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Opposition politician continues to criticise Singapore’s judicial system

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Reform Party’s chief, Mr Kenneth Jeyaretnam, has claimed in a Facebook post that M Ravi continues to speak the truth about Singapore’s judiciary. Mr Ravi, a non-practicing lawyer, was charged in Court on Saturday (12 Aug) with causing public nuisance and voluntarily causing hurt. He has since been remanded in the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) for two weeks for psychiatric observation.

Mr Ravi in responding to the judge’s decision to remand him at IMH said that the judge should recuse herself from the case because of possible bias. He said: “I would like to make an application to the court to disqualify yourself from this case because you do not have the security of tenure under the law… You are not independent as you can be transferred to the Attorney-General’s Chambers at any time.”

District judges and magistrates of the State Courts are appointed to their positions by the Legal Service Commission (LSC) on a term basis, and do not enjoy security of tenure. These judges can be transferred by the LSC from the courts to other government departments to serve as legal officers, and vice versa. Some have pointed out that this practice created a risk of executive interference.

Mr Jeyaretnam pointed out that a judge who acquitted his father in 1981 of fraud charges, District Judge Michael Khoo, was later transferred to the Attorney General’s Chambers to take up appointment as a deputy public prosecutor.

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Despite his tragic illness Ravi continues to speak the truth about Singapore's compliant judiciary which is one reason…

Posted by Kenneth Jeyaretnam on Saturday, 12 August 2017

Mr Jeyaretnam’s father, Mr J.B. Jeyaretnam (JBJ) had then faced three charges of having fraudulently transferred cheques to prevent the distribution of money to the creditors of the Workers’ Party of Singapore, and one charge of making a false declaration.

In January 1981, Khoo acquitted JBJ and his co-defendant of all charges except a single charge of fraud involving a cheque for $400. He sentenced JBJ to a $1,000 fine, which was below the amount of $2,000 that would have caused him to lose his seat in Parliament.

Upon the Public Prosecutor’s appeal to the High Court, Chief Justice Wee Chong Jin ordered retrials on the two charges of cheque fraud that the defendants had been acquitted of. In August 1981, before the retrials, Khoo was transferred to the Attorney General’s Chambers to take up appointment as a deputy public prosecutor

The defendants were convicted of the charges by a different senior district judge and sentenced to three months’ imprisonment each. JBJ and his co-accused then appealed to the High Court, which confirmed their convictions but reduced the sentences to a fine of $5,000 each.

A commission of inquiry convened in 1986 to examine Khoo’s transfer determined that no evidence of executive interference in the State Courts had been presented, and that the transfer had been decided by the Chief Justice in consultation with the Attorney-General.

It did not investigate why the transfer was made. In Parliamentary debates before and after the inquiry it was suggested on the one hand that the transfer had been routine and the timing coincidental, and on the other that it was related to Khoo’s competence in handling the case. The reason for the transfer was never clearly established.

This is the second time in recent days that Mr Jeyaretnam has made such claims about the judiciary.

Soon after the AGC said it was applying for permission to prosecute Lee Kuan Yew’s grandson, Li Shengwu, Jeyaretnam dared Li to return to Singapore and let the AGC prosecute him. AGC took issue with Li’s Facebook post last month in which he alleged that the government was litigious and was stifling freedom of speech over the spat.

Mr Jeyaretnam said that despite making observations of the judicial system, which were similar to Li’s, he had not been prosecuted.

I have repeatedly called Singapore's judiciary pliant and not independent yet have not been prosecuted. Li Shengwu…

Posted by Kenneth Jeyaretnam on Saturday, 5 August 2017

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