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

 

Political Abuse of Psychiatry (Amos Yee)

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Image by stimu1us on dA.

UPDATE (6 July 2015): Amos is free; however there are plenty of issues the government has yet to address.

Below is my original blog post published on 25 June 2015.

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A short excerpt (#1) on the subject of political abuse of psychiatry, viewed in the context of 16 year-old Amos Yee’s current prison-in-remand situation (Points #2-5).

1) “Psychiatric confinement of sane people is a particularly pernicious form of repression.

Psychiatry possesses a built-in capacity for abuse that is greater than in other areas of medicine. The diagnosis of mental disease allows the state to hold persons against their will and insist upon therapy in their interest and in the broader interests of society.

In addition, receiving a psychiatric diagnosis can in itself be regarded as oppressive. In a monolithic state, psychiatry can be used to bypass standard legal procedures for establishing guilt or innocence and allow political incarceration without the ordinary odium attaching to such political trials.”
(– Wiki)

2) “Amos has always been a chirpy, confident and very vocal child. He is also very creative, and would spend an endless amount of time on something which he sets his mind on.

But my son is a different person now. . .I wondered why my son, who is here to be assessed if he has autism, is kept here in the same block as those who are mentally ill.

[Block] 7 is where they keep the truly mentally ill patients, and those who have committed crimes or offences and who are also mentally unsound. It is also where my son is being held.”
(TOC: A mother visits her son at IMH)

3) “The entry of heavily shackled Amos Yee from holding room to dock in Court No. 7 on 23 June 2015 cuts a very depressing sight. No longer the cheerful teenager who looked and smiled confidently at the gallery, he walked slowly with his head bowed. It was painful to see this young person’s spirit reduced to such a sad state by our judicial system. He sat in the dock, head bowed most times.

The ill treatment that Amos suffered during his remand must be highlighted. Amos’ mother said that he was interviewed by a team of psychiatrists, psychologists, doctors etc over two weeks. Such interviews took place during the one hour community time when a prisoner is allowed to socialise and enjoy a bit of sunshine. It is the only time a prisoner looks forward to in a long and boring 24 hour day. Yet the prison authority has to be sadistic by arranging interviews during this one hour. I can only conclude that such arrangements were deliberate, aimed to break his spirit. Indeed Amos spirit is broken for he no longer reads and is tired because he cannot sleep with 24 hours lighting in the cell and cell mates who harbour resentment against him for having to sleep in a cell equipped with spy cameras.

A prisoner in remand is very often worse off than a prisoner who is serving sentence. He is left to himself whereas the prisoner serving time has regular activities to fill his day. He can attend educational or vocational courses and is allowed to spend time with other prisoners. Amos Yee’s special treatment by being locked up in a cell with 24 hour close circuit cameras means confinement within the four walls for 24 hours with one hour outside his cell. 24 hour lighting ensure that the mind is disorientated. A prisoner will inevitably suffer insomnia for he cannot sleep well.

Some observers are happy that Amos is now remanded at IMH for another psychiatric assessment. This is so sadistic. Why is the report by the State appointed psychiatrist, Munidasa Winslow that Amos might be suffering from autism spectrum disorder insufficient for the court to make a decision? Is there a necessity for the judge to order another report just to confirm or dispute Winslow’s report? What is the intent besides undermining the expertise of Winslow?

It is depressing that a bright young lad is made to suffer in this way. Is this our world class judicial system?”
(Teo Soh Lung)

4) “UN Human Rights Office calls for the immediate release of Amos Yee in line with its commitment under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.”
(Forbes)

5) “Amos Yee’s medical condition is autism and not derangement and it is insanity on the part of the authorities to put this vulnerable teenager in a block together with adult patients suffering from derangement.”
(Former ISD Director, YSW)

6) “And the police told me: ‘Quickly sign this, then we don’t have to take any responsibility if something happens to you.’”
(Notes From Prison by Amos Yee)

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UPDATE / 27 June 2015: Signed. “Petitioning The Singapore Government Drop the Charges Against Amos Yee!” — Change.org

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