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A Tale of Two Organisations July 10, 2008

Posted by Ned Stark in Uncategorized.

The Singapore government must have felt like it had struck lottery when the International Bar Association chose to host its annual conference in Singapore after the International Monetary Fund had held its meeting in Singapore. This fact became part of the ammunition the government used against naysayers such as Dr Chee Soon Juan. Unfortunately as shown by this IBA report, the Singapore government has jumped the gun in patting themselves on the back. Suffice to say the report made the usual criticisms of Singapore’s record on Human Rights.

Naturally the Singapore government became defensive and issued a “rebuttal”; unfortunately this sudden “U-Turn” does not paint the government in a good light, though with the help of the Straits Times and people like Syu Ying Kwok I would opine that they will come out of it none the worse (if they can come out of all that policies which increase the cost of living without a scratch I fail to see why this slip up would have any more impact).

This “U-turn”  is not unprecedented, the government has oft played up any praise (actual or imagined) by foreign organisations, only to then turn around and use a mixture of fearmongering and arguments which evince some sort of “Eastern supremacism” once the said organisation begins to say anything displeasing to the ears of the government. (As an aside there is a chinese idiom which roughly translates to “bitter medicine cures the sickness, good advice however hard to hear cures the soul”… if we are indeed followers of Confucious we might do well to remember this… government included).

A Tale of the Privy Council

Long before the IBA decided to hold its conference in Singapore, the Singapore Judiciary had, at its apex, the Privy Council in Britain. The PC was once feted, by  then Minister of Law Jayakumar, as the litmus test of judicial independence in Singapore. Unfortunately the PC dug its own grave, so to speak, when they allowed Mr JBJ’s appeal (JBJ v Law Society [1988]) against Mr JBJ’s removal from the rolls of advocate and solicitor of the Supreme Court in Singapore. Their Lordships then went on to expressed “deep disquiet” over the proceedings which resulted in JBJ’s conviction. With one stroke, the government deemed the PC to be one of them pesky Western Organisations and appeals to the PC from Singapore were eventually abolished. The PC was accused of playing politics, a questionable accusation given that the PC had allowed Mr Goh Chok Tong’s defence of fair comment against a suit launched by JBJ in JBJ v Goh Chok Tong [1989]. If the Council was indeed “playing politics” then there was no reason why they would have ruled in favour of Mr Goh.


The government has thrown the baby out of the bathwater, a regretable but unsurprising action given the government’s thin-skin when faced with anything remotely critical. The Singapore government has shown a rather hobbesian view towards criticism; which may yet bode ill for us in the future. It is my fervent hope that people would not toss the IBA report aside on the basis of the government’s “u-turn” and instead read the report with a critical mind; after all it would be ridiculous for right thinking people to reject the report on account of the government’s peevishness, wouldnt it?





1. geekycoder - July 10, 2008

That also show lack of PR on the government’s part. For one, it seems they invited world-respected IBA to host its annual conference with a view and agenda, that since IBA host its conference here, it is a evidence that Singapore must be doing something right in its current governance and law. In other words, it look like they trying to ‘buy the supporter’s vote’ of those international organizations, hoping that these organizations can be used for future benefit. However, little did they know that many of these organizations are bound to their principle and value morally, and will be not ‘bought over’. As such IBA is readily to rebute any untruthful remark.

Now it is really suicide for the government to quickly downplay the official report of IBA since IBA is so respectable worldwide so much that Singapore want IBA to host its conference here. Why the government is then so quick to shoot down a esteem organization baffled me. Is it done in moment of arrogancy or injustice ? Is it because that other hold a different view that Singapore government must so defensive like the way it treats criticism here ?

By merely refuting the report, our dear government is simply showing disrespect to IBA and staining the latter’s credibility and reputation. Nonetheless, as who is more credible and honest between the government and IBA, we should know better.

Why the government keep staining its reputation that it builds over the decades ? A series of events happening this year really reflect badly on not only on the government but also the country and its citizens.

Yes, so much for a ‘open and vibrant’ society.

2. The Singapore Daily » Blog Archive » Daily SG: 11 Jul 2008 - July 11, 2008

[…] Prosperity versus individual rights. Human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Singapore – Mr Wang Says So: The International Bar Association And Its Report on Singapore – Winter is Coming: A Tale of Two Organisations […]

3. The Singapore Daily » Blog Archive » Weekly Roundup: Week 28 - July 12, 2008

[…] Mr Wang Says So: The International Bar Association And Its Report on Singapore – Winter is Coming: A Tale of Two Organisations – IBA: Prosperity versus individual rights? Human rights, democracy and the rule of law in […]

4. Observer (SG-HK) - July 14, 2008

The truth is out from an independent group of observers, a very respectable group indeed. What do this group stand to gain? I think they are doing it for the sake of human mankind, that is all I made out of it (IBA Report). And our government is certainly quick to rebut. So quick indeed in its rebutal that wildest imagination take hold (well you have to give it a prize for consistency). And those “little tail wagging people – PAPrazzi Fed” were quick to jump on the wagon and regurgitate. Yes, these people did this to done us in. Really? How is it? Where’s the beef?

5. patriot - July 15, 2008

To respect and honour Human Rights is to give oneself self respect, as everyone is a human.

To control and lord over others is to abuse ones’ own authority, power and intelligence. Wise leadership leads, guides and cares, despotic leadership controls, manipulates and exploits(make uses of) their subjects. The distinctions are not difficult to discern.


6. Jon Snow - July 16, 2008

Look at it this way: When you’re at the top, you can only see smiling faces. When you’re at the bottom, all you can see are arses.

The new lot of politicians are doing a Cersei Lannister. At least with the old guard, we got some results for all the nonsense they churned out.

P.S. Subtle reference to ‘The Hedge Knight’.

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