Sunday, June 6, 2010

Singapore. A defence for Oliver Fricker, the brave Swiss graffiti artist.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Other than the dubious honor that Singapore has the fewest lawyers in relation to population for any country in the world, a mere 3000 for a population of nearly 5 million, it has also earned the disgraceful notoriety, that, no Singaporean lawyer would dare question the legality of it's laws when defending his client, for fear of attracting the wrath of Singaporean strongman Lee Kuan Yew.

Strangely enough in that island, unlike every other country in the world, if there was one profession in Singapore who fear Lee Kuan Yew the most, it is the lawyers.

Oliver Fricker, the Swiss man who had tagged a Singapore subway train would not find a single lawyer in Singapore who would dare to raise the defenses that he would be raising had he been in any other country.

Here is what he, or his lawyer should say.

1. These laws that require a long prison sentence and state sanctioned torture (the beatings) is null and void and without legal basis. The Singapore Parliament that produced this law is itself illegal and without any legal force, because it is simply a rubber stamp and not truly representative of the people. Elections in Singapore are a farce and the entire parliament is a hand picked body of people who are there merely to rubber stamp anything that Lee Kuan Yew, the Singapore strongman wants. Since the Parliament itself is without legal force, any law made by it is itself without any legal basis and therefore null and void.

2. The Constitution protects free speech. This tag which is a pure work of art, is clearly an expression of free speech and therefore protected.

3. Singapore's judges are corrupt and beholden to the Singapore government. Examples are Lee Kuan Yew's judge Belinda Ang Saw Ean who fines Dr. Chee Soon Juan, a political dissident, several hundreds of thousands of dollars on a defamation case that lee Kuan Yew brings against him without even giving him a trial. She decided the case privately in her chambers and disallowed Dr. Chee Soon Juan to say anything in his defense. Another example is Lee Kuan Yew's kangaroo judge Judith Prakash who sends 3 men to jail merely because they wore Tshirts with pictures of kangaroos somewhere near the Singapore courts. She has since come to be known as the Kangaroo judge.

With judges like these who are no longer administering the law but Lee's dictates, it is impossible for him to receive a fair trial.

4. Singapore's legal system is corrupt and therefore Fricker is unlikely ever to get a fair trial. This has been confirmed by the International Bar Association's recent 72 page report which equates Singapore's legal system to that of North Korea, Sudan, Eritrea and Burma, countries that use the legal system as a political tool to destroy it's opponents.

5. The long prison sentences and the beatings (canings, in Singapore lexicon) are both cruel and unusual punishment and therefore void and of no effect. This fact has been clearly stated in both the United Nations conventions and treaties of which Singapore claims to be a member. It is unacceptable for domestic law to be at such variance and completely opposite of the usual norms of human decency and tolerance as is to be reasonably expected of human beings.

6. Mr. Fricker must make it known to the Singapore court that if he is to be beaten and imprisoned, he will publicise this brutality and illegality by writing a book and showing his butt of flesh and blood in UTube for the world to see. In shaming Singapore internationally, he will work for the introduction of democracy into Singapore where it is at present lacking. In this exercise, Lee Kuan Yew and his Singapore would stand to lose much more than Fricker ever would.

It is in Singapore's interest, especially at this time where it's reputation in the world has descended to the nadir, for it to consider carefully these barbaric actions, fit for the Middle Ages and not the 21st Century.

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

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Unknown said...

The vandalism case has nothing to do with the legitimacy of the Singapore government and other issues you brought in, Gopalan.

Point 1 could be extended to argue that laws about long prison sentences for murder and robbery are also null and void. Are you sure you want that?

Point 2 does make sense, either. It's not about free speech. It's about damaging someone else's property.

Are you sure you want to defend Fricker just so that you can point out problems with the Singapore system? You are conflating two issues. You may as well talk about some other case, e.g. on involving murder or fraud, and you could still apply the same arguments you used. By inappropriately associating Fricker's case with the case against the Singapore system, you are actually giving credibility to the Singapore system, when in fact the two matters are unrelated.

Gopalan Nair said...

To Joshua,

You say "vandalism case has nothing to do with legitimacy of the Singapore government". It has everything to do with it. If laws are unjustly promulgated, they fall without more.

You refer to murder and robbery. I am not referring to them. I am referring to a case where someone has tagged graffiti on public property.

You say it is not about free speech. But it is. It is also about damaging property.

Fricker has every right to defend himself fully. And these are the arguments that would free him in any other law abiding country, which Singapore is not. And neither is North Korea.

JT said...

The Singaporean mind is closed. It is unable to accept other cultures but it insist that others accept its "superior" way.

Does it matter that in some cultures, tagging (eg Croatia) and tattooing (eg Australia) are acceptable social practices.

Singaporeans are too quick to assume and jump to conclusion because of their closed minds. Eg An incident where Singaporean tourists cursing a speeding van (carrying youths playing loud music) that jumped queue to board a vehicle-ferry to cross the river.

An hour later the Singaporeans caught up with the youths. The youths had stopped by the roadside to deliver a new car windshield and a mechanic to a middle-aged lady, whose car windshield was smashed by fallen rocks. And it was getting dark!

If this incident had happened in Singapore, the youths would have been booked and stopped for their disorderly behaviour and the middle-aged lady would have left stranded in the middle of nowhere.

That is why we need to be of open mind. Rowdy youths are capable of doing good deeds as well!!
We want to know the Swiss defence instead of jumping to "obvious" conclusion of "vandalism".

I am sure "efficiency" does not discount "due process".

Unknown said...

As much as there are flaws in the legal system... this blog entry is at times really just grasping at straws. And as much as I would support critique of the status quo in Singapore, it is completely disingenuous to try and make this particular event a personal soap box for certain political ideas.

1) As a lawyer youself, I think you would realise that you are making very sweeping statements with regard to political legitimacy here. The PAP by and large wins elections, even though one might criticize particular aspects of the electoral process. This means that short of massive electoral fraud and miscounting of votes, the basic fact is that where political contest has happened, the PAP has won by large majorities. Whether or not you can blame this on the media, indoctrination, or stupidity is one thing, but the basis of political representation and legitimacy (the popular vote) is there.

But suppose for a moment we accept your generalization, and that parliament is without legal force. Would that not mean the immediate invalidation of every single law in Singapore? Taking your argument to the logical conclusion, we don't need to bother with laws at all since the legislature is without legal force. Theft, murder and rape are suddenly not criminal since the penal code is in itself without legal basis. Or perhaps we should only follow some laws and not others - in that case we are just inviting vigilante arbitration of what is law and what is not.

2) This point is regretfully weak. The constitution protects free speech, but with legal limits. No right is absolute, and the freedom of speech can be taken away by law. Even in the most free of western states will have laws that restrict freedom of speech. Indeed, if a right to free speech is absolute, you are in violation of my rights by implementing moderation of my comments.

3-4) I am not entirely sure how pointing out the inadequacies of the Singapore Legal system will help Mr. Fricker in his defence. If anything, it would add contempt of the court to his already considerable list of problems. Not only does the instances you list have absolutely no relation to a case of graffiti, it is also being taken out of context. Both cases involved opposition politicians and direct attacks against the Singaporean government. This case is about someone breaking into a facility to spray paint public transport.

Unknown said...

5) These statements are not particularly accurate.

- Singapore is not signatory to the UN Convention against torture.

- Besides Amnesty International and other NGOs I do not think there has been any state/treaty declaration to which Singapore is party to that specifically considers caning as cruel and unusual punishment. Considering that the death penalty itself remains contentious, and the fact that about 40 states continue judicial caning/corporal punishment, I find it difficult that caning can be read into phrase cruel and unusual as per the UN declaration.

- Further as much as human rights protection might be a principal of public international law, so is the principal of state sovereignty. Specifically, I believe that there is a recognized right for states to give persistent objection to certain state practice. In the case of Singapore, I think the republic has been fairly vocal in sticking to her guns with regard to judicial caning. As such, I am unable to think of any international rule that Singapore is obliged to follow, whether it be from a treaty or state practice.

6) I think you betray your fascination with making Mr. Ficker as some kind of martyr at this point. If we were to talk about democracy specific to this case, I think you might realise that most public opinion is perfectly fine with punishing Mr. Ficker. Who after all has broken into a public installation, and defaced public property with graffiti of dubious artistic value. Thus I am at a lost as to how democracy is under attack here, when the voters do not take issue.

With respect (and truly respecting some of your other posts), this blog is really extending itself too far on this graffiti issue. It seems to forget that this Fricker person deliberately broke the law. It also makes very bad generalizations between legal obligations, legality and other legal assessments on one hand, and normative moral issues on the other. A certain state practice is not illegal simply because it might offend your personal morality. Without legal source for the rule, there really is no basis for throwing around labels of illegal and so on.

Gopalan Nair said...

To Leon,


"Who argues that I am clutching at straws".

He claims that by and large the PAP wins elections. No this is incorrect. Not by and large, but every single election since 1959 outright, every seat. Every single seat. Unanimous. Just as the Communist Party in China has won every single seat there. These are not free and fair elections. There is a name for it. It is fraud and intimidation and fear.

The PAP simply uses fraud and intimidation. It has consistently refused to allow international observers at elections. One does not know whether the ballot boxes are stuffed and by how many.

But even without stuffing the ballot boxes, the intimidation and persecution of opposition politicians, impoverishing them, dismissing them from their jobs is sufficient to dissuade any candidate from standing. These are not free and fair elections. This is a rip off.

You are right in saying that based on my argument that the Singapore Parliament is not representative; I am saying that all Singapore's laws lose validity. You are also right in saying that I do not accept that Parliament as representative at all. Even so, you still need laws for people to co-exist just as you have laws in North Korea which Kim Jong Il pronounces at will. You are making a silly argument by saying that because I do not accept Singapore parliament as representative, by extension I have also said that there is no need for laws at all. I have never said that.

As for your saying that I propose that some laws should be followed and not others, you are absolutely right. If that can be done, that is exactly what men should do.

For instance, one should resist a law that requires a beating for drawing graffiti, a law that requires a permit to speak in public or assemble in public. Yes, if possible some laws should not only be disobeyed, they should be deliberately broken. These are laws that a tyrant uses to remain in power through the illegal use of force, as in Singapore.

I have never argued that speech should be totally unregulated. But in this case, where a person draws graffiti, a pure work of art, is clearly protected as free speech. He may of course also be guilty of defacing property but as to free speech, in this case, he has a complete defense.

I don't see why the inadequacies of a particular legal system should not be a defense for Fricker. Why should not a legal system, which has been always, corrupt, be a defense for a defendant to argue that he would not get a fair trial? Is that not what lawyers argue everyday for their clients?

Gopalan Nair said...

To Leon,


As to contempt of court, nowhere in the world is it contempt of court to tell the truth. It is only so in Singapore. The Singapore judges are corrupt and beholden to the Lee Kuan Yew family as we all know and there should be nothing wrong for a defendant to say it. Of course one cannot do it in Singapore where the courts are controlled by Lee Kuan Yew, and where there is no rule of law.

There is no reason why a defendant cannot argue that the courts are corrupt using cases involving opposition politicians. It appears you are suggesting that the courts are entitled to abuse the law in the case of opposition politicians but they would not, in other cases. This seems to be not only an untenable argument; you appear to justify the Singapore courts abusing the law to destroy opposition politicians.

You say that the examples I had given of Dr. Chee's case and other political cases, were in instances where they had directly attacked the Singapore government. But you don't explain what these direct attacks were, and neither do you explain why a citizen is not entitled to attack his government policy or their elected representatives. If you did not know, it is a cherished right in democracies to do exactly that, attacking the government. In other words political leaders are accountable to their people, and not the other way around.

You say Singapore is not a signatory to the UN convention against torture. So you appear to use that fact, if indeed that is so, as an excuse to brutally beat their people for minor infractions and hang teenagers for petty drug offenses. You appear to me as a blood thirsty monster who relishes the sight of seeing pain and brutality.

No Leon, just because Singapore did not sign the Convention, it does not give them the right to go around torturing and hanging people.

True the death penalty is carried out in several states, but the worldwide trend today around the world is to abolish it. In any case even in countries that retain the death penalty, it is only used in the most egregious cases such as serial murder of the most abominable kind. Nowhere is it used as it is in Singapore to hang teenagers for small quantities of drugs except perhaps North Korea or Burma. So your argument that death penalty is used abroad does not help in justifying the way it is done in Singapore.

Of course Singapore is not required to follow any international rule just as North Korea refuses to follow any. But North Korea like Singapore are pariah states, which no decent human being can respect. And that does not mean I or anyone who sees this injustice should remain silent. Lee Kuan Yew in order to keep himself in power enacts these laws under pain of arrest and impoverishment. He keeps Singaporeans at his mercy thereby doing any anything he wants, regardless of how unjust the laws are. And that is why I and many others decry this injustice and will continue to do it.

Gopalan Nair said...

To Leon,


You then say that public opinion is for beating Fricker. I am not sure where you got that idea, since I have not seen any particular opinion on it. Second, even if Lee Kuan Yew's men claimed such a fact, that becomes immediately suspect since we do not have any free press or any free minded citizens, except for a handful, who would dare speak their minds openly.

Yes, Fricker may have cut into a wire fence, gone into a secure facility and there used his artistic skill to paint on a train. But Fricker did not rape your daughter, kidnap your mother or beat up your father. The latter is very bad. The former is not the same. And nowhere in the world does a man deserve a severe beating until his buttocks are flayed with pieces of flesh and blood just because of that.

I am not suggesting that a state law should be attacked just because it offended my personal moral standards.

In this case, brutally beating someone not only offends my personal moral standards, it offends those of all ordinary decent men and women around the world unless they happen to be like you, who believe that Fricker should be brutally beaten and permanently disfigured and deformed merely because he cut through a fencing and did art work on a Singapore train.

I want to thank you Leon for writing this. Your intention of course is to try to further the cause of the Singapore government in this very difficult situation they face, since they know that beating Fricker would cause an outcry throughout the free world as a totally unjust punishment.

But by your furthering these silly arguments, it serves my purpose to expose the heartlessness of this government even more by showing that they not only want to beat such as man as this, they also want to justify the brutality.

This helps me to show your government as the monstrous heartless government that it really is.

It also gratifies me to know that you, I am sure an agent of the Singapore PAP government takes so much trouble and time to dispute my blog. It does seem that I am continuing to be a thorn on the side of their plans to hang on to power by threats, intimidation and brutality.

Anonymous said...

Im planing to come and tag your trains with 50 odd mates if you beat him. No shit.

Anonymous said...

They caught the wrong person lol

Banos and Mckoy just did this yesterday!

Anonymous said...

Man that Leon guy has some weird views. Well written replies Gopolan. I think that both the vandals got away, because they both did a new train in Germany last night.

Melvyn said...

But Fricker did step foot into a place where he was not supposed to be in the first place. So even if the graffiti is not wrong, (I'm not saying that it isn't) he stll did something wrong by breaking into a protected place.

Darren said...

Fricker disrespect the law and broke it. He deserve to be punished and there's simply no argument to that. It's getting ridiculous when there are people trying to defend his actions. Bollocks!

Anonymous said...

Gopolan, I agree, Singapore contravenes all conventions on cruel and unusual punishment. Caning is a most brutal and disgusting treatment for anyone. Since all civilized countries have long long ago abolished this type of state sanctioned torture and Singapore obviously wants recognition, what is, in your opinion the real reason that this so-called country persists with this. In addition, if it believes that such punishment is truly beneficial and effective, why and how, in your opinion, are some exempt purely on the basis of gender, even for identical offenses?

Kenneth said...

It feels as if personal grudges against the Singaporean government is what drives you towards making a mountain out of a molehill with regards to the Singaporean judicial system. We do not get one of the lowest crime rates in the world by merely doing nothing when someone violates the law.

This issue is as simple as that: Know and respect the laws of a locale before you step in and get yourself into trouble. Even tourists know that, don't you Mr Gopalan?

Gopalan Nair said...

To Kenneth,
If the end justifies the means, why does not your Singapore just chop the heads off. That way crime rate will drop even further.

There was no crime while the Japanense Kempetai were in control in Singpaore in 1942. Heads rolled. No crime.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't this guy charged with the same sorts of criminal acts after returning to his home country of Switzerland?