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Who is allowed to speak?

‘LAWYERS, because of their training and education and their involvement, often tend to have views on civil liberties, politics and civil society.And I think they should take part in civil society in their individual capacities.

But the law society, as an organisation, should not. Can it really express the will of all its members, which is what it would be purporting to do in politics, and throw its weight behind one or another organisation?

We’ve always looked at politics and expression of those views as something that should be done within the framework of political parties. If you want to do that, join a political party. Don’t use a civil or civic or professional organisation as a cover for engaging in politics.’

On whether there is room for the law profession to play a more active role in civic society

‘I think our libel laws work very well. Under the American system, as long as you come into public life, you’re fair game and anyone can say anything about you, whether or not it’s true. I don’t believe that to be the right system because I feel that if you want to encourage good people to come into public service, then their reputation and integrity must also be protected.

I did hold these views even then, when I represented IHT when it was sued. I was already a government MP. But I’ve taken an oath to defend my clients. The fact that they’ve published an article which proved to be defamatory doesn’t mean they’re not entitled to defence as best as the defence can be put up.

On whether Singapore leaders resort too hastily to suing for libel. Mr Shanmugam had acted both for and against Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong in libel cases. In 1995, he represented the International Herald Tribune

I am a nerd so I subscribe to legal news on the Singapore Law Watch… when this came in my reader, I really wasn’t sure what to think about it. This was a stub of a feature article ST did on Shanmugam when he got his “promotion”.

I try, you know. I try very hard not to get riled up about local politics, because I know it ain’t good for my blood pressure, and I try not to blog about it. But certain things really just rub me the wrong way. Continue reading


April 19, 2008 Posted by | Law, Politics | , , | 7 Comments