Monthly Archives: April 2012

Death Penalty Singapore-Style: Clinical and Carefree

by Assoc. Prof. TEY Tsun Hang

ABSTRACT

Singapore has developed a jurisprudence that death penalty and capital proceedings are no different from other minor criminal proceedings. Instead of scrutinising criminal legislation on their substantive fairness, the courts have instead consistently restricted their adjudicative function to one of procedural assessment. In so doing, formalistic and textualist techniques are employed to achieve crime control ends at considerable expense of due process. This paper seeks to discuss the jurisprudence that has been moulded, and examines how much it has deviated from other Commonwealth jurisprudence.

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Singapore’s jurisprudence of political defamation and its triple-whammy impact on political speech

by Assoc. Prof. TEY Tsun Hang

Singapore’s governing People’s Action Party (PAP) leadership has always been sensitive towards political criticism. Singapore has a highly sophisticated legal framework that imposes close and strict regulation on the local press and media system. The foreign media is also subject to considerable political control. Informal “out-of-bounds (OB) markers” had been mentioned and reported in the local press, in an attempt to give some clarity to the boundary of what the Singapore political leadership considered to be legitimate political criticism.

There have been consistent criticisms that the frequent use of defamation actions by the Singapore political leadership against opposition leaders and newspapers has the effect of silencing political dissent from within or without. It has been argued that this trend of political defamation actions is a violation of the fundamental constitutional right to freely hold and peacefully express one’s political opinions, and that it amounts to severe restrictions on freedom of expression that cannot be justified under international standards, seriously compromising the fundamental right to make political expression freely in public without fear of reprisal.

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Singapore’s electoral system: government by the people?

by Assoc. Prof. TEY Tsun Hang

ABSTRACT

Singapore’s Westminster parliamentary system of government was adopted as a historical result of it being a British colony. In its post-independence constitutional development, the dominant People’s Action Party political leadership had made a series of constitutional amendments to its original electoral system, introducing innovative schemes such as Group Representation Constituencies, Non-Constituency Members of Parliament, Nominated Members of Parliament and the Elected Presidency. These changes have resulted in an electoral system that is so different and divergent from the Westminster model that it should be regarded a unique regime of its own. This paper advances the view that the constitutional evolution of its electoral system is reflective of a political vision structured along elitist lines – underscored by a desire to restructure the voting behaviour of its citizens, and ensure predictability and the preservation of the status quo. It has been driven by paternalistic assumptions about what is beneficial for its citizens. This paper examines the subsequent implementation of the schemes, before reflecting on how it is a system that has the potential to affect adversely the development of political participation and political pluralism, and dilute democratic politics in Singapore.

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Excluding Religion from Politics and Enforcing Religious Harmony – Singapore-style

by Assoc. Prof. TEY Tsun Hang

ABSTRACT

The Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act is a unique feature in the legal landscape of Singapore. The statute – an important part of the Singapore government’s large and extensive arsenal of legal instruments to regulate inter-ethnic-religious relations in the country – gives the executive untrammelled discretion to curb political expression and political activity in the interests of maintaining religious harmony. Placed against the backdrop of its political developments, this article explores the political motives for the introduction of the statute, examines the exact nature of its structure and scope, and compares it against other legal instruments that perform similar political control. A particular focus is upon how the statute underscores the thinking behind Singapore-style state paternalism, and reflects its political leadership’s deep distrust of the electorate, and instinct to restructure voting behaviour and party politics. This article also reflects on the adverse effect of such enforced stricture on otherwise legitimate political activities by religion-linked organisations in Singapore.

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Confining the Freedom of the Press in Singapore: A “Pragmatic” Press for “Nation-Building”?

by Assoc. Prof. TEY Tsun Hang

ABSTRACT

Singapore’s political leadership has molded a sophisticated press control regime that befits its “pragmatic” political ideology on the primacy of executive leadership and limited freedom of expression. This article – setting Singapore’s constitutional and legal framework and political system as a backdrop – delves into the legal structure that has been constructed, fine-tuned, and consolidated over decades of legislative amendments to explore its essential features and strictures. This article advances the view that the legal framework is reinforced with a non-legal combination of an ideological construct of a hegemonic culture and consensus politics through strategic political co-optation. The court litigation that was resorted to for vindication also seems to have produced a reinforcing effect. The article also reflects on how the unique press control regime has turned Singapore’s de-constructed Fourth Estate into an established political institution.

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