Home News Socio-Political Lord Lester and the spirit to fight for truth

Lord Lester and the spirit to fight for truth

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By: M Ravi

Just finished reading the brilliant submissions by Lord Lester who represented Teo Soh Lung in her habeas corpus application in 1988. I went to the storage place last night where these documents were kept neatly. I was so excited to retrieve these archival materials with the kind permission of Soh Lung (original copies of the submissions are yet to be scanned).

I wanted to read the entire submissions by Lord Lester before I pen my thoughts for my speech next Saturday on the ISA.The old book musty smell in the court papers is not just a touchstone of authenticity of the documents but also the spirit of the fight to free Soh Lung Teo. I immediately forged a bond with these papers and felt the moment of the passing of the torch.

The first time I spoke to Lord Lester was during the contempt of court case in 2010 involving Alan Shadrake. He gave me some useful pointers over the phone for my opening speech in court. I had the privilege of meeting him in person when we were in the same panel at a conference in Hong Kong on Media Law and Freedom in 2013 where he delivered an empowering legal discourse on freedom of expression.

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This is an extract from Tan Wah-Piow Piow’s article (link: https://theindependent.sg/lord-lestersfive-ideas-to-fight-for):

“Lord Lester is no stranger to Singapore. He had joined the ‘Singapore Legion of Personae Non-Gratae after representing Teo Soh Lung in her habeas corpus application in 1988. Soh Lung was one of 22 Operation Spectrum detainees under Internal Security Act. Anthony Lester QC, as he then was, made it clear to the Singapore court that he would take her case to the Privy Council if his application before the Singapore Court to release her was unsuccessful. That resulted in Soh Lung being released on a technical ground, but immediately rearrested. That wicked little ploy bought time for the government which hastily amended the constitution to block future appeal to the Privy Council in ISA cases. Meanwhile Anthony Lester was barred from entering Singapore as a lawyer. The official excuse was that this respected veteran human rights lawyer interfered in Singapore politics at a seminar hosted by the London School of Economics. It was a laughable allegation”


Function 8 is organising a forum titled, ‘ISA Detentions and Restrictions: From “Communists” to “Terrorists”[, which will consider the effectiveness and legality of the Internal Security Act (ISA) in combating extremism. The discussion will centre on three critical issues – debate on the abolition of the ISA, the constitutionality of excluding ISA detentions from judicial review and an in-depth look at recent detentions under the ISA for terrorism related activities.

It will consider a number of questions including
● What are the reasons for and against the continued use of the ISA?
● Should it be abolished?
● Is excluding ISA cases from judicial review constitutional?
● What is the link between Freedom of Religion and Belief, and Freedom of Expression?
● How has the use of the ISA evolved over time?
● Is the ISA an effective tool for combating terrorism? What do the recent detentions tell us?

Speakers: M Ravi, Dr James Gomez, Teo Soh Lung
Moderator: Kirsten Han

Date: Saturday, September
Time: 10 at 2:30 PM – 5:30 PM
Venue: The Agora, 28 Sin Ming Lane #03-142 Midview City, S (573972)

More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/530088623864610.

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