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Controversial Constitutional Amendment Sparks "Debate"
There is an amendment to the Constitution, and amendments to the Constitution are always a serious matter, that would give the Prime Minister of Singapore to nominate up to two members of the Legal Service Commission. In Parliament, NCMP Ms Sylvia Lim, as one might expect, was not in favor of the amendment. She believes that the amendment could "undermine public confidence in the neutrality of our courts." (Today; emphasis Molly's.)

And as you would expect from any argument raised by the near-extinct oppositional presence in the Parliament, it was met with strong, fierce, vehement but inherently empty pseudo-rebuttals. Kinda like the last time you saw a gang of kids jeering at another kid who happens to have a different fashion sense.

The story, one further spread by our world-class 146th-going-169th press, is that Ms. Lim is reviving a conspiracy theory which was first created by J.B. Jeyaretnam. Well, to be fair to the press, the journalist writing the report found it necessary to put the words "conspiracy theory" in inverted commas. But it would have
actually been more pertinent to the issue had the title of the article been "Controversial Amendment: PM to Nominate Members of Legal Service Commission."

Or maybe not. One does not see much controversy. Parliament voted 75 to 2 in favor of the changes. But practically any headline would sound better than "
'Conspiracy theory' revived and rebutted." You see, you don't rebut an argument by simply claiming otherwise. You rebut an argument with sound reasoning and proof. And the focus should not be one some supposed conspiracy theory but on the constitutional amendment itself.

This is what Law Minister S Jayakumar, who is currently very concerned by the fact that a convict was given extra caning but who is probably not concerned by the existence of the practice of caning, has to say:

"Ms Sylvia Lim, through her speech, is in fact resurrecting ... a conspiracy theory. As she was speaking, I was reminded of a previous Workers' Party MP, Mr Jeyaretnam, who made all sorts of allegations about our existing system and raised the spectre of executive interference in the subordinate courts judiciary."

There are two things to note here. Firstly, insofar as the news report goes, the person who brought up the so called conspiracy theory ironically seems to me to be none other than Prof Jayakumar himself. And Molly will discuss the possible reasons for doing so later. Secondly, we have to note that, unlike what is alleged of Jeyaretnam, Ms. Lim did not claim that the judiciary is not neutral.
Methinks the Minister doth protest too much.

Ms. Lim was saying that the constitutional amendment could "undermine public confidence" on the judiciary. In other words, she was specifically talking about the impression the move might give. She did mention the potential for the executive to have some kind influence over the judiciary and this is fair enough (I will say why later); she did not claimed that the judiciary is lacking in neutrality. She also emphasized that her main concern is that  the amendment might not be seen too positively by the public. Look at her words as quoted by the press:

"[The amendment] potentially gives the executive branch of the Government even more influence over critical career decisions of our judicial officers. My concern is that this can be interpreted as a regressive step for judicial independence."

Ms. Lim is a smart person who phrases her words carefully and she is a lawyer by profession. (The news report fails to mention her occupation though it notes the legal training of all those who "rebutted" her, as if to lend authority to their speeches.) I believe the MIW in the Parliament aren't stupid either. Molly believes that they knew what she was specifically talking about. Otherwise she might already be given a first class ticket to bankruptcy.

Prof Jayakumar says in response:

"Once [the Prime Minister] has nominated two members and they're appointed, his role ends there. Neither he nor the other nominating members can direct the nominees to act or decide in any particular manner."

Of course, that is sounds good on paper. But then no one is saying that the constitutional amendment will allow the PM to directly tell the members of the Legal Service Commission what to do. Nevertheless, who can guarantee that the PM (not only the current one, but ALL future PMs) will NEVER nominate members who already have a tendency to make decisions that are favorable to the executive or even to a particular party, thus undermining the separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary. In places where the principles of democracy are held sacred, such an issue would be the subject of intense scrutiny. The constitutional amendment certainly not a non-issue as the MIW members in the Parliament seem to me to be suggesting that it is.

Ms. Lim's concerns are legitimate as far as Molly can see and in no way reeks of conspiratorial paranoia. There is a concern that one day, perhaps a thousand years into the future - or perhaps even just a few years into the future, a Prime Minister might nominate members that are known to have certain outlooks. This might motivate certain people to express certain outlooks. Also, given that the Legal Service Commission has "disciplinary control over officers in the Legal Service," the worry is that officers in the Legal Service who are more sympathetic towards different outlooks might be deemed to have violated the discipline of the Legal Service if they express such sympathies. Could this encourage a "better avoid trouble lest I lose my rice bowl" attitude? Perhaps this was why Ms. Lim "wanted security of tenure for Subordinate Court judges, like their High Court counterparts" (Today's paraphrase.)

[ As a non-reply to Ms. Lim's concern, MP Ms Indranee Rajah, a practicing Senior Counsel, said: "We have no issue [Molly: that doesn't mean others have no issue] with the appointment of our High Court judges ... each and every one of them is appointed by the President acting in his discretion, on the advice of the PM." (Emphasis Molly's.) Apparently, Today journalist Derrick Paulo has a sense of humor - he says that Ms. Rajah's remark is "directed specifically at Ms Lim." Good one, Derrick.]

It is also interesting to note that it is either not stated or not reported why there is a need to make the particular constitutional amendment. Yes, you can say that this bad thing won't happen and that bad thing won't happen as a result of the amendment. But what's the purpose of the amendment in the first place??

Prof Jayakumar's support for his stance isn't exactly convincing. He claims that the most important test of the legal system is "the leadership in the Government, and whether the Government respects the integrity and independence of the judiciary." According to the news report, Prof Jayakumar then said that the integrity of Singapore's judiciary can be seen in international rankings which consistently place Singapore "among the top in the world."

Dear Prof, if the best test of the legal system is the leadership in the government (presumably the executive branch), then why don't you cite international rankings that rate the executive's leadership instead? Why refer to international rankings for the judiciary? And we are talking about a constitutional amendment here. It's something permanent. We don't even have to quarrel about whether the executive branch of the government currently respects the independence of the judiciary. No matter how much it respects the independence of the judiciary now, we can't assume that the executive branch of the government five years later, ten years later, two hundred years later will do the same.

In any case, as far as Molly remembers, international human rights and democracy reports have also consistently questioned the independence of Singapore's judiciary, particularly in defamation cases involving oppositional politicians. The constitutional amendment isn't going to impress the people doing these reports and this is partly the concerned that Ms. Sylvia Lim has raised.

Another of those "my-claim-is-it's-own-proof" statements:

"We have the system, it works. We're now fine-tuning it to work even better ... I say, let's keep what works [Molly: works for whom?] and let's not besmirch the reputation we have so carefully built up over the years."

Well, maybe what really needs to be changed is the system of not changing a system that is supposed to work.

But, Prof Jayakumar, who is besmirching the reputation of the system? Do the people who are insisting on making a controversial constitutional amendment that be interpreted as a compromise of the separation of powers or does the person who is raising a concern about the amendment besmirch the reputation of Singapore's political and legal system?

But it's refreshing to see a minister concerned about reputation. After all, our none too wonderful reputation for having caning, for having the death penalty and for having opposition politicians lose defamation suits every time they are slapped with one - and our dubious reputation for having the world's best-paid ministers - haven't affected the gahmen's stance much, if at all.

But, still, what's up with accusing Ms. Lim of reviving a conspiracy theory? (It's a conspiracy theory because you call it one??) Why bring up J.B. Jeyaretnam at all? Bringing up the poor bloke at this time could serve a couple of purposes though Molly is not claiming that these purposes are necessarily intended:

1. The press can embark on a nice character assassination. The "look at what that guy did 20 years ago, according to us" tactic. A good time to do so since that old man is setting up a new opposition party.

2. Warn Ms. Sylvia Lim to stay in place. Give her the "Do you want to end up like JBJ?" vibes. Insinuate or claim that she was doing what JBJ was doing. And if she's doing what JBJ was doing, she could well end up like JBJ . . .

Other MIW provided their two-cents' worth, with Prof Thio Li-Ann, a constitutional law expert, claiming that there will be a "series of checks and balances." Molly doesn't know what the "series" of checks and balances are for the news report mentions only one. Molly doesn't know if Prof Thio mentioned more than one.

And what's the one check and balance mechanism mentioned? Molly is afraid that it might sound like a joke, but she has to say it anyway. Rest assured though that it wasn't meant to be a joke.

The Elected President would have to approve those appointed by the Prime Minister!

Never mind that the Elected Presidency itself comes with its own controversies. When was the last time we elected a President? And when was the last time the list of presidential candidates was free-for-all? We shouldn't be raising these questions. We should not be paranoid asses imagining conspiracy theories all day long.

Even if this is Animal Farm, we need unquestioning sheep, not talkative asses, lest The Great System be besmirched.

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Thanks for blogging about this Molly. I was giving this only a cursory glance until I read this post. Will go and dig up the material and read it.

That would be good. For Molly is no constitutional expert, unlike Prof Thio. :)

If you must insist, Molly

Casting pearls or even diamonds that serve no purposes is a waste of time. Me believe you could live and contribute more meaningfully in any third world country and will be much happier too, regards scb.

Re: If you must insist, Molly

Insist on?

Masterful analysis.

Thank you.

Re: Masterful analysis.

Well, thank you too.

One other observation

further to your post (which i totally agree :P) i think we should also start realising that Singapore's parliamentary proceedings are no more than a show, a wayang (to be more Singaporean). have we ever heard of any proposal that hasn't passed?

i sometimes wonder why people actually bother watching "today in parliament" (which incidentally, i think should be called, "today's wayang") when we know the outcome even before they open their mouths.


Re: One other observation


I love to watch in parliament because I get to shout at the TV some nice expletive that I cannot use during daytime at work.

"What sick logic is that?!"
"Total B.S."

It is a nice way to vent frustration against the PAP.

Re: One other observation (Anonymous) Expand
Re: One other observation (Anonymous) Expand


who are the five mps who dared not support the leegime? were they sitting on the fence, SLEEPING, ABSENT (due to "more important" engagements) or what???

yeah, everybody shld watch the video clip in which jaya-boy tried comically to counter-argue with sylvia-gal. honestly, you will get a good laugh and understand why the 154th had to control damage with the words "ticked off"...

btw, good job, pap! you'll end up cementing your power on paper and losing even more trust in pple... LOL

Re: 75:2

When people get paid million dollars so easily, the mind just goes mechanic.

I think this Law Minister needs a mental check up.

And pleasssse, invoking old Bogeyman, is the cheapest shot of an unprogressive mind. Just like the 'tang kee' jumping at the prospect of Chinese converting to other religions. Dear Jaya, can he really stop the cognitive evolution. It's better off if he remains extinct like a dinosaur

Re: 75:2 (Anonymous) Expand
Re: 75:2 (Anonymous) Expand

Singaporeans Are Treated As Idiots.....by who else!!!

Like i have confirmed many many times, WE ARE TREATED SIMPLY AS IDIOTS.....but are we? Even the kopi gia knows this....

Well done Molly, to create such awareness amongst Singaporeans! This is a start to new things to come and we need people like you to create such awareness, though sometimes bimbotic :P, but rest assured Molly we are NOT IDIOTS!!!

Re: Singaporeans Are Treated As Idiots.....by who else!!!

By idiotic, moronic SINGAPOREANS lah !

A well-written rebuttal indeed! An excellent piece of work!

The opening of the British archive files certainly shed a lot of light on what actually happened during the 50s & 60s. Now we have prove of how power was abused and history was re-written accordingly. At least our generation have the benefit of the records to enlighten us and provide a 2voice. I wonder what would happen to our future generation. From the late 80s to the early 2000 we have only one discourse, that of the ruling elite. An elite which prides itself to declare that the golden age is here as in the history of the dynasties before. But I believe like the British archives, the blogshere with its discourse will serve as a alternative voice to record history from the neutral perspective, provided such articles like Molly's are achived.

(no subject) (Anonymous) Expand
(no subject) (Anonymous) Expand
end of the day, it all rests on 'good men'. those in powers are assuring you they are 'good' sin free men. therefore, you can trust them to do the right thing in your interests.

hmm..i think we are perhaps the only nation who is blessed with such leadership. extraordinary men incapable of wrong, misjudgement and malice. probably not born the usual way.

even the carperter when praised for being 'good' was quick to dismiss it and said: none is good except God.

there is no greater destruction in people's lives than a fallacy engineered and selfishly defended.

We are blessed with the best leadership in the world! We need to pay ministers high salaries to maintain their incorruptibility; then because they are incorruptible, we can implement policies/amendments that are otherwise questionable; then because we implement these kind of policies, all the more we need leaders with integrity and so we have to pay them high salaries.

It goes round and round in a perfect circle.

Sylvia's Lim Speech & Jayakumar Snapping

Jayakumar cannot answer Slyvia's question then snap and try to divert by bringing out old history and "conspiracy theory" for what ??? Cannot answer means cannot answer.

Then he bring out dunno what ranking which I never seen or heard before. I only remember our judicial system rank below Hong Kong. Our ranking maybe good for foreigners but not Singaporeans.

Parliament is a place to ask questions and voice concerns or else for what, is Jayakumar getting old by snapping this way?

We all know the President is quite useless in Singapore because he needs to be supported by ruling party.

Slyvia's concerns are valid and legitimate. Any person nominated by PM will of course feel his position is owed to the PM and thus decision-making can be biased.

Who will check decision-making in the judicial system is not biased ??

Let the judicial system pick their own nominees.

If everthing can depend on trust, integrity, reputation and qualifications, then what for need systems, police and auditors ??

What Jayakumar say sets a very dangerous precedent for the future.

We have seen many instances people in powerful, rich and comfortable positions can be corrupt and abusive. Marcos, Suharto, Worldcom, Enron, NKF etc because the systems were not designed to check them.

Re: Sylvia's Lim Speech & Jayakumar Snapping

Oppose and you are being paranoid and coming up with conspiracy theories.

As the song goes, "Just believe, just believe..."

do you realise they dont say what they mean in plain honest language in the house? they killed honesty in this country by making use of reprisal laws to force even oppositions to speak in 'tongues'( mousy polite somemore). so much so, they dont even have a clue as to what they were saying let alone the public( how many actually understand their 'tongues'?)

it takes someone like a mocking molly to translate an OFFENSIVE message. but i suspect, rockson is by far a better unofficial communicator considering his following. he probably can say it like it is and mean it like it is that the whole country can relate and follow.

fuck, there is so much fear in this country that there is hardly any honesty in politics anymore( i am refering to those in the forefront of politics)

not only has the fire been doused, they sound like polite frogs too.

I guess the opposition can either choose to be tactical or to go forward like Dr. Chee. It's not necessarily a bad thing if people are more sensitive readers and listeners and can see the message for themselves, e.g. instead of being taken in by the JBJ-conspiracy ruse, people can look more carefully at what Sylvia is saying. Unfortunately, this isn't always the case.

Uniquely Singapore

"Once [the Prime Minister] has nominated two members and they're appointed, his role ends there. Neither he nor the other nominating members can direct the nominees to act or decide in any particular manner."

This is as good as saying: "Once I put my wife (feel free to guess who) as the CEO of Tema***k, my role ends there. Neither myself nor anyone can direct her to act or decide in any particular manner."

Re: Uniquely Singapore

Saying that is considered good enough. The public has a responsibility to trust the speeches of super extraordinary talents.

Re: Uniquely Singapore (Anonymous) Expand
Re: Uniquely Singapore (Anonymous) Expand
Re: Uniquely Singapore (Anonymous) Expand
Re: Uniquely Singapore (Anonymous) Expand

perhaps it is time...

perhaps it is time to find a way to get the government to be about the people, not the office, as the old say goes, "absolute power, corrupts absolutely"

when people are at this stage i'm afraid one day, this country which i was born in but hate so much is going to become like another north korea, ruled by the lee family.

how far are we away from that? i'm not sure, but every eyar it seems that there is a reduction in the civil liberties ordinary singaporeans currently have. and the people do not have a voice to speak out to, to be heard by.

pretty much, i'm out of here as soon as i can to find another life for myself away from here, i;d go too if i were you all, before it gets worse, for your children, and your children's children.

i'm posting anaonymously due to myself being on the dissidents to watch out for list in the past, so please, dont be insulted. i'l check by again for replies or anything.


Re: perhaps it is time...

What about North Korea? Staying in Singapore, we do not get to know much of N Korea as the medias do not report much about that country. You used N Korea as though there are murders, robberies, rapes and all kinds of sinful happenings. I am not aware of those things happening maybe because of lack of informations but I do know that Communist Ruled Countries are so safe that most do not have to secure their homes to keep away undesirables. In squeaky clean Singapore, it seems that theft, cigarette smugglings, vices and recently homicides are increasing in frequencies. Would you care to enlighten me?

Re: perhaps it is time... (Anonymous) Expand
Re: perhaps it is time... (Anonymous) Expand

hello mollymeek

I always feel miserable after reading anti-govt stuff that is breathtakingly well-argued, because nothing's going to change, is it? ah well. i wish material like this is more accessible on newspapers. thank you :)

Re: hello mollymeek

Maybe for you and your well-heeled lifetsyle. The fact that people who actually believe that nothing will change is what the PAP is trying to instill and there is proof of their success everywhere.

Re: hello mollymeek (Anonymous) Expand
Re: hello mollymeek (Anonymous) Expand
Re: hello mollymeek (Anonymous) Expand
Re: hello mollymeek (Anonymous) Expand
Re: hello mollymeek (Anonymous) Expand
Re: hello mollymeek (Anonymous) Expand

is the cat in?

hello haven't heard from the cat lately. Just checking if the cat's on holiday.

Not on holiday, but kept occupied nevertheless. Am back now.

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