20 May 2006

The deadly embrace of politics

Full essay. In Canada, a court has been called upon to decide whether Singapore's justice system meets Canadian constitutional standards. Why? What will be the consequences if the court feels ours do not? And why is it only now that the Straits Times is reporting about this case?


Anonymous said...

I agree with the most part of your article except your concluding statement: "All because of a history of ministers suing their opponents ruthlessly."

I think this misses the point and can be misleading. The issue isn't that ministers have sued their opponents ruthlessly, but rather that these opponents might not have been accorded fair trial. This distinction is important because it allows us to understand what we need to fix.

If the problem is the former, then the solution is to have our ministers stop suing political opposition or to change our defamation laws such that they can't. This solves nothing since the fact that no legal action has been taken does nothing to make our courts more just in the event that legal action is taken.

The fix is in changing our system. A freer press, transparency, accountability, a judiciary which is not beholden to the executive. These are the things that we need. Whether ministers should sue is a separate issue.

Anonymous said...

First, thanks for the fantastic coverage of the elections. I was one of thousands who followed the election via your blog and though it clearly provided a perspective that our state-controlled media did not dare present.
Second, as for the story about Oakwell, it's a pretty common practice for Singapore government to "leak" statement to the local media before something "negative" is likely appears in the international press. I know it because I have been there - many, many times. I worked in Singapore for eight years and ran into this issue constantly. The other common practice is to give a reply that doesn't address the question at all (as you noticed in the Oakwell case). It is a common tactic used by PR people all around the world, but seems to be the "default" mode for Singaporean state agencies, ministries and companies.

Anonymous said...

The fix is in changing our system, to have a judiciary which is not beholden to the executive. Whether ministers should sue is a separate issue.

However, the 'ruthlessness' in the manner of suing and the judiciary's seemingly easy reception of the same, generates a certain impression which in turn acts as a convenient basis for such allegations.

But then again, what do we know about Canada's constitutional standards? :)

When push comes to shove, I'm sure lawyers can dig up some skeletons on them as well. Although when it comes to that stage, all hell breaks loose.. :)

Great article though. :)

Anonymous said...

As usual you argument was crystal clear. One thing that I want to ask you is this. Have you traced the history commercial cases whereby the verdict went against government linked companies .If there is this trend then the whole argument becomes obvious that there is both a bias and a non bias depending on whether the case is a commercial one or a political one.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting article but is it going to be that bad?
My totally unpolitical comment is that if commercial decisions are used by a foreign country to influence another country internal politics, then as a Singaporean, i will resist even though i am no lover of the ruling party. It sounds too much like a new age colonising method. Not going to be told by white men on how i should live, i would rather live under a less than democratic gahmen than let some racist white stuff tell me what to do....

Teck Soon said...

To the anonymous commenter below who said "i would rather live under a less than democratic gahmen than let some racist white stuff tell me what to do":

The fact that most Canadians are caucasians has nothing to do with the underlying issue.

This is a trend often repeated in formerly colonised countries, as bad governments try to legitimize themselves: Blame the West. Especially America. The white ones. They're all racist there. And let's not forget to extol the benefits of "Asian values" while we're at it. The anonymous commenter shows that he/she has been brainwashed, convenient for the Singapore government. Upon hearing criticism from Canada, he immediately rejects it because of the race of the people who made the comment. He can't be bothered to address the criticism based on the issues or rational argument, because the people who uttered it may have been white and that trumps all other issues. He doesn't want to be told what to do by Westerners. Neither does China (on the Taiwan issue or human rights issues). Neither does North Korea, and neither does Vietnam. In fact, no dictatorship likes to be criticized and this is an issue of pride. Singaporeans are proud. Proud to be free of Western influence.

The fact is that he has it backwards though! He thinks that Canadians are trying to tell him what to do. But no! This is a court case in a CANADIAN court, and THEY don't want to be told what to do INSIDE THEIR OWN COUNTRY by an allegedly unfair judiciary in southeast Asia! They don't want Singapore courts telling them what to do! Singaporeans cannot force Canadian courts to do anything. This case is a Canadian issue, and they are free to decide whether they will accept Singapore judicial cases. They aren't telling Singapore what to do. Singapore can do as it pleases inside its tiny border.

Why did the commenter call the Canadians racists? What action showed that they are racist against Singaporeans? Are they really racist? Or is it convenient to attack someone's race, sexual orientation, religion, or ethnicity when the Singapore courts are criticised? Does criticism from "whites" have less value in Singapore than criticism from people of another race? If so, then who are the real racists?

Anonymous said...

Hi Yawningbread,

As a follow-up to this, Enernorth's appeal was dismissed by the Ontario's Court of Appeal by decision on June 9, 2006.

Surprisingly, there was no gloating on the part of local rags.

Anyway Enernorth is seeking to appeal to the Supreme Court, so it's not the end of the story.