Ravi’s latest antics (see below) reminded me that I couldn’t stop laughing when the the go-to, kick-ass, take-no-prisoners constitutional lawyer for a drug mule who think the world owes him a living, hooligans who think it is a human right to disrupt YMCA activities and tell lies, and a gay (Tan Eng Hong) that homely gays don’t want to be associated with (some other gays, see below, didn’t want their case heard with his), said that S’pore is a “democratic society”.
No I’m not joking, M Ravi said, “We are instructed to place on notice our client’s profound sense of regret that in a democratic society like Singapore, her Constitutional rights and freedoms have been curtailed so drastically on a premise that in her submission is flawed, and all her rights are reserved.”
Now I’m not that looney (OK, OK, idealistic or naive) as his client to think S’pore is a democratic society. It is an authoritarian, de-facto one-party society that allows free, peaceful, intimidation free but “unfair” (here meaning a tilted field where the odds and rules favour the continued dominance of the PAP) elections to choose the next dictator for the next few yrs. And since 1959 by very big or at least decent majorities (save in 1963), the voters have chosen the PAP to rule.
There are some who want to change this state of affairs, not via the ballot box but by getting the courts to reinterpret the constitution. So far they too like Oppo politicans have been banging their heads against a steel door.
Alex Au, a social advocate for change, said, at the end of last yr, on the
con-job constitution, “If you sit back and take in the bigger picture, you’ll see that basically our constitution, as long interpreted, offers no protection for civil liberties or human rights: not freedom of speech, not freedom of assembly, not a right to transparent and accountable government, nor even a fair electoral process. The questions rush in. Is there something wrong with the constitution, the interpretation, or both?”
Well I’ve got news for Alex Au, rational activists, and anti-PAP paper activists, whether rational, or irrational and deluded, our constitution was drafted by ang mohs and locals steeped in the tradition that the ruling elite know best, certainly not the demos or mob or masses or ordinary people.
The drafters probably had liberal instincts but were elitists having gone to elite schools here or in the UK, and then to Oxbridge colleges. The mob are only allowed a choice of their dictator every 4-5 yrs. To further ensure the mob doesn’t get ideas beyond their station, it was drafted in such a way that all the colonial-era laws still applied and were “deemed” constitutionally legal.
Suited one LKY to a T when he came to power.
And here’s where the de-facto one-party state problem makes things more difficult. Think of China where the issue is how to use the law to help the party rule the country. The party sees the law as one of its tools; an instrument meant to help strengthen, rather than check, the power of one-party leadership.
True, we are not China, but the temptation is there.
Coming back to S’pore,then there is the judicial presumption that government actions are constitutional:
The court itself, both in oral arguments last summer and in this ruling, repeatedly expresses unwillingness to consider “extra-legal” and “emotional” arguments, which have their place in the legislative rather than the judicial process. The court’s role, the ruling said, was to be “independent, neutral and objective”, though in the early, throat-clearing section of this ruling, the court noted that it grants the government a “presumption of constitutionality”, because “our legislature is presumed not to enact legislation which is inconsistent with the Singapore Constitution.” In other words, the court will neutrally and objectively weigh the arguments presented by each side, though one side (the government’s) enters with the wind at its back.
I can’t argue against the decision because there are good precedents (no not from China or the USSR or North Korea, but from “white” Commonwealth countries) that lead to this conclusion.
Those who want peaceful change, have to go down the political route, not the constitutional road, in a parliamentary system. Even though the political road is very tough (think GRCs, campaigning rules, funding rules etc), the constitutional road is tougher because of the way the Constitution was drafted and judges’ view that the court “grants the government a “presumption of constitutionality”, because “our legislature is presumed not to enact legislation which is inconsistent with the Singapore Constitution.” In other words, the court will neutrally and objectively weigh the arguments presented by each side, though one side (the government’s) enters with the wind at its back.
Coming back to M Ravi. Every few months, this tot crosses my mind,”M Ravi thinks his grandfather wrote our laws? With JBJ assisting in the drafting?”
The latest occasion was on Friday, when I read that Ravi was escalating his row with PM’s press secretary (Background). He said, “Even as a trainee lawyer, I could understand that the PM’s press secretary was in breach of Section 44 of the Code of Conduct for Civil Servants and the PM is in breach of the same section being subject to the same guidelines of the Public Service Commission. A declaration will be sought in the High Court subsequently to determine the ambit of the said Section 44 and if both the PM and his Press Secretary are in breach of this code the PSC should investigate this matter and dismiss both of them.”
Well I never. Let’s see if Ravi wins (his record is lousy: no outright victories, one score draw: the need to call a by-election). From what my contacts in the Legal Service tell me about the code, he doesn’t have a leg to stand on.
The same tots on his grandfather and JBJ drafting the law crossed my mind in late October 2014 when Mr Ravi said (in an interview with TOC [Link]) that NParks had no authority to govern the expression of free speech and had overstepped its powers*.
M Ravi also said he may be taking an application to mount a constitutional challenge against Regulation 23(2)(b) of the Parks and Trees Act on behalf of those celebrity hooligans, Roy and New Citizen Hui Hui.
(For the record, he sent H3’s appeal to the wrong minister and had to resent the
BS missive. For the record too, Roy has recently blogged on the latest developments.)
Btw, he added to my merriment when a few days later, he decried the Court of Appeal’s decision when on Oct 29 it ruled that a law (399A of the Penal Code) that criminalises sex between men is constitutional. The ruling covered two cases contesting the law, one brought by two graphic designers who have been in loving relationship for 16 years, and the other by an artistic therapist (whatever that means) who had been arrested for a sordid, quickie sexual act in a public toilet. No need to guess who he represented: the artistic therapist Tan Eng Hong.
Related articles on the Constitution: Gd stuff even though Alex au is not a lawyer
*“It is apparent in the Act that the object of Parks and Trees Act is specifically for purposes of regulating the park, example prevent anyone from endangering the park.
No where in the act, the minister has been conferred with any authority to make regulations in relation to speech and assembly.
The Public Order Act has clearly exempted any requirement for permit for speech or demonstration. Therefore the charging of Ms Han and Roy under the Parks and Trees Act is ultra vires the Public Order Act and Public Entertainment and Meetings Act (PEMA).
The regulation in this regard, also violates article 9 of the Singapore Constitution that says that no one shall be deprived of his or her liberty, save in accordance with law.
Therefore the enactment of Parks and Trees regulation under Section 23(2) (b) in relation to speech and assembly are promulgated not in accordance with law.”