Tag Archives: rule of law

Judicial Internalising of Singapore’s Supreme Political Ideology

by Assoc. Prof. TEY Tsun Hang


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.