Legal Consensus, by Tey Tsun Hang

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Whoa, I really went on a blogging hiatus!

Thanks to all who asked how I’ve been doing.

I’ll keep it short — in my early 20’s, I was not exactly very wise or practical with money matters. So I’ve spent the past couple of years reading up on topics like personal finance and sitting down to really think about my career direction.

With that out of the way, I finally got round to reading Legal Consensus. 

It is an excellently researched and painstakingly referenced book (the content is in no way “fake news” or figments of an overactive imagination — the footnotes are a very detailed list of the factual events that occurred).

I have collated a few excerpts which capture the essence of the substance of the content.

I have also included a quote by the author, Tey Tsun Hang, and a quote on why the rule of law matters.

legal consensus book 

You may order a copy of Legal Consensus from Select Books.


TEY TSUN HANG on his academic integrity

“I am no longer willing to self-censor,” Tey wrote to the colleague who had advised him. “I certainly do not want any longer to compromise my intellectual honesty.

Source: The Monthly

WHY DOES RULE OF LAW MATTER?

It requires that society be ruled by law, and not by the arbitrary (often self-interested) decisions of the small group of men and women who happen to wield public and private power at any given point in time. If the laws are unclear, secret, constantly changing, or retroactive, or if officials and judges do not comply with the law impartially without fear or favour, then it becomes impossible to act within the law.

Source: World Justice Project

QUOTES FROM “LEGAL CONSENSUS”

Pg 3: The imposition of Asian values [served] as a replacement for western liberal ideology, which was deemed by the PAP as threat to its political dominance. . .the importation of Asian values has been seen as artificial and selective; certain Confucianist values like obedience to authority were emphasised, while other values like validity of criticism against evil governments were conveniently neglected.

Pg 76: An accused [would] be found guilty as long as the statements scandalised the judiciary. Therefore, no one can make any adverse comments on the judiciary, regardless of the extent of truth there is in the comments. This is an untenable position [and] may potentially condone judges who do not act in the best interests of justice.

Pg 121: Such clinical and carefree approach in this area of jurisprudence, where execution of the condemned prisoner is the end product, leaves a lot to be desired.

Pg 127: …the perceived need for out-of-bound markers (OB markers) to set the limits of political participation even with an open and consultative government.

The basis for the existence of OB markers lies in a patronising view of society: citizens have to be protected from their own irrationality by a father-figure in the form of the state.

Pg 128: The ideology of pragmatism, together with a paternalistic and elitist mindset, has enabled the PAP to carry through unpopular policies, in the name of national interest.

[The political model] reflects a doubtful trust in society’s judgment…this conception of politics provides the rationale for the PAP’s “monopoly of power,” because it is able to denounce any political interference that does not follow the official rules.

Pg 131: Civil society [in Singapore] was not left to develop independently, but had to develop according to PAP guidelines.

The idea of a “civic society,” as opposed to civil society, was first mentioned by George Yeo. The notion of civic society highlights the civic responsibilities of citizens, instead of their rights, as in the conventional understanding of civil society. The key difference between civil and civic society is that civil society engages the state in political matters, while civic society does not. The emphasis on civic society reveals the Executive’s preference for a state-endorsed civic society rather than a liberal civil society.

The Executive was able to maintain control and consensus through a strategy [that included] circumscribing the limits of the Law Society’s statutory powers, reducing the legal profession’s independence in self-regulation, and creating a climate of fear which keep members of the legal profession safely within prescribed limits.

Pg 161: Civil society in Singapore, therefore, is not being genuinely liberated, but is being “steered in a fixed and institutionalised framework,” [and] should not be confused with a fully fledged civil society endowed with autonomous associations organised independently from the state.

Source: Legal Consensus, by Tsun Hang Tey (2011)

Get a Copy @ Select Books

 

Busy Last Few Months

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A couple of loyal readers asked how I’ve been doing, so here’s a quick update.

Split into three parts: my blogging, professional, and personal life.

+ + +

1. BLOGGING LIFE

a) I have continued to update the prolific Mr. Yoong’s blog excerpts throughout this year — check them out here!

b) I’ve been meaning to review Tey Tsun Hang’s book, Legal Consensus, for some time now. Hopefully I can get to it by the end of the year (I am doing a bit of traveling next month to visit my family in Maine, and have “some other stuff to get to” after that).

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Verdict: Totes Amazeballs.

Tey’s publication is a coolly concise book on “Singapore’s schizophrenic jurisprudence.”

Here’s a paragraph from the second chapter to whet your intellectual appetite:

The danger arises when ‘government-articulated collective interests in the name of culture and community becomes synonymous with state interests’. When this happens, any criticism of the government, even those that are constructive, becomes criticism subversive of the state and hence the community’s interest. The system becomes open to abuse by governments seeking to strengthen their political power and legitimise their actions via legal formalities within a ‘thin’ conception of the rule of law.
Legal Consensus, by Tey Tsun Hang (Page 5)

I’ll update my social media accounts more regularly once I resume some activity for jessINK-related matters (see below). This year I’ve been enjoying doing more things offline versus online.

2. PROFESSIONAL LIFE

a) As I wrote over a year ago, jessINK’s new direction has been on my mind for the past few weeks and months.

In the past year, I’ve shifted my interests away from indie publishing in order to explore some of my other skills and interests. I have some ideas for what I’d like jessINK 2.0 to be about. It’ll still (and always will) involve SOME degree of writing — my first love forever ♥ — just in a new direction.

It’s because I’m exponentially happier writing when the process is not narrowly dictated by commercial niche genres.

I really appreciate the readers who’ve appreciated my work over the years, so that keeps me motivated to offer good value to my new audience(s) in future, whether it’s in publishing or another field.

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Award-winning book.

b) Playmates, the first book in my psych thriller series, was a finalist in the 9th Indie Excellence Awards last year. That made me smile coz it’s a pretty big contest with tons of entries.

c) Matt Posner, my co-author on Teen Guide, sent me this complimentary mug featuring the book cover. It’s been 5 years since we starting collaborating on it. OMG where did the time go!

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#HappyFace

That’s not a particularly glam or “PR-worthy” photo of myself (I’m in a night dress, which is what I sometimes wear while working from home)…but, having an acne history, I’m quite pleased that breakouts have become more manageable these days. A lot of it is related to stress management and emotional health.

3. PERSONAL LIFE

a) I relocated to Florida earlier this year in January, after living in Maine for several years.

This was a good move on my part, albeit it took many months of “analysis paralysis” before I finally decided that something had to change in terms of geographic location. Maine is a pretty state, but it can be “desolate” (an adjective used by one of my American friends) depending on which part you are in.

The first few weeks in my new space were devoted to house-cleaning, baking, cooking, and figuring out what was wrong with the washing machine.

b) I passed the basic rider course earlier in the year, so my driver’s license says “Motorcycle Also.”

That was just something I used to think about getting during my teenage days, so I’m glad I got that done even though I’m a LONNNGG way off from being a skillful rider.

At the very least, I got a solid foundation from Highlands Professional Motorcycle Training based on a biker friend’s recommendation. Great coaches who were very positive, focused, and looked out for the well-being of the students.

c) The natural terrain is something else I’ve been getting to know a little better. Alligators and turtles in the small canals are common in certain areas.

Relationship-wise, the guy in the shadow pointing pic above makes me smile and I make him laugh — and that’s important. I will leave it up to you to guess whether or not he rides a bike.

On a slight tangent, I like using the following two brands of sun screen: Badger and Babyganics. I use them a lot if I’m spending some time outdoors.

My skin is very sensitive and I prefer organic skincare products. Right now I use a basic soap cleanser, beauty balm, and sun screen. I prefer to keep things simple on that front and not overload my face with chemicals.

d) Since I haven’t lived or worked in Singapore for Quite A While, I can only gauge what it’d feel like to live there now based on friends’ postings on Facebook, along with updates from sites like The Online Citizen.

Quality of life can be a subjective thing, since it is partly dependent on a person’s preferences and comfort zone(s) when it comes to feeling like a certain location feels like home.

A lot of my friends or former classmates occasionally gripe about SG, but continue to stay because of:

  • Their family network, and
  • The convenience of transport and amenities.

My immediate family members felt differently, so I grew up within a different way of thinking so to speak.

Here’s the core sentiment I remember the most while growing up in Singapore: that it never felt like home.

This was due to a combination of factors, such as:

  • The feeling of claustrophobia from the ever increasing population density,
  • Feeling trapped by education/career/housing options, and
  • Feeling that freedom of speech did not exist without severe repercussions.

The constant gleam of the latest and greatest shopping malls and eateries didn’t make me feel any different deep inside.

No doubt variety is good when it comes to food, but one can simply cook up a storm at home if malls are struggling to attract customers due to high rentals, etc.

Excerpts from “Scandalising the Singapore Judiciary”

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Excerpts from “Scandalising the Singapore Judiciary”

by Tsun Hang Tey (2010)

PDF Link to Journal Article: Informit.com.au | Ebscohost

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Definitions:

1. Rule of Law: The legal principle that law should govern a nation, as opposed to being governed by arbitrary decisions of individual government officials (Wiki).

2. Scandalise: To dishonor and disgrace (TFD).

3. Jurisprudence: Legal system.

Extracts from Article:

1) [This article] hopes to open up a new line of debate over the extent to which it is ‘rule of law’ or ‘rule by law’ that is adopted in matters where criticisms of the ruling party and its leaders in Singapore are involved.

2) Scandalising the Singapore judiciary [is] an archaic phrase which embodies ‘any act done or writing published calculated to bring a court or a judge of the court into contempt, or to lower his authority’.

3) The Singapore courts have dealt firmly with these contemnors through the contempt of court committals, shaping a jurisprudence that places [emphasis on] maintaining good public perception of its ‘integrity and impartiality’, at the expense of freedom of political speech and critical reporting.

4) It is said that the rationale behind the law of contempt is ‘not to vindicate the dignity of the court or [judge], but to prevent undue interference with the administration of justice’, as well as to preserve public confidence in the integrity and competence of the judiciary.

5) The 11 November 1974 issue of Newsweek magazine that was alleged to have had the effect of scandalising the court of Singapore. . .ended with the shocking allegation – that ‘in the courts in Singapore it makes a vital difference whether it is the government or the opposition that is in the dock.’

6) Christopher Lingle, the author of an article published in the International Herald Tribune was convicted [of] contempt by scandalising the court [by] suggesting that the Singapore judiciary was ‘compliant’ to its government.

7) [The Singapore judiciary] has failed to undertake a searching or meaningful analysis of the issue of the permissibility of derogation from the constitutional right of free speech, and has also failed to appreciate the importance of achieving an appropriate balance between the social benefit of preserving its integrity, and the freedom to report critically.

8) The Singapore judges have sworn to ‘preserve, protect and defend the Constitution’, [where] the purpose of the Constitution is in protecting and guaranteeing the rights of citizens. Where freedom of speech and expression is considered to be a basic human right, it is all the more important that the courts provide a proper rationale for derogation of such a right.

9) It is common to observe the courts citing from other judgments without giving much input into the rationales and reasons for doing so. . .the rigour and depth in the reasoning employed in judgments pertaining to other areas of the law seem to be lacking in contempt of court judgments handed down in Singapore.

10) One’s right to freedom of speech and expression can be abrogated rather easily – so long as the criticism made is ‘scurrilous abuse’ or ‘excites misgivings as to the integrity, propriety and impartiality brought to the exercise of the judicial office’, one would be found guilty of scandalising the court.

11) It does not matter if one had made such criticisms honestly in exercise of one’s recognised right to freedom of speech and expression. Such an approach amounts to the imposition of a strict liability offence and renders the right to freedom of speech and expression almost obsolete (at least with regard to criticisms one can make of the courts). This renders the recognition of the right to freedom of speech and expression superfluous and meaningless.

12) While the court will expressly recognise a right to freedom of speech and expression, it will be quick to note that such a right is not absolute and subject to multiple limitations.

13) While no right can be absolute, the courts ought to engage in a rigorous analysis to find the right balance between the competing interests, and before setting down limitations on the rights it is sworn to protect.

14) The rights of the people should be given its maximum space and recognition, for the entire purpose of rights is to guarantee the fundamental liberties of the people. If such rights were to be curtailed and limited right from the start, there is not going to be much to guarantee and uphold.

15) An accused, regardless of whether he or she was justified in their statements, would be found guilty as long as the statements scandalised the judiciary. Therefore, in effect, no one can make any adverse comments on the judiciary, regardless of the extent of truth there is in the comments. This is an untenable position for it amounts to a derogation from the right to freedom of speech and expression without a proper justification, and it may potentially assist judges who do not act in the best interests of justice.

16) This right to criticise is explained by Lord Atkin in Ambard v A-G of Trinidad and Tobago [[1936] AC 322]:

. . .no wrong is committed by any member of the public who exercises the ordinary right of criticizing, in good faith, in private or public, the public act done in the seat of justice. . .Justice [must] be allowed to suffer the scrutiny and respectful, even though outspoken, comments, of ordinary men.

17) See article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

‘Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers’.

While Singapore is not a member of the Human Rights Council in the United Nations, it has obligations with respect to the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights made by the General Assembly on 10 December 1948.

18) Recent developments indicate that the law enforcers are swiftly and decisively enforcing Singapore’s law of contempt against contemnors exhibiting behaviour of various types, namely, contemptuous blogging on the internet and the writing of insulting emails to judges (as seen in [Mr Gopalan Nair]; the wearing of T-shirts imprinted with images of a kangaroo dressed in a judge’s robe while appearing at [the] Supreme Court courtroom; and the Attorney-General’s committal for contempt proceedings [for] three allegedly contemptuous articles published in Wall Street Journal Asia in June and July 2008).

19) Harsh allegations made by a range of international bodies in questioning the integrity of the Singapore judiciary:

What emerges … is a government that has been willing to decimate the rule of law for the benefit of its political interests. Lawyers have been cowed to passivity, judges are kept on a short leash, and the law has been manipulated so that gaping holes exist in the system of restraints on government action toward the individual. Singapore is not a country in which individual rights have significant meaning.
— The New York City Bar Association (1990)

Source: “Scandalising the Singapore Judiciary,” by Tsun Hang Tey (2010)

PDF Download: Informit.com.au | Ebscohost

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AUTHOR:

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Prof Tey obtained first class honours from Oxford University and practised law in Malaysia before being hired to teach at NUS Law faculty. Prof Tey entered the legal service in the Supreme Court as a Justice Law Clerk during the tenure of then Chief Justice Yong Pung How. Prof Tey went on to become a District Judge, after which he returned to academia at NUS Law Faculty.

In 2011, Tey decided to go ahead with publishing a number of articles highly critical of Singapore’s judiciary without approval from the ISD. “I am no longer willing to self-censor,” he wrote. “I certainly do not want [to] compromise my intellectual honesty.”

Of the 2014 sex-for-favours case against him, Tey maintains that the case was politically motivated from the start.

Tey Online: TOC | Yahoo | The Monthly (AU) | Legal Consensus (Tey’s book on Singapore’s judiciary) | Singapore Consensus (Tey’s articles)

Tey’s Court Actions: NUS | Singapore ICA (to show how high-handed and well-coordinated the executions were)

Excerpts from “The Politics of Judicial Institutions in Singapore”

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Excerpts from “The Politics of Judicial Institutions in Singapore”

by Francis Seow (1997)

Link to Article: Singapore-Window | PDF

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Definitions:

1. Acquittal: A judgment that a person is not guilty of the crime with which the person has been charged.

2. Executive: Also used as an impersonal designation of the chief executive officer of a state or nation. (Black’s Law Dictionary)

3. Rule of Law: The legal principle that law should govern a nation, as opposed to being governed by arbitrary decisions of individual government officials. (Wiki).

Extracts from Article:

1) While [certain features of Singapore society] may be desirable, the manner of their implementation depends on certain anti-democratic and authoritarian structures and institutions.

2) I was astounded when my attention was first drawn to an October 1993 Straits Times banner-headlines, Singapore’s legal system rated best in world: Full confidence that justice will be fast and fair.

3) Some history is needed to show how the legal system was systematically undermined by the prime minister after the People’s Action Party (PAP) came into power.

4) The sudden transfer in 1986 of senior district judge, Michael Khoo — one of the ablest judges to grace the subordinate court bench — to the attorney general’s chambers following his acquittal of Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam [engendered] much controversy. From being the respected head of the subordinate judiciary, Khoo overnight became a mere digit within the attorney general’s chambers.

5) Jeyaretnam appealed [his] disbarment to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council — Singapore’s ultimate court of appeal in London — which roundly castigated the chief justice and the Singapore courts for their legal reasoning.

6) The minister for law [moved] in parliament for the abolition of appeals to the Privy Council decrying it as being “interventionist” and “out of touch” with local conditions.

7) Asked about the abolition of the privy council, Goh Chok Tong responded that [the] privy council was “playing politics.” It was a disgraceful statement. As the Roman satirist Juvenal once said: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (Who will guard the guards themselves?)

8) The Jeyaretnam case [highlights] the grotesque contortions the politically corrupt judiciary went through to rid a political irritant to the prime minister and his government. It demonstrates the misuse of the law in advancing the agenda and interests of the ruling political party.

9) [The attorney general] argued the court could [not] “inquire into the reasons why [a] detention order is made [through the Internal Security Act (ISA)]. This is an executive act.” The court for its part willingly abdicated its judicial responsibility in favour of officialdom rather than the cause of justice.

10) In 1987, twenty-two young Roman Catholic and social activists were arrested under the ISA, accused of being Marxists involved in a dangerous conspiracy to subvert the PAP government through violence. They were released only after they had made the ritualistic television confessions. But eight of them were re-arrested when they disclosed those confessions had been coerced out of them. In the ensuing [proceedings], the [appeal was allowed] on technical rather than on substantive grounds, thus enabling the government to hurriedly amend the constitution and the relevant laws, and order their re-arrest.

11) Although the PAP government recognizes the role of the judiciary in the body politic, it no longer sees it as a check on the balance of power in the traditional sense but rather as an important instrument for the prolongation of its political longevity.

12) Judges on contract, renewable at the will of the prime minister, is not conducive to judicial independence. . .it is not uncommon to find a particular judge, like T.S. Sinnathuray, being commonly assigned sensitive cases with predictable results. Judges known for impartiality, independence and strength of character are never assigned them.

13) The then prime minister [LKY] appointed his banker-friend, Yong Pung How, as chief justice, who had not practised law for 20 years, whose superior claim to this illustrious position was that he is a loyal crony.

14) LKY’s hour-long defence of the appointment in parliament — during which he delved into bathetic nostalgia; [and] his inquiries of his judges to name the three best persons, excluding themselves, all of whom in a remarkable coincidence, named his friend [Yong] as “the best of the possibles” — rang somewhat hollow and contrived.

15) The salaries, which the PAP government pays its judges, have much method in its generosity. High court judges receive A$630,000 per annum plus a minimum bonus of three months’ salary or A$205,020 at A$68,340 per month, totalling A$835,020, besides other perks and privileges, like a motor car, a government bungalow at economic rent. The chief justice receives A$1,260,000 per annum, besides an official residence (or an housing allowance in lieu thereof), a chauffeur-driven car, among other handsome perks and privileges of office. Indeed, he receives more than the combined stipends of the Lord Chancellor of England, the Chief Justices of the United States, Canada and Australia. As a Queen’s Counsel pointedly queried: “Is this kind of money a salary or an income of permanent bribery?”

16) Supremely confident in the reliability of his judiciary, the prime minister uses the courts as a legal weapon to intimidate, bankrupt or cripple the political opposition, and ventilate his political agenda. Which judge would be so reckless or foolhardy to award a decision against him? Judges know on which side their bread is buttered.

17) The notorious case of Public Prosecutor v Tan Wah Piow demonstrates the [precarious] state of the judiciary in Singapore. . .vital defence witnesses were arrested on the morning of the trial, and deported.

18) An Australian Queen’s Counsel, Frank Galbally, who observed the trial for the Australian Union of Students, said: “In Australia, the case would be laughed out of court … [The three accused] did not get a fair trial. … In my opinion, it is just a political trial.”

19) [In a 1995 criminal trial in Singapore] Alun Jones, QC, discharged himself “for the first time in 23 years’ practice,” describing the judicial proceedings as “a travesty of a trial” and a “perversion of a judicial process.”

20) The New York City Bar Association, after a fact-finding mission to Singapore led by the late Robert B. McKay, then dean of the New York University Law School, observed:

What emerges. . .is a government that has been willing to decimate the rule of law for the benefit of its political interests. . .The only check on the Singapore judiciary is the prospect of ultimate appeal to the Privy Council in London.

That report was published in October 1990. Since then, appeals to the privy council have been abolished. The supervisory powers of the courts have been removed.

21) In a fateful [1996] interview, opposition Workers’ Party candidate, Tang Liang Hong, observed:

“Why wasn’t [the Nassim Jade] matter handed over to a professional body like Commercial Affairs Department or Corrupt Practice Investigation Bureau? They are government departments [well-known] for being [firm and impartial]. They would be more detached and their reports would have been more convincing to the people.”

Lee and his son took offence at those remarks, and commenced a libel action. The presiding judge was Justice Lai Kew Chai, a former partner of the prime minister’s law firm of Lee and Lee.

22) Lee and his political colleagues’ [papers] were served and heard the same day — a privilege and sense of urgency denied to Tang and his wife. Tang described it as PAP’s ‘instant justice.’

23) Let me recall to mind the dreadful words of Dr Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s notorious minister of propaganda:

“Justice must not become the mistress of the state, but must be the servant of state policy.”

Those words could just as well have been spoken by Harry Lee Kuan Yew or by any one of the PAP ministers. For Singapore’s judiciary is well on its way to this Goebbelsian utopia.

Source: “The Politics of Judicial Institutions in Singapore,” by Francis Seow (1997)

Link to Article: Singapore-Window | PDF

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FRANCIS T. SEOW is a former Solicitor General of Singapore and a brilliant Public Prosecutor. He was awarded the Public Administration (Gold) Medal during his 16-year career with the Singapore Legal Service.

Francis became the lawyer for several of those detained in 1987. Regrettably, in 1988, he too was arrested under the Internal Security Act and detained without trial for several months.

He is the author of several books on Singapore, including To Catch A Tartar: A Dissident in Lee Kuan Yew’s Prison, The Media Enthralled and Beyond Suspicion? – The Singapore Judiciary.

Francis Seow Online: Profile | Wikipedia | YouTube | Beyond Suspicion | Foreword by Devan Nair

Did K Shanmugam Make An Illegal Party Political Film? (Martyn See)

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Source: Martyn See (Facebook)

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Did Law Minister K. Shanmugam make an illegal party political film?

Dear K. Shanmugam,

On the 10th of May 2015, you uploaded a video entitled “A Day in the Life of a Minister”, which features a camera crew tracking your activity of the day. It was an unscripted video shot and edited in the style of a reality-TV programme.

You stated that the 12-minute long video was made by “volunteers”. By that, one would assume that this is not a government-sponsored production. As such, may I inform you that this video is not exempted under section 40 of the Films Act and therefore in possible violation of section 33 which criminalises “party political films”, the penalties of which are a fine not exceeding $100,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years.

I cite the following clauses of the Films Act relevant to “A Day in the Life of a Minister”.

“Party political film” means a film —

(a) which is an advertisement made by or on behalf of any political party in Singapore or any body whose objects relate wholly or mainly to politics in Singapore, or any branch of such party or body; or

(b) which is made by any person and directed towards any political end in Singapore;

For the purposes of this Act, a film is directed towards a political end in Singapore if the film —

(a) contains wholly or partly any matter which, in the opinion of the Board, is intended or likely to affect voting in any election or national referendum in Singapore; or

(b) contains wholly or partly references to or comments on any political matter which, in the opinion of the Board, are either partisan or biased; and “political matter” includes but is not limited to any of the following:

(i) an election or a national referendum in Singapore;

(ii) a candidate or group of candidates in an election;

(iii) an issue submitted or otherwise before electors in an election or a national referendum in Singapore;

(iv) the Government or a previous Government or the opposition to the Government or previous Government;

(v) a Member of Parliament;

(vi) a current policy of the Government or an issue of public controversy in Singapore; or

(vii) a political party in Singapore or any body whose objects relate wholly or mainly to politics in Singapore, or any branch of such party or body.

None of the following films shall be regarded for the purposes of this Act as a party political film:

(e) a documentary film without any animation and composed wholly of an accurate account depicting actual events, persons (deceased or otherwise) or situations, but not a film —

(i) wholly or substantially based on unscripted or “reality” type programmes; or

(ii) that depicts those events, persons or situations in a dramatic way;

Exemptions

40. —(1) This Act shall not apply to —

(a) any film sponsored by the Government;

(b) any film, not being an obscene film or a party political film or any feature, commercial, documentary or overseas television serial film, which is made by an individual and is not intended for distribution or public exhibition; and

(c) any film reproduced from local television programmes and is not intended for distribution or public exhibition.

(2) The Minister may, subject to such conditions as he thinks fit, exempt any person or class of persons or any film or class of films from all or any of the provisions of this Act.

(3) An exemption granted under this section may be withdrawn at any time.

I put it to you that the video “A Day in the Life of a Minister” may constitute an illegal ‘party political film’ under section 33 of the Films Act because:

1. It is an advertisement made by or on behalf of a political party in Singapore whose objects relate wholly or mainly to politics in Singapore.

2. It is made by a person and directed towards a political end in Singapore – by featuring a Member of Parliament.

3. It is a film that is substantially based on unscripted and “reality” type programmes, and it also contains dramatic elements.

4. It is not a government-sponsored film.

Of course, the Minister may opt to exercise section 40 of the Films Act to exempt your film from the Act.

In the interest of upholding transparency in the application of the Rule of Law in Singapore, this letter will be made public. I look forward to your reply on this matter.

Yours sincerely,
See Tong Ming

The above was emailed to K. Shanmugam on 11 May.

Source: Martyn See (Facebook)

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MARTYN SEE is a Singaporean political blogger and filmmaker with two banned films, two police investigations and a conscience that just won’t let him rest.

Martyn See Online: Blog | Excerpts | Facebook | Photo Album | Interview | YouTube

Book Review: Beyond Suspicion

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Towards the end of Once a Jolly Hangman, Alan Shadrake shares some details about his arrest in Singapore. There is one paragraph where he says:

“Was I in danger of being arrested? I consulted well-known Singaporean Francis T. Seow, a former president of the Law Society. His advice: as long as it’s all correct, you have nothing to fear.”

We can thus hold Francis Seow to his word, in the sense that the research in his book, Beyond Suspicion? is based on facts, not fiction. This was yet another book that I would have thought was a tragicomical political movie script or novel, had I not already been familiar with some of the well-known, real life members of the cast.

As the former solicitor-general of Singapore, Francis T. Seow was one of LKY’s right-hand men — the top man after the attorney general (the attorney general being the principal legal officer who represents a country in legal proceedings and gives legal advice to the government).

The publication’s core strength lies in Francis Seow’s references to a complete set of court documents to present his points. That this book is written in a vibrant, intellectually lively style makes it both an educational and entertaining read. For example, Francis Seow doesn’t simply use the word “corrupted” to describe Singapore politics — he describes it as “a dirty gladiatorial game [that’s] also dangerous.”

No time is wasted with giving the reader a bit of background information on Yong Pung How (“an old crony from Lee’s college days”), who became the chief justice of Singapore in 1990. This happened despite the fact that Yong never actually practiced law in Singapore. To paraphrase an insider’s quote, “no judge [in Singapore] who values his rice bowl” would dare go against his political masters’ expectations when it comes to political court cases.

Amnesty International underscored the “notoriety of Lee and his government’s use of defamation laws to stifle the opposition via compliant courts.” Garry Rodin, Director of the Asia Research Centre from 2002-2009, wrote about “the PAP’s manic desire to crush the slightest semblance of serious scrutiny” in his blurb on the back cover of the book. These quotes further illustrate the extent of the politicization of the judiciary.

Even when armed with this knowledge, the reader will still come across an array of mind-boggling dialogue and logic-defying actions (thanks to the PAP leaders of the time), through Francis Seow’s intense presentation of the case involving Tang Liang Hong.

Tang’s “crime” was questioning the Lees’ controversial purchases with the Nassim Jade properties, and asking why the matter wasn’t handed over to a professional body like Commercial Affairs Department or Corrupt Practice Investigation Bureau.

In Tang’s own words:

“[The CAD or CPIB] are government departments. . .well-known for being [firm and impartial]. They would be more detached and their reports would have been more convincing to the people.”

The real crime is that Tang Liang Hong was in opposition politics, an individual whom the PAP elite recognized “as an immediate threat to their electoral prospects in the Cheng San GRC” during the 1997 General Election. Back in 1981, LKY once dismissed the value of a political opposition as being “irrelevant.” How can someone or something be a threat and irrelevant at the same time?

The rest of the chapters give a detailed account of the political gangsterism and character assassination Tang Liang Hong experienced. One would think that the text was describing the bullying that occurs in a children’s playground, and not the behaviour of highly-ranked politicians in a court of law.

We are shown how The Straits Times provided coverage that was “more favourable to the PAP leaders than reports from foreign journalists,” and how Tang Liang Hong was branded by PAP leaders as an “anti-Christian, anti-English-educated Chinese chauvinist,” with Goh Chok Tong taunting Tang as a “coward and a liar.”

As if these obnoxious epithets were insufficient, LKY likened Tang Liang Hong to “a serial killer” during an hour and a half monologue in court. LKY and his “PAP digits” were “like ravenous hyenas in a feeding frenzy” when they demanded a grand total of S$12.9 million for the lawsuits over Tang’s remarks on the Nassim Jade purchases, along with his other actions.

Other memorable gems include the Singapore government misusing taxpayers’ funds to support a private quarrel, LKY’s comments on how J.B. Jeyaretnam — who represented Tang Liang Hong in court — should be “skinned alive like a skunk,” and Wong Kan Seng, then the leader of the House, “loyally leaping to the patriarch’s rescue” when LKY made a grave and thoroughly unsupported allegation that Tang was backed by people who wished to destroy Singapore. There are plenty of other juicy details which I can’t include in a book review, though I will endeavour to feature bits and pieces in future articles.

The nature of the PAP leaders involved in this dreadful fiasco can be seen in the final outcome of Tang’s case. All the charges against Tang were dropped when the main property asset of the Tangs was no longer worth as much, due to the Asian financial crisis and other factors (and therefore less of a boon than the PAP leaders had originally hoped for, in terms of being awarded their millions in damages).

After all the litigation costs, mental/emotional distress, and disruption caused to him and his family, Tang was declared a bankrupt, so that he could not hold any political position in Singapore and directly partake in politics. Tang himself succinctly described the law in Singapore as being an unequal struggle, and “a test of financial strength, not of legal arguments.”

As a June 1997 editorial by The New York Times wrote:

“Singapore’s leaders are masters at using libel suits in a compliant court system to silence or intimidate their domestic opponents. . .”

The purpose of books like Beyond Suspicion is not to ridicule or be derisive. It is to expose flaws in a political party or system, and provide a record of history. Note that on Page 241, it is mentioned that one of the legal documents to do with Tang Liang Hong was ordered by Justice Chao Hick Tin to be destroyed — at the request of LKY, via his counsel, Davinder Singh. Who knows what else has been requested to be destroyed?

Another purpose is for future generations to remember what this party has done to opposition members whom they viewed as a threat. Were the opposition members viewed as a threat to Singapore; good governance; or to the PAP’s own stronghold of political power?

If leaders are wise and less arrogant, they would seek to produce less scripted videos which appear to be more propaganda-inspired than patriotically inspired. Instead, they would seek to learn from mistakes of the past — and make genuine amends — so that they can prove to current voters/citizens why they should still be in office, as well as justify their high salaries drawn from taxpayers’ dollars.

In the context of Singapore’s political scene, it is only by the party’s own words and actions that they make the choice to be regarded as the “People’s Action Party,” or a “Perpetually Arrogant Party.”

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More Information:

Beyond Suspicion? (Amazon.com)
Book Depository (Free Shipping)
TLH Legal Saga | SW S’poreans Appeal (Singapore Window)
Yale University / Monograph 55 (Publisher)
Beyond Suspicion by Dr. Michael Barr (Book Review)
To Catch A Tartar by Teo Soh Lung (Book Review)
Francis Seow (Wikipedia)
Francis Seow (Profile)
Francis Seow: The Interview (YouTube; where a certain “bosom pal and crony of LKY” is mentioned, and much more)