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Tribute to Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam

Mr. JBJ an icon in Singapore opposition politics passed away this morning.

If i could, i would fly the Singapore flag at half mast for the entire week.

Mr. JBJ’s contributions to Singapore will be remembered for eons to come.

At least some old coot thinking that he has outlived his opponent has just received another reminder that his turn will come soon. 🙂

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September 30, 2008 Posted by | Politics | Leave a comment

Revelations from Queenstown Remand Prison

I braved the rain to go to Queenstown Remand Prison this morning.

What i experienced on the road of the cold torrential rain and wet road surfaces did not prepare me for the warm and over-enthusiastic reception i got at Queenstown Remand Prison. I was late by an hour.

Several days earlier when the prison booking was made by my secretary, a strange phenomena occurred. Officers from the prisons booking system were querying the purpose of the visit. My seccie had replied that it was to sign a notice of appeal. The query then came back as in which appeal. Now Gopalan had two sets of convictions, one for insulting public servant and for disorderly behaviour and the other for insulting Justice Belinda Ang.

I was on record for the appeal against the conviction for disorderly behaviour. The Grounds of Decision from DJ James Leong were not out yet and therefore the only possibility was an interview for the purposes for an appeal against the conviction for insulting Justice Belinda Ang. As all prison bookings were done by my secretary, I directed my secretary to answer accordingly.

I was already wondering to myself why should Prison Authorities be concerned as to whether or not a lawyer is visiting an inmate for purposes of which appeal. This was certainly not something within the Job scope of the Singapore Prison Service.

i had a shock when i completed my visit to Gopalan Nair.

The prison officer told me, as usual, that a copy of the document signed would have to be taken. I offered to give a copy there and then. I had 8 originals. I was asked to wait for another officer who would see me i the locker room. As i was walking up the stairs, I almost heard the officer asking if the appeal would be filed.

I made my way back to the locker room to get my belongings and get ready to leave, the female officer that came with a record book was SGT Nicolle Lim.

SGT Nicolle Lim had a book for me even to sign on it. I obliged. I gave her a copy of the signed Notice of Appeal.

She then asked if the notice of appeal was for the disorderly case or for the present case.

Now Gopalan was in jail for the present case convicted by Justice Kan Ting Chiu for insulting Justice Belinda Ang. I answered that it was for the present case whose sentence he was now serving. She then took issue with the fact that my seccie had told the prisons department that the visit was in regard of the disorderly case appeal. [Now was this even supposed to be a concern of the prisons department?]

I told her that me secretary must have made a mistake. The notice of appeal for the other case had been filed so the notice had to be for this case.

She then asked if we were going to file the appeal. I gave a non-committal answer having regard to certain concerns Gopalan made known to me in the interview room. I then asked why should the Prisons Department be getting involved in this.

She said that they had to know whether we were filing it. I told her that there was no reason for them to get involved. She then gave the excuse that they needed to know just in case there was any duress or pressure exerted in the signing of the notice. [Now this was strange and certainly something which i am hearing for the first time again – How are they going to ascertain whether or not there is duress or pressure when they did not even bother to get an officer to witness the interview i had with Gopalan?]

I told her that if anything there will have to be following the instructions of Gopalan Nair and on what basis is the prisons department getting itself involved in all this.

Ms Nicolle Lim let slip that she had to answer to her superior. I then asked who was her superior. She refused to tell. She then backed down saying that there had been a miscommunication.

I then told her that there was no reason or basis for the Prisons Department to be getting itself involved with all this and i turned to leave.

On my way back there was a phone call to my mobile. When i reached office, i found out that SGT Nicolle Lim had called my office as well. I returned the call. It transpired that they were still asking if i was going to file the appeal. I gave a non-committal answer and Nicolle explained that they were concerned that the Notice of Appeal given to them was an original and not a copy and were wondering if it was the original whether it was then beholden on the prison authorities to file it.

I explained once again that i prepared 8 originals.

SGT Nicolle Lim then passed the call to her superior a Mr. Guoh Tjin Soon. With Mr Guoh, i got a pair of even weirder questions.

1. When will it be clear that i would file the appeal?

my answer was that i would get a friend to verify with Gopalan if needed.

2. If Gopalan is dropping the appeal, how would we be doing it?

my answer was, i would then do nothing – that would dispose of the appeal.

I now recall, when i visited Chee Siok Chin in Changi Women’s Prison as well. The same prying questions were made. No attempt then was made to assist her to file her notice of appeal. No attempt then was also made to assist Dr. Chee to contact counsel to visit when he had repeatedly asked them for assistance to do so. This led to the late filing of the Petition of Appeal which leave of court had to be obtained.

I must say i was very touched but bewildered by the change in stance reflected by the current concern of the Prisons Department as to whether or not an inmate intends to proceed with an appeal.

I do hope that such concern would be accordingly extended to inmates who are imprisoned in non-political cases in time to come.

September 24, 2008 Posted by | Politics | Leave a comment

Ravi Released Finally

In the midst of running back and forth from Sub court to High Court to office. I received two phone calls from Dr. Chee Soon Juan and Ms Chee Siok Chin to get myself acting for Ravi at his mention in the Subordinate Courts yesterday afternoon.

I had to tear myself from the files that needed my attention to attend at Court 26.

There i saw John Tan, Siok Chin, Dr. Chee, Choon Hiong, Rizal, Uncle Yap and others.

Ravi was in the dock with a nice clean haircut.

The matter had been stood down to 3pm from the morning mention. DPPs did not turn up by 320pm so the court stood down the matter further till 330pm. I got myself re-appointed as co-counsel at 330pm when the case was rementioned.

The prosecution produced a set of written submissions. We had to seek for extra copies from the DPPs as Ravi was leading his own arguments and we were playing supporting roles and as Ravi was kept in the dock, we could not make do with just one copy. The matter was stood down again for some time to sort out the fresh submissions.

Arguments were made by the DPPs Mark Tay and Lim Tse Haw, the defence replied in the following manner Ravi, Violet and myself took turns to respond. The prosecution’s reply came from DPP Mark Tay.

At the end of it all, the Court ordered that Ravi be released on bail of S$10,000 and for him to return on 15th December 2008 with his private doctor’s report on his state of mind and readiness to take the plea.

I scrambled out of Court 26 at the end of it all. Rushing to attend to a little hiccup at the bail centre where Ravi’s sisters were trying to bail Ravi. The matter was resolved. I bade farewell to Choon Hiong and Rizal who stayed back to receive Ravi at the front door of the Courthouse.

Rushing back to office, its back to working time. 😦

September 16, 2008 Posted by | Politics | Leave a comment

Revelations from Bukit Merah West NPC

The morning of 9th September 2008, i visited Bukit Merah West Neighbourhood Police Centre.

I had accompanied Jaslyn to have her statement taken for investigation into having allegedly participated in an illegal assembly in Toa Payoh on national day, 9th August 2008.

The police officer tasked to interview Jaslyn and take down her statement was inspector Tan Sin Choon from Tanglin Police Division. A gutsy lady, Jaslyn turned up in her Tak Boleh Tahan T-shirt. None of the police officers present who were visibly surprised by the move even raised any form of protest – pun intended.

The Investigating Officer recognised me and so requested to take my statement as well. I agreed to have my statement taken after hers. incidentally they had been trying to serve on me a letter but they had not been able to do so.

Always up to some mischief, Jaslyn came out of the interview amused. As she always is. When it came to be my turn, i found out from the questions posed by the IO that the Police are now conducting investigations into SDP-related activities on some rather dubious grounds.

i tried to find out whether it was the AG-C or the SPF which was doing this dirty work on behalf of the ruling party but the only answer i got was that the Head of Investigation had instructed Inspector Tan to do so.

Why were the grounds dubious? because towards the end of the interview i was asked a question as to whether i knew that the Miscellaneous Offences Act prohibited the participation in an assembly or procession without a permit to promote a cause or a campaign.

When i heard the above, I literally protested to Inspector Tan. Short of whipping out another banner or placard to protest against the arbitrary expansion of a parliamentary statute, i did all i had with my wits in the position of a suspect in an offence being placed under police investigation in a police interview room. I answered Inspector Tan that there was nothing in the Miscellaneous Offences Act which states so. My statement did proudly record my answer as so which i later found out. 🙂

When i came out of the room, i found out from Jaslyn that she was directed to some website that supposedly says that trying to promote a cause or campaign is one of the prohibited activities. I have since been trying to locate that webpage but to no avail.

Now if what i heard was true, which probably is. I now know that the Parliamentary statute of the Miscellaneous Offences Act have been arbitrarily expanded by the Singapore Police Force or the AG-C.

I entered law school in 1994 and graduated in 1998. I qualified as a lawyer in 1999. Now after 9 years of practice, i discovered something new and something earthshaking – its not everyday in practice that that we discover something like this.

This relevation was something out of the ordinary, it was something which i had never expected. Perhaps it was correct that whilst in law school, i had never been an exceptionally bright student. Many a time legal concepts did escape me for awhile before i finally grasped them.

But throughout my training, i thought i had gotten it right all along. That it was Parliament which made statute law and that no one else had the right, mandate or power to do so.

This morning i was confronted with a prospect that the Singapore Police Force and Attorney-General’s Chambers had the power to expand on a parliamentary statute.

There was no way the Honourable Attorney-General Walter Woon (if he actually knew what was going on and what is being done) could be wrong. For he was my lecturer when i was just a lowly student.

Maybe the authorities are right. I could have missed out something despite all those years of practising law and poring over authorities in law school. I might be dumb. God help me. 🙂

September 15, 2008 Posted by | Politics | Leave a comment

The Pincer Movement on Chee Siok Chin

THE EFFECTIVENESS OF THE PINCER MOVEMENT

EXECUTED ON CHEE SIOK CHIN

A write up on the events relating to the Originating Summons (“OS”) for review of the Official Assignee’s decision to disallow Ms Chee Siok Chin (“CSC”) from leaving Singapore for Stanford University.

The application was filed by CSC in person on 4th August 2008. She had requested for and obtained an urgent hearing date on 11th August 2008 for her.

I was instructed argue on her behalf on an urgent basis and I appeared before the Honourable Justice Tan Lee Meng on a short notice on 11th August 2008. At that hearing, the AG-C alleged that there had been improper service of the documents on their office and they registered objection to the lack of clarity of CSC’s OS.

Notwithstanding the alleged improper service, the AG-C came ready with a submission, and 4 affidavits to address the position taken by the Applicant.

In the affidavits, the Attorney-General’s officers claimed as follows, namely that:-

 

a.                   they were improperly served. AG-C received only the 1st page of CSC’s  affidavit without any cover letter; and

 

b.                  The AG-C encountered difficulty of serving the said affidavits on CSC.

 

In the affidavits, the Official Assignee’s officers claimed as follows, namely that:-

 

a.                   CSC had been uncooperative towards their office in the management of her financial affairs; and

 

b.                  The Official Assignee’s office email delivery system had prevented them from receiving the emails.

 

Faced with the objections and having had sight of the 4 affidavits for the first time only at the hearing, I asked for time to rectify the OS as well as to respond to the affidavits filed by the AG-C.

 

The Honourable Justice Tan Lee Meng made the following directions:-

 

a.                   1 week to CSC to make amendments and file all necessary further documents;

 

b.                  1 further week for AG-C to respond; and

 

c.                   the hearing to take place on week thereafter on 1st September 2008.

The hearing on 11th August 2008, even if heard and ruled in favour of CSC was already impossible for CSC to make it meaningfully to the fellowship of democrats at Stanford University which would have ended on 16th August 2008. CSC was supposed to have been at the fellowship on 29th July 2008 till 16th August 2008.

The adjournment, however, was not the cause of a delayed review application because CSC had requested the Official Assignee for permission from to travel from as early as 28th April 2008. In addition to that, she had sent reminders sent to the Official Assignee on 3 occasions: 2nd May 2008, 8th May 2008 and 13th May 2008.

To these email communications, the Official Assignee’s office claimed on affidavit that the government internet filter prevented them from receiving the emails from CSC because of the attachments she annexed to the email.

Subsequent to the adjournment, I got down working with CSC on her Reply Affidavit as well as the amendments to the OS and other documents.

An unsuccessful attempt was made to file the Amended OS on 18th August but the Electronic Filing system refused to accept the documents.

When CSC affirmed her reply affidavit on Thursday 21st August 2008, a 2nd attempt was made to file the Amended OS and the Reply affidavit.

I attempted to inform the AG-C on 21st August 2008 of the delay. The facsimile failed to transmit and was re-faxed in the morning of 22nd August 2008.

On 22nd August 2008 the AG-C wrote complaining of:-

Not having any specified the problems we encountered;

Not having been served the amended OS and reply affidavit;

Objecting to any adjournment; and

Objecting to any late filing of CSC’s papers.

I replied on 22nd August 2008 clarifying a number of points, namely that:-

The adjournment granted on 11th August 2008 was inconsequential given the delay given by the Official Assignee’s office in replying in the first place;

The problem encountered in filing the amended OS;

The suggestion of adjournment was offered to avoid prejudicing any party;

The late filing would never in any circumstance be allowed to prejudice the AG-C;

And I effected service of the documents on the AG-C via fax without the confirmation that Supreme Court Registry has accepted the same; and

Informing that by 25th August 2008 we would seek to refix the other matters in the subordinate Courts should AG-C still object to the said suggested adjournment.

On 25th August 2008, the AG-C replied:-

Taking issue with the fact that CSC’s reply affidavit was sworn on 21st August as opposed to be filed on 18th August 2008;

Taking issue that the documents do not seem to have been accepted by the court for filing in EFS as at 1045hrs 25th August 2008;

Reserving the right to make a proper response only if the documents are properly filed and served; and

Objecting to any adjournment of the hearing on 1st September 2008.

On 1122hrs Monday 25th August 2008, the Supreme Court Registry rejected the Amended OS and CSC’s reply affidavit for Electronic filing. The rejection was received on 1205hrs on Monday 25th August 2008. The reason for rejection given – late filing.

On 28th August 2008, there as a further letter from AG-C:

Reiterating previous points;

Citing that as at 10am 28th August 2008, I had still not re-filed and re-served the documents nor written to explain the same; and

Insisting that the only documents which CSC will rely on would only be the documents filed previously.

I responded to AG-C via a letter dated 28th august 2008

Informing (incorrectly) that the documents were rejected on Friday 22nd August 2008 (when it was actually Monday 25th August 2008);

Explaining no separate formal application for leave for reasons of costs and feasibility;

Given the reason of rejection furnished by the Registry in the circumstances, no further attempt at filing was made; and

There is no reason for AG-C to deny the Applicant any adjournment or leave to re-file and insist on CSC relying only on those documents filed previously.

The AG-C’s letter dated 28th August 2008 (received on 29th August 2008):-

Asserting that it was by our course of conduct that the court does not have CSC’s further documents;

Reiterating that the hearing on 1st September would proceed on the basis of the documents filed in court; and

Copying our letter and the current letter to the Registrar Supreme Court.

I replied to the AG-C on 29th August 2008:-

Objecting to the persistent assertions that it was our conduct that led to the Court not having CSC’s proposed documents to justify a stand denying her the right to place her further documents before Justice Tan Lee Meng;

Citing their right to a rejoinder response in any event;

The greater importance is for the issue of the actions of the Official Assignee’s office to be reviewed by the Court;

AG-C has to act impartially when exercising a public function; and

Requesting AG-C to place all correspondences before Registrar Supreme Court and Justice Tan.

The response from AG-C via letter dated 29th August 2008:-

Reiterates previous points;

Explaining why chambers make no proper response as the documents have not been properly filed;

Stubbornly insists on proceeding with application on 1st September 2008 on the basis of documents filed and accepted by the Court Registry; and

Refusing to copy complete correspondence to the Attorney General’s office.

CSC is a bankrupt and given the difficulties encountered to file the relevant papers, there was a limit to what she or her counsel could do.

The rejection by the Supreme Court Registry of the documents for Electronic Filing was received only in the afternoon of 25th August 2008.

By that time, it would have been too late for CSC to prepare and file a separate application for leave of court for an extension of time to file the same as such an application would in all probability yielded a hearing date before after 1st September 2008. Furthermore, there were cost considerations in terms of additional disbursements when the Applicant is clearly a bankrupt.

CSC was ready and willing to proceed with the application for review but the crux of her case and the proper process requires her papers to be filed to be accepted by the Supreme Court Registry and in the circumstances, leave of the Court was required.

The AG-C was aware of the difficulties encountered by CSC but was intent on keeping her at a disadvantage even though as at 22nd August 2008, the AG-C had been served with a copy each of the papers.

CSC’s position is therefore known to the AG-C since that date but those positions are not open to CSC for her to canvass the same in Honourable Court so long as her affidavits was not accepted by the Supreme Court Registry.

It must be noted that in any event, the Honourable Court had given AG-C leave to file and serve their rejoinder response which will allow the AG-C to have the last word on this application. The AG-C would have been in no way prejudiced by any adjournment.

Notwithstanding the above, AG-C successfully objected to the CSC being given leave to file her papers and CSC had to proceed with the hearing based on what she had successfully filed in Court when what CSC had on court record was insufficient to address allegations made by the Official Assignee’s Office in their affidavits.

The Court dismissed the application on the ground that there was no reason for the court to rule on a matter which has already passed in that it was no longer meaningful for the review to be made as the period of travel was over and that such a review over matters of discretion decided by the OA would not give rise to a precedent for future actions.

In this process, I learnt of the whimsicality of the Official Assignee.

I learnt of the tenacity of the Attorney-General’s Chambers.

I experienced the illogicality of the actions of the Supreme Court Registry.

I witness the opportunistic nature of government-controlled media.

And I understood the effectiveness of the pincer movement executed on Chee Siok Chin.

 

September 10, 2008 Posted by | Politics | 2 Comments

A gentle reminder to smell the flowers

It did not occur to me to touch that disc which had been sitting on my various racks for 20 years or so. The various CD racks have come and gone. AND The disc travelled with me as i moved house over the island but i have never since once opened it to truly sit down to listen to what the artiste and producer had wanted to convey.

It is this present bout of gastric flu / food poisoning (till now i am not to sure what it is) brought me to this – with tons of work left undone in the office. including Gopalan Nair’s appeal requiring my attention soon.

I am face to face with the system in an empty room. My favourite IMF Reference Standard Professional Monitors, my naim CD player and amplifier on a rack in between.

Taking a pick at random out of a number of 600 or so sitting in the dust, I decided to give that disc, bought on an impulse due to strong recommendations in audiophile magazines,  a chance after 20 long years.

Reference Recordings RR-31CD, Jim Brock’s Tropic Affair – a 1989 Reference Recordings audiophile issue was my pick.

The choice did not disappoint. It is filled with a number of sonically powerful tunes. But sonically powerful tunes are not what you would be keen if you had been running to the toilet for the past 8 hours.

I was in search of something soothing, something enchanting. Enchanting tunes being what i was looking for, straight out of the jewel case, track 4 “Anya” is Enchanting. So haunting, so sensual and so melancholic.

It reminded me of the melancholic theme in “Bitter Moon” by Vangelis. Haunting is the word to describe it.

I remember a time, after my grandmother’s death. No one wanted to really occupy the room. Then one day in the midst of some life upheaval, something prompted me to clear the room of its clutter and dust, spending an entire day scrubbing the room, i finally made it a tiny sanctuary with the relevant and necessary additions.

There it was, i had a little back room all to myself, small but carpeted (now that’s important for audio). With this pair of speakers, a different set of amps, a shot glass of coffee liquor, a different companion. Tunes from this pair of speakers are nonetheless just as satisfying.

Subsequently in the hustle and bustle of life following as i was then a newly qualified lawyer, the room fell into neglect, misuse and disrepair. I probably recall clearing out the speakers finally in march of 2004 – luckily the termites did not get to them.

I also recall that being less than fully satisfied with the sounds it was producing, i had in the years thereafter in my long and unfruitful chase of audio perfection completely neglected the most important essence of it all – enjoying the music.

Now that is not to say that the present state of the system is not what i wanted. I do want it this way and in this manner. But it is certainly not what i envisioned. When i first laid my hands won this pair of speakers in 1997, kindly sold to me by a late audiophile Uncle Yong, i have never imagined that i would be cavorting with naim amplifiers with it.

Now that i have made the discovery of a lifetime. Track 4 “Anya”, i am probably going to put it on repeat until my family begs me for mercy. Like my younger borther would put it, i would really know how to spoil a song by overplaying it.

Well its not everyday that you discover a gem in your belongings do you?

And besides, we only live once – don’t we?

September 9, 2008 Posted by | audiophilia, Life | Leave a comment

Gopalan Nair’s – Disorderly behaviour – Appeal

Friday evening 5th September 2008 was a disturbing evening. Why disturbing?

Firstly, it was friday evening. Secondly, I had a letter to finish. Thirdly, an audiobuddy was asking me on the phone to go down to our friend’s place to sort out some deal. Fourthly, a couple of friends decided to pop by my office for a drop in chit chat and cup of tea. Fifthly, news came in that Gopalan Nair was being found guilty of disorderly behaviour and insulting policemen. Sixthly, Yap was trying to get Gopalan Nair bailed out pending his appeal, he was encountering problems with the crime registry.

Gopalan got his sentence at about 4plus late afternoon and the Court granted him extended bail pending appeal.

A bailor was ready at the bail centre but was told that the bail would only be processed bail when the Notice of Appeal is filed. Yap then calls me for assistance, i had no choice but to run out the Notice of Appeal while Yap makes his way down from Court to my office to collect it for Gopalan to sign and then back to Court to process the bail.

So quite inevitably, Gopalan Nair is back to being represented by myself.

September 8, 2008 Posted by | Politics | Leave a comment

TBT Trials – Lawyer No. 4

I wish i could have made the announcement earlier but i have been so tied up with the activism work that it is almost impossible to blog. At the rate i am going, i will be announcing old news on my blog perpetually.

On 4th September 2008, we appeared before District Judge Liew Thiam Leng in Court 24, Subordinate Courts.

Mr. Francis Ow from Archilex Law Corporation now appears for SDP Vice Chairman Mr. Francis Yong.

Trial dates are fixed for the 18 + 1 protestors on 23rd October 2008 till 7th November 2008 at Court No. 5.

Interestingly, this is the first set of trial dates for the latest protest. The trial dates for the Freedom walk in September 2007 and World Bank – IMF in September 2006 have yet to be set.

Interestingly, the prosecution for the World Bank- IMF and and Freedom Walk commenced only after the administration took the decision to charge the protestors for the March 15 2008 Tak Boleh Tahan protest.

It looks like the tak boleh tahan campaign really made them tak boleh tahan. 🙂

Till 23rd October 2008, i would need to finalise some legal matters as well as to get the 3 more lawyers to give their confirmation soon – no prizes for guessing who would have to take time to do this.

Lets hope this will be in place before i scream “tak boleh tahan!”.

September 8, 2008 Posted by | Politics | Leave a comment

TBT lawyer no. 3 – Mr. Dennis Chua

Today I arranged for Mr. Dennis Chua to meet Mr. Ng E-Jay for his representation.

It is confirmed now Mr. Ng E-Jay will be defended by Mr. Dennis Chua.

Mr. Dennis Chua, I salute you.

September 1, 2008 Posted by | Politics | 1 Comment