An article with very disturbing implications

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An article with very disturbing implications:

CJ Chan says courts’ authority must be respected by all

“Singaporeans have been reminded by Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong that justice can only be rendered according to the law and the courts’ authority must be respected by all.

Opening the new legal year at the Supreme Court on Saturday, he stressed that this is fundamental to the Rule of Law and the just governance of the country.

“The law itself will not tolerate any attempt by any person to undermine public confidence in the courts by making false and scandalous allegations,” he said.

Cited as political cases by Attorney-General Walter Woon in his address are the kangaroo T-shirt case, an email alleging accusations against a High Court Judge and a series of commentaries in a newspaper casting aspersions on the integrity and independence of the Singapore Judiciary.

He warned that the assault on the courts appeared to be part of a broader campaign to force a change in Singapore’s laws by extra-legal means.

“If anybody has a political and ideological agenda, and starts pulling bricks from the foundation of our society, then it has got to be brought to the courts’ attention and then the courts decide whether actions are necessary,” AG Woon said.

Law Minister K Shanmugam also emphasised on Saturday that if someone wants a particular law to be changed, he should do so by getting elected into Parliament.

He said: “In the last few years, we have had people saying, ‘I don’t like this law and I don’t like that law, and the way to change it is go out there and demonstrate and protest’. Sometimes, the whole purpose and meaning of the Rule of Law is gone. We have a constitutional system where laws are passed by Parliament and everyone obeys the law.”

The opening of the new legal year is also an opportunity for the Supreme Court to take stock of its achievements in the previous year. CJ Chan said the Supreme Court has been able to clear nearly 85 per cent of writs which have been filed with the court.

This year is going to be a special year for the Supreme Court as well – it is opening its doors to the members of the public with an Open House in March.”

Some worries:

1) What happens if you make un-false allegations (even if they are scandalous) which are intended to restore or build public confidence in the courts?

For example, assuming the PAP lost an election and an Evil Opposition Government packed the courts with corrupt judges, what avenues would we have to restore public confidence in the courts?

We all know of the case of Teh Cheang Wan: luckily our ever-efficient CPIB got wind of his perfidy and investigated him (and he did what an honourable oriental gentleman should have).

However, suppose this Evil Opposition Government managed to undermine even CPIB, rendering it impotent. The machinery of state would then kick in to unjustly convict and persecute a whistleblower attempting to unmask a 21st century equivalent of Teh Cheang Wan

Would the only resort to safeguard our fair land be a coup? But then, assuming the armed forces were similarly undermined, Singapore would then be on the way to destruction.

2) A newspaper reporting on an IBA (International Bar Association) report which even Singapore itself points to is considered to be a political case.

Why is no one going after the IBA itself and dealing them the justice that deserves to be dealt? Sue them, ban their top members from entering Singapore and impose other sanctions upon them!

Otherwise, it’s like executing drug mules while ignoring (or even entertaining) drug lords: you are not dealing with the root of the problem.

3) What are “extra-legal means” and what qualifies as “pulling bricks from the foundation of our society”?

Equating the wearing of a T-shirt, writing of an email and writing of a newspaper article to “forc[ing] a change in Singapore’s laws by extra-legal means” and “pulling bricks from the foundation of our society” makes it sound like they’re plotting a coup, terrorist attack, or something equally dastardly.

It is true that, strictly speaking all of the actions mentioned are extra-legal. Yet, extra-legal may not the same as illegal: the implication of the intersection of both these personage’s statements seems to be that the only legal means of getting laws changed is getting elected to parliament, which segues into the next point.

4) We are supposed to amend laws by getting elected into Parliament.

Once again, Singapore leads the world by forging ahead where others dare not go. With this philosophy, we are a pioneer in the concept of Direct Democracy (even though we nominally are a Representative Democracy); even the Romans and the Greeks (who invented Democracy) were not as bold.

In the Greek conception of Democracy, eligible citizens (i.e. adult, male, non-slave, metics [foreign talent]) would gather in the marketplace to debate Important Affairs. One could influence the polity merely by making a speech and by voting; one did not have to be elected to office.

The insistence that one has to get elected to Parliament is very bizarre. Do ordinary citizens have no right or say in changing their laws?

Even assuming they feel so strongly about one particular issue that they are willing to take the plunge and sacrifice themselves by standing for public office (and putting up the hefty deposit which stood at $13,500 in 2006 and might go up further next time), we currently have only 9 Single Member Constituencies. Presumably only a maximum of 9 laws could be tabled for change by individual citizens at each time (whether they could pass in a Parliament of 84 is another matter).

Mechanisms for ordinary citizens to influence politics in other, less advanced democracies include writing to or seeing your MP, signing a petition, writing a letter to the newspapers, making a speech in public, attending public forums, starting/joining a civil society organisation, writing to government agencies or holding a peaceful protest, but you know what they say: if you want something done right, do it yourself (instead of relying on your MP[s] to represent your interests).

Are weekly Meet the People sessions just for getting parking fines waived and appealing to qualify for Public Assistance? Is REACH just to let off steam and to niggle about trivial details of implementation?

We should apply this philosophy to other aspects of our lives.

If you are unsatisfied with the bus coming late, the proper thing to do is not to complain to the company or to write a letter to the Straits Times Forum, but to use your money to buy some shares in SBS Transit or SMRT and raise your concerns during the AGM (even if the people who own the other 99.9999% of the shares tell you to go and die)

If your child’s teacher is incompetent, instead of calling him up for a chat, or writing a note to the Principal, you should quit your job and become a teacher, and do the job properly yourself (or even homeschool your kid)

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