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Posts Tagged ‘Peter Low’

WP faces early test: tiger or mouse?

In Political governance on 18/09/2015 at 4:16 am

WP may soon have the chance to walk the talk of being a check on the PAP administration. But will it take it? Or prove that it’s the Worthless Party?

Let me explain.

Ms Lee Li Lian, Mr Dennis Tan Lip Fong and Mr Leon Perera from the Workers’ Party have been elected as Non-Constituency Members of Parliament (NCMP), the Elections Department (ELD) announced on Wednesday (Sep 16). (CNA).

We know Ms Lee will not take her seat. She has said that she won’t because she as an incumbent was rejected by the voters. (Btw,makes Lina Chiam look opportunistic, in accepting the post after GE 2011, given that her husband, the MP before the election, wanted her as his successor?)

The WP said that should Parliament resolve to fill the vacated NCMP seat left by Ms Lee’s decision not to accept the NMP Post, that Associate Professor Daniel Goh would fill that seat.

The ELD  said: “The Attorney General is of the view that if any NCMP declared to be elected under Section 52 of the Parliamentary Elections Act fails to take and subscribe before Parliament the Oath of Allegiance under Article 61 of the Constitution at the first or second sitting of Parliament during its first session after the General Election, then Parliament may at its discretion declare that seat vacant. Parliament is not thereafter obliged to declare that seat be filled by the next succeeding candidate.”

The AG’s view is supported by Dr. Jack Lee who argues that if an opposition candidate declines to take up an NCMP seat, the parly may not be obliged to offer that seat to the next eligible opposition candidate.

This has thrown up a very interesting debate as to the legal obligations of Parliament to fill the NCMP seats. Besides Dr Jack Lee, Professor Thio Li-ann has also been reported as taking the position that there is no legal obligation on Parliament to offer the seat to the next eligible candidate. In contrast, Professor Kevin Tan argues that article 39 of the Constitution, read with section 52 of the Parliamentary Elections Act obliges Parliament to offer the seat. He is quoted as saying that “The seat cannot be left vacant. A combined reading of both provisions makes it clear that Parliament must have nine members who do not form the government.”

http://singaporepubliclaw.com/2015/09/16/must-an-ncmp-seat-be-filled/

If parly refuses to fill the seat, surely the Wayang Party should ask the court to decide if the AG’s interpretation of the law is the correct one. True the WP left it to  a part-time cleaner to ask the court to decide on whether the PM had the unfettered discretion in calling a by-election when it (the WP) would have been the beneficiary of such an action (Think Yaw’s vacating his MP’s post). M Ravi the lawyer who argued that the PM didn’t have unfettered discretion, said that the WP’s MP lawyers were “cow dung” for not supporting him.

Maybe that was WP Low practising non-action? https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/07/25/low-shows-the-usefulness-of-non-action/

But since then, the WP has been going to court to row with the government on the need to get a licence from NEA to hold a trade fair, and with the MDA on whether an independent accountant should be appointed to supervise the disbursement of monies to the AHPETC.

And should the WP go to court, it has a good lawyer. Peter Low, WP’s go-to lawyer, is a highly respected lawyer in legal circles (unlike M Ravi: Ravi’s understanding of the law is problematic to many lawters, though not his bravery). Peter Low like Ravi works almost for free.

Before going to court, test sincerity of govt

In Public Administration on 26/08/2013 at 4:51 am

”The government remains committed to explain any issues arising from this tragic incident and to do whatever it can to assist the family,”said a statement from the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Well, Dinesh’s mother should test the sincerity of the govt by asking for details (beyond what has been already provided, not much it seems) that she wants to know. If the govt fails to give her satisfaction, then she should proceed further with her application to the court for the inquiry to her son’s death to be reopened. She should “suspend” for the time being her court petition.

Recently, I blogged that his family had the right to know more, that it would be gd PR for the govt* to provide them with more details of how he died (but that I doubted it would: bad PR seems to be a Hard Truth for the govt)), and that the family should try a non-legalistic way of finding out more.

Well, since the govt has said it ” remains committed to explain any issues arising from this tragic incident and to do whatever it can to assist the family”, they should test it. If there is no satisfaction, then go the legal route with M Ravi their action man, superhero, “kick ass”, “take no prisoners” lawyer** who loves to fight cases on constitutional grounds***. He once advised TRE to fight a request to remove an allegedly defamatory article on constitutional grounds. Another lawyer helped resolved the matter to the satisfaction of everyone involved. But when it’s time to go to court, its good to have M Ravi as your lawyer. He’s a tenacious, brave terrier. If you respect or admire, especially for his pro bono work, him buy his book. It’s the least you can do.

Perhaps, the family should approach Peter Low’s law firm to supplement the efforts of M Ravi. I’ve been told that Peter Low’s firm helped resolve a cartoonist’s row with the AGC on charges of “scandalising the judiciary”. The cartoonist apologised and removed the offending articles. M Ravi was also involved in this case.

Backgrounder on Peter Low: http://www.straitstimes.com/the-big-story/case-you-missed-it/story/62-year-old-lawyer-shows-no-signs-slowing-down-20130501. I don’t usually commend ST articles, but this one doesn’t play the DRUMS, not even a riff. People whose views I respect, praise him for his effective, quiet way of getting issues involving human rights or dignity resolved fairly. No posturing or wayang from him.

Horses for courses. Or a time for everything****. Plenty of time to “whack” the govt, if the family cannot get the info it wants by simply asking. And going the legal route, isn’t exactly a sure way of getting the info they want, at least going by M Ravi’s track record in winning cases: not gd.

And if Tey, the legal academic, is to be believed, the judiciary isn’t a check on the executive  http://yawningbread.wordpress.com/2013/08/18/book-legal-consensus-by-tey-tsun-hang/. He was jailed after a court found  he had “corrupt intention and guilty knowledge” in a relationship, an offence under the Prevention of Corruption Act. He had had sex with a student. Even he admitted that this was in breach of the academic code of conduct, after initially saying he would defend his “academic integrity”, which at the time I tot would mean that he would say in court, “I didn’t have sex with her”.

*Giving more info would help the PM rebuild trust with the masses.

**Think I exaggerate? This is what TOC reported M Ravi as saying, “The AG’s response is shocking to the conscience in view of the demands of natural justice and the plea by the family to open the inquiry. Dinesh’s family was devastated to hear the AG’s decision.

“The Coroner is wrong in law to discontinue his inquiry as there was no finding into the circumstances of Dinesh’s death. There is no information as to how the other 7 officers were involved in Dinesh’s death. In fact, it is the AG who should be calling for a full inquiry in the public’s interest and not Dinesh’s mother having to do so.

“This is a serious human rights violation and this marks a black day for human rights in Singapore.”

This is the part of the response in parliament (much earlier) to questions on what had happened: Following the conviction of the senior prison officer on 19 July 2013, MHA has been in touch with the family of Dinesh Raman and their lawyer to discuss the family’s concerns, as well as the matter of compensation. AGC has informed the family and its lawyer in writing that the Government accepts liability and will compensate the family. As discussions are on-going, I am not able to provide details.

http://geraldgiam.sg/2013/08/death-of-inmate-in-prison/

***The funny thing is that he, like me, did our legal education in England. S’pore’s constitution was certainly not taught or analysed in any great detail there in my time, and I’m sure in his time.

****Ecclesiastes 3

To every thing there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;

a time to cast away stones,
and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

a time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time of war, and a time of peace.