would find impossible to do, since I have clearly violated their laws yet again. If they did, they would be re-enforcing my argument that their laws are entirely arbitrary. On the other hand, if they refuse me entry to Singapore, I will justifiably say they have denied me a right to defend myself in a Singapore court trying me for professional misconduct.

Me thinks they are now in a bind. Or as the English expression goes, “They have got their knickers in a twist”.

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

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