Where are the lawyers of Singapore?

17 Nov

An AFP article reported that as many as 250 lawyers in the US protested outside the Supreme Court on Wednesday demanding the release of those detained during the declared state of emergency, among them including numerous judges and lawyers. The newswire quoted William Neukom, president of the American Bar Association (ABA), a national organization for attorneys in the United States saying, “We are here because we cannot forget the images of hundreds of our brave colleagues assaulted in the streets, carried off in police trucks, and fenced in by barbed wire and concrete barricades.”

It is commendable that lawyers in American and in Pakistan have chosen to speak out when they see an injustice. This is not the first time that lawyers in Pakistan are at the forefront of the protest against President Pervez Musharraf. In March this year, they were also leading mass protests against the government when it suspended Chief Justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry.

In Malaysia, lawyers along with activists protested in Kuala Lumpur, demanding a top-level inquiry into allegations of corruption and cronyism in the judiciary in September this year. Organised by the 12,000-member Bar Council of Malaysia, about 800 lawyers are reported to have participated in the demonstration who marched from the Palace of Justice to the prime minister’s office, handing over a petition.

In Singapore, the lawyers were strangely quiet when the International Bar Association annual conference was held in October.

This has led me to a conclusion that the majority of the lawyers, except a few, are not willing to comment on the politico-legal situation in Singapore. Why have the Law Society refrained from commenting on controversial court cases in which the Opposition and overseas publications have been sued for defamation? Why have they not commented on the previous and recent ISA detentions? Why have they not discussed the enforceability of 377A? Amongst many other concerns.

Which leads me to wonder, “Where are the lawyers of Singapore?”

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