Forum: Fixing the Opposition Again? Please don’t be fooled by the Latest Sex Scandal!


The headline reads “NUS law professor faces corruption charges”. Sounds reassuring right? Especially in the light of recent judicial outcomes such as a mere $1,000 fine for a prominent plastic surgeon who had asked an old and vulnerable employee to take the rap for not one but two speeding offences and an SPH editor who only had to spend a day in prison for dangerous driving leading to the death of a pillion rider. And these examples are just the tip of the iceberg.

Does this latest prosecution not show that even if you are a member of the establishment you are not above the law? Does this not vindicate the view that Singapore has a FIRST WORLD judicial system?

Wrong, wrong and wrong!

First, I need to clarify that I do not know and have not met the law professor. In fact, have not even heard of this guy before reading the news report. My mentors at NUS law school were the likes of Walter Woon and Robert Beckman. So, I googled the professor’s name “Tey Tsun Hang” and read some of the links and my initial reaction was that these charges were brought to discredit and silence a voice of opposition, no doubt about that.

Here are some samples of Tey’s academic writings:

“Legal Consensus: Supreme Executive, Supine Jurisprudence, Suppliant Profession of Singapore”

This is the title of a book the professor had written. Wow, Alex Au simply wrote on his blog “this … isn’t going to disabuse anyone of his belief that the law is not blind and that the police, prosecutors and judges are indulgent towards the well connected” and he was landed with a letter demanding an apology for scandalizing the courts. Supreme, Supine, Suppliant – strong words indeed.

This book is not published here but by the Centre for Comparative and Public Law, University of Hong Kong (“HKU”). An NUS law professor cannot get his book published by his own univeristy, but has to go to Hong Kong to get it published? This book must be a “hot potato” indeed and the summary at HKU’s webpage ( just about confirms it. I shall quote just the last paragraph of the summary to give readers a favour of what “secrets” might be revealed in this book:

“With impressive zeal, Tey works through a massive amount of jurisprudence to expose its Legalistic thinking. But it also paints a disturbing picture, of a worldview that challenges the assumptions about the primacy of individual rights and the essential principles of constitutional reasoning that lie at the heart of democratic systems. The broader thesis seems to be that the Singapore Consensus could not have been constructed without its Legal Consensus, itself a result of the consistent complicity of the Singapore judiciary. This book hints at the power relations and dynamics between the political establishment and the Singapore judiciary.”

“Consistent complicity of the Singapore judiciary” – if these words were to appear in any place other than an academic and scholarly publication such as this, the Attorney General’s Chambers would fly to serve you a writ for “scandalizing the court”.

There is even a link to the order form at the bottom of the webpage. This book is available for HK$100 (a mere S$16) plus postage! I’m taking out my credit card to make an immediate order to find out what dark secrets will be revealed and encourage others to do the same. IF the prosecution was initiated to silence a critic, it might well increase the sales of his book and have the direct opposite effect!

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

This is the title of an article Professor Tey had written in 2008 for the Human Rights Quarterly. The abstract reads:

“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.”

In other words, the professor, like readers of the alternative media, does not think highly of the Straits Times, MediaCorp, etc. So what else is new? Ah, but he is a professor and in a position to mould the thinking of a generation of the best and brightest of our students that make it to law school. When these students graduate, would they not be the seeds of trouble or justice depending on whose side you are on? Now, that’s a different kettle of fish.

“Death Penalty Singapore-Style: Clinical and Carefree”

The Professor wrote this article in 2010 for the Common Law World Review. The abstract reads:

Singapore has developed a jurisprudence that death penalty and capital proceedings are no different from other minor criminal proceedings. Instead of scrutinizing 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.

In other words, the Professor is saying that our criminal justice system does not meet up to FIRST WORLD standards as far as the use of the death penalty is concerned. What kind of a legal system would treat such cases as “no different from other minor criminal proceedings”?

“Judicial Internalising of Singapore’s Supreme Political Ideology”

This is an article that Professor Tey wrote for the Hong Kong Law Journal in 2010. This is what the abstract says:

“Right from the beginning of Singapore’s nationhood, an obvious and unbridgeable disconnect appeared – between its leadership’s political ideology and the aspirations on human rights and constitutionalism of its legal community. Singapore’s political leadership has spent much energy articulating a “pragmatic” ideology on political governance – placing primacy on economic progress, good governance and nation-building and emphasising a “communitarian” approach to human rights instead of individual rights. The political leadership’s conception of the rule of law smacks of a “thin” one. The government religiously adheres to legal formalities, rather than substantive theories of political morality, to legitimise its actions, if primarily for the instrumental role of rule of law in economic prosperity. This article examines the government’s response to the seminal Court of Appeal case of Chng Suan Tze v Minister of Home Affairs, where the government’s immediate and hard-hitting constitutional and legislative amendments – overruling the court’s decision on a preventive detention case – clearly demonstrated its intent to ensure that the Singapore judiciary accept its limited role and that the judiciary accept a concept of the rule of law which should not be substantially different from that understood and accepted by the political leadership. This article examines in detail how the Singapore judiciary’s acceptance of the government’s “thin” conception of the rule of law has a direct bearing on the approach taken towards constitutional adjudication in Singapore.”

“Freedom of Digital Speech: Testing Boundaries in Singapore”

It appears that in 2007, the Professor had given a talk and his speech is available in MP3 at…singapore.html
Me thinks the Professor can be a good speaker at Opposition rallies, after he converts his citizenship of course. Go to the link and find out for yourself. If MediaCorp will not broadcast it, no worries, the Internet will.

Presumed Innocent Until Proven Guilty

These are just a few examples of the Professor’s work that do not paint a flattering picture of our version of the Westminster model inherited from the British and then distorted by our Executive branch in the name of “Nation-Building”. There are many other google links and possibly more publications which have not been circulated on the web.

A Professor is different from the many other intelligent people that our little island has in abundance. From the Confucian point of view, a teacher is not merely an instructor, but someone far more influential. A teacher and student – or Master and Disciple – connection is viewed in the same way as a parent and child relationship. Is that not the reason why people like Tommy Koh, Walter Woon and Chan Heng Chee were sent abroad to a comfortable exile of sorts in the first place? If left alone, would not a teacher (even a Malaysian one and this author had been schooled in the law at NUS by good and fearless teachers of various nationalities) in as elite a faculty as law at NUS have the power to influence a whole new generation of young and rebellious lawyers? For avoidance of doubt, the author is a Singaporean who has served his NS.

From all of the above examples, one can see that the Professor is a very intelligent man as well as someone who is prone to write critical articles about our Singaporean distortions of the Westminster model of governance. These criticisms were not from someone who spent ALL his life in academia like say Tommy Koh or Walter Woon (before he became AG and went over to “the dark side of the force”) but from someone who (from his CV) had served previously as a District Judge and was a Justice Law Clerk not just for any judge, but for the former Chief Justice of Singapore (who too was a Malaysian before he converted and a bosom friend of “He who must be Obeyed” to boot). So, he might be viewed rightfully by the public as someone who had inside knowledge of the workings of our unique mode of so-called “Nation-Building” and therefore more credible. Therefore, the need to discredit him?

This of course does not mean that the Professor could not have committed some personal indiscretions. However, the beauty of the judicial system that we inherited from the British is that a man is presumed innocent until proven guilty. And even if he did commit some indiscretions, if it does not ipso facto (by that fact alone) make Yaw Shin Leong a bad MP, will his conviction ipso facto invalidate the criticisms he had levied on Singapore’s unique distortions of the Westminster model?

Causes one to wonder if the other sex cases (Civil Defence chief, CNB Head, etc) were initiated purely based on the merits of the case?

Let the People Judge!

Rumpole of the Bailey

* Rumpole is the main character in a British TV series about an ageing London barrister who defends any and all clients (see for more info). The author, who is an NUS law grad living and working abroad, chose this moniker to encourage an interest in legal issues because it does not just affect lawyers and their clients. The everyday layman needs to be informed of his rights and obligations and in the context of the “Little Red Dot” to avoid being talked down to or misled by their highly paid Ministers, including those that don’t have any portfolio, or civil servants with bad attitude and poor knowledge of the laws which they are supposed to be enforcing, or our useless mainstream media.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: