A man of principle: Ahmad Mohamed Ibrahim

In Uncategorized on 20/03/2017 at 7:51 am

These LKY remarks reminded me about someone history has forgotten

the Minister of Law who is a lawyer had to fight a tremendous duel with the Attorney-General’s office to formulate this law …  And you know, we have a lot of liberal lawyers in the Attorney General’s Chambers. They would not put up a draft. They literally refused. They wrote long screeds why this was against the best traditions of penology.”

The AG of the time (and S’pore’s first) was Ahmad Mohamed Ibrahim He was AG from 9 Aug 1965 – 31 Jan 1967. Before that he was State Advocate-General of the State of Singapore from 25 Jun 1959 – 8 Aug 1965.

He was from RI and a Queen’s scholar (like Mrs Lee, LKY was not one.) In the late 1930s, he received from Cambridge first class honours in economics and law

Because of the row with the government*, he opted for retirement. He moved to Malaya in 1969. In 1972, he became the dean of the law faculty of the University of Malaya. There he established the first law faculty in Malaysia.


*Update at 8.00am: A friend who knew him personally told me that he personally objected to the law (and others) that the govt were passing.


  1. Kudos to you for bringing this episode to a wider audience. The story did not end there. The A-G was removed by LKY shortly after. So much for the security of tenure under the Constitution. He was made the Ambassador to Egypt. Tan Boon Teik, the Solicitor-General was appointed the Acting A-G,(in my view and some others) unconstitutionally and Francis Seow was made the Acting S-G. This was in January/February 1967. After a couple of months Ahmad Ibrahim went “awol” . The embarrased government went looking for him without success. They had to appoint an acting Ambassador. Eventually he was found to be in KL having been appointed a professor of law at the University of Malaya, with the help of PM Tungku Abdul Rahman. LKY was even more embarrased when he refused to return to Singapore. So he sent Law Minister Barker to KL to persuade him to return. He was promised the post of Special Consultant to the Minister of Finance Dr. Goh Keng Swee. He returned but stayed at his post for a year or two before returning to the University of Malaya till his death.

  2. “Cynical Investor”> Thanks for bringing this up. When I read LKY’s speech, I was curious as to who were the lawyers in the AG’s Chambers who opposed corporal punishment. I didn’t expect that the AG himself was opposed to it.

    And thanks ‘Anon’ for giving us that further information about this episode and its immediate aftermath. I am now quite intrigued by this brave man. And, certainly I am curious as to what he wrote about that proposed vandalism law. He’s obviously done what a good AG should do: act independently, fearlessly, and in a principled fashion.
    Do you have any additional background to that spat between LKY and the AG over that law and others perhaps?

    • One more story. LKY alleged to have tried to stop his pension when he moved to Malaya. But the story is that LKY was told that by becoming dean of Law School he was not breaking the terms of his pension. LOL. If u were the blogger that wrote the piece, I should be thanking u. I had heard the story about his views on the law from the friend of his yrs ago, but I never came across LKY’s “confirmation” until I read the article. Too young then hor.

  3. Yes, I’m the guy blogging as Article14. I came across that LKY speech quite accidentally when I was researching. It is available at the National Archives.
    You can read the full speech here:
    Just out of curiosity, what other laws (based on information from your friend) was Ahmad Ibrahim opposed to?

    • I’ll ask, as I can’t remember. As he’s older he too might not remember. I remembered this one because of the LKY remark. Any easy way to find out what laws were passed or amended then/ Could help jog friend’s memory. Btw, friend’s not a lawyer.

      Friend said we was a numane, liberal man.

  4. there was a Constitutional Commission Report in 1966 which recommended the creation of an Ombudsman. Parliament had rejected that proposal. Not sure where the AG stood on that issue.

    • You are referring to the Wee Chong Jin Commission Report. The Commission was set up by the LKY government. The A-G played no part in this. The response came from LKY in Parliament. You can look up the Hansard for this.

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