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Rule 'by' Law in Singapore, Singapore's Human Rights

Singapore Law Minister ‘guilty of professional misconduct’

You’ll probably only see such a headline if Singapore attains its “second independence”.

When the Minister for Law (he’s also Minister for Home Affairs and the one leading the PAP Govt’s charge to UPR on 6th May), K. Shanmugam (who is also a lawyer), publicly commented in 2010 with regards to Yong Vui Kong, he got away scot free without even a slap on the wrist. This is not surprising to those who know about the politics of this country and it’s rule by law instead of rule of law. Doesn’t mean we have to accept it, keep quiet and not say or do anything about it.

I bring this up after another example of one country, two systems when lawyer Chia Ti Lik was found “guilty of professional misconduct”. (See reports below)

For all their complaints and talk of ethical rules, contempt of court, casting doubt on the integrity of the judiciary and judicial processes, it is perhaps they who have to take a real good hard look in the mirror. They can read IBAHRI’s 2008 report and LRWC’s 2007 report if they need some help while they “contemplate their reflection”.


Socialist Front leader guilty of professional misconduct
By Yen Feng, Straits Times, 10 March 2011

A DISCIPLINARY tribunal has found opposition party leader and lawyer Chia Ti Lik guilty of professional misconduct.

As a result, the 36-year-old will face a fine.

The tribunal, which released its report yesterday, found Mr Chia guilty of five charges brought against him by the Law Society of Singapore. Two other charges were dismissed.

The charges were filed by the society following a complaint from the Attorney- General’s Chambers (AGC). They relate to blog postings the leader of the Socialist Front wrote between June 2008 and June 2009.

The report said that his comments had breached ethical rules and were in contempt of court, adding that they also ‘cast doubt on the integrity of the judiciary and judicial processes’.

Most of the five charges involved Mr Chia when he was acting for members of opposition parties.

Two were related to his representation of former Singaporean lawyer and Workers’ Party election candidate Gopalan Nair, in 2008, during which Mr Nair was found guilty of insulting a judge.

In a blog posting dated June 2008, Mr Chia hinted that the judgment was politically motivated. Moreover, his comments were made as the case was ongoing.

In another blog posting dated September 2008, Mr Chia wrote about Ms Chee Siok Chin, the sister of the Singapore Democratic Party chief, Dr Chee Soon Juan.

Mr Chia implied that the Attorney-General and the Supreme Court Registry had acted together – inappropriately – to disallow Ms Chee’s appeal to travel overseas for a conference.

All this, the tribunal found, had the intended effect of persuading readers to question the integrity of the court.

In the two other charges in which Mr Chia was found guilty, the report said that comments Mr Chia had written in his blog about the AGC implied that its decisions in two separate cases – one involving an illegal assembly, and another of three persons Mr Chia was defending in 2008 for contempt of court – were politically motivated and unfair.

The latter case involved three persons who wore T-shirts depicting a kangaroo in judges’ robes on Supreme Court premises.

Mr Chia said on his blog that the AGC should also have prosecuted The Straits Times for publishing an article which included a picture of the trio.

He said that the AGC did not do so because it was ‘restrained and in awe of a mere Straits Times’.

Of the total seven charges faced by Mr Chia, two were dismissed by the tribunal.

The first was related to a letter that he had written to the AGC asking to see video footage that allegedly caught the defendants in the kangaroo T-shirt case, wearing the T-shirts, on tape.

He said that the letter may be made public ‘due to the importance, the urgency and the sensitivity of the matter’.

The AGC viewed the letter as a threat. It responded to Mr Chia, saying: ‘Do not presume to threaten these Chambers with publication of the correspondence.’

Mr Chia wrote back to say he did not threaten the AGC, and did not intend to do so. In this matter, the tribunal agreed with Mr Chia. It said: ‘Insofar as there is some ambiguity in the language in the Respondent’s letter, we give the Respondent the benefit of the doubt.

‘In these circumstances, we find that the first charge has not been made out.’

The second charge that was dismissed involved a case Mr Chia was on in 2009. In that case involving a blogger who posted an article online about Molotov cocktails, Mr Chia had blogged about the case – while it was ongoing.

The report said, however, that this did not amount to misconduct.

The charges that Mr Chia has been found guilty of warrant a fine – but not more. His case could have been referred by the tribunal to the Court of Three Judges, which would have the power to disbar him from the practice of law.

The tribunal, however, found that there was ‘no cause of sufficient gravity’ for that. It noted, however, that in addition to the fine, Mr Chia must pay the Law Society $3,000 in costs.

All cases of misconduct by lawyers fall under the Legal Profession Act. Prior to Mr Chia’s cases appearing before the disciplinary tribunal – which is convened by the Chief Justice to investigate complaints about lawyers’ conduct – they were also reviewed by two other independent committees, which are not part of the Law Society.

Mr Chia told The Straits Times last night that he would approach the Law Society on the penalty and cost.

Asked to comment on the penalty, a society spokesman said it was unable to do so as confidentiality in such disciplinary matters was required under the Legal Profession Act.


Socialist Front leader ‘can still run in election’
By Andrea Ong, Straits Times, 11 March 2011

A FINE that lawyer and opposition politician Chia Ti Lik has to pay after having been found guilty of professional misconduct will not disqualify him from contesting in the coming general election, legal experts say.

On Tuesday, a disciplinary tribunal found Mr Chia, 36, guilty of five charges filed against him by the Law Society of Singapore. He faces a fine but the amount has not yet been decided.

The disciplinary process is provided for in the Legal Profession Act to investigate complaints about lawyers’ conduct.

The Law Society filed charges against Mr Chia following a complaint from the Attorney-General’s Chambers on blog postings by the Socialist Front (SF) secretary-general between June 2008 and June 2009.

The Singapore Constitution states that a person is disqualified from being a Member of Parliament if he has been jailed for one year or more, or fined $2,000 or more, by a court of law.

The disciplinary tribunal that found Mr Chia guilty of professional misconduct does not constitute a court of law, said Singapore Management University law academic Jack Lee. ‘This punishment is not something which would disqualify him from standing.’

Veteran lawyer Peter Low agreed, saying that the tribunal is ‘more of an internal disciplinary body’.

A court of law means a court constituted under the Constitution or the Subordinate Courts Act, that is, the High Court, District Court or Magistrate’s Court.

Mr Chia said yesterday: ‘I knew all along that the charges would not affect my chances of standing. But it comes at an untimely moment, with the election so close.’

Other opposition members have contacted him to express their support, he said. He expects to hear from the Law Society on the fine he has to pay by next month.

SF chairman Ng Teck Siong was relieved that Mr Chia is still eligible to stand for election. SF has been eyeing the Whampoa and Radin Mas single seat wards, and it is ‘highly possible’ that Mr Chia could stand in Radin Mas, said Mr Ng.

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