Category: Fundamental liberties

Return of Judicial Power: Religious Freedom and the Tussle over Jurisdictional Boundaries in Malaysia (I-CONnect Column) by Jaclyn L. Neo

Palace of Justice, Putrajaya by Trebz [CC0], via the Wikimedia Commons.

The following post, written by Dr. Jaclyn L. Neo, was published on I-CONnect Blog on 15 March 2018. While it examines judicial power and amendments in Malaysia, the judgment makes extensive reference to developments in Singapore concerning judicial power and the basic structure doctrine. The Malaysian Federal Court held that judicial power, particularly the power of judicial review, is part of the basic structure of the Malaysian constitution. While it did not strike down the amendments that sought to remove judicial power, it nonetheless used the idea of a basic structure to limit the scope of the amendments. The Malaysian judgment thus offers important insights into the doctrinal possibilities of a basic structure.

http://www.iconnectblog.com/2018/03/return-of-judicial-power-religious-freedom-and-the-tussle-over-jurisdictional-boundaries-in-malaysia-i-connect-column/

Towards a “Thin” Basic Structure Doctrine in Singapore (I-CONnect Column) by Jaclyn L. Neo

Amendments to the Films Act: Problems and Concerns

Media recording prohibition sign

A sign indicating that media recording is prohibited. (By Juhele [CC0], via the Wikimedia Commons.)

Dr Kevin Y L Tan
Professor, S Rajaratnam School of International Studies
Nanyang Technological University
Professor (Adjunct), Faculty of Law
National University of Singapore

Dr Ang Peng Hwa
Professor
Wee Kim Wee School of Information & Communications
Nanyang Technological University

Introduction

The Films Act (Cap 107) was enacted to regulate the “possession, importation, making, distribution and exhibition of films”. The Government now proposes to pass the Films (Amendment) Act, which is the subject of this representation. We have major concerns on the following fronts: Continue reading

The Limits of Prosecutorial Discretion

Attorney-General's Chambers, Singapore

The Attorney-General’s Chambers, Singapore. (By Sgconlaw, CC BY-SA 3.0, via the Wikimedia Commons.)

Marcus Teo
Fourth-year LLB student
Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore

IN A RECENT opinion piece published in The Straits Times,[1] Professor Walter Woon examined the role and functions of the Attorney-General (“AG”) and argued that the AG’s independence should be strengthened, among other ways, by separating the AG’s current function as a legal advisor to the government from his prosecutorial function. With respect to the latter, Professor Woon reminds us that decisions to prosecute or not involve a “judgment call”, and that “[t]here are many reasons why a decision may be taken not to prosecute.” However, such decisions have serious consequences for accused persons, victims of crimes, and the public. Continue reading

The Constitutional Status of the Proclamation of Singapore

Proclamation of Singapore

The Proclamation of Singapore, signed by Lee Kuan Yew on 9 August 1965. (From the National Archives of Singapore, archived in the Internet Archives.)

Dr Jack Tsen-Ta Lee
Assistant Professor of Law
School of Law, SMU

THIS MORNING at 9:00 am, a 2012 audio recording of the Proclamation of Singapore by the late former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew was broadcast on radio and television. It was on this day half a century ago that Singapore declared its independence from the Federation of Malaysia. Back then, the proclamation was read by a Radio Singapore announcer as Lee had “too many other things to do in quick succession”, including the famous noon press conference at which he teared up. Continue reading

Protecting Human Rights: The Approach of the Singapore Courts

Article 4 of the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (1985 Revised Edition, 1999 Reprint)

Article 4 of the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (1985 Revised Edition, 1999 Reprint). (Photograph by Smuconlaw [CC-BY-SA-4.0], via the Wikimedia Commons.) The Constitution is the supreme law of Singapore, but have the courts unnecessarily limited their role of upholding the Constitution?

Dr Jack Tsen-Ta Lee
Assistant Professor of Law
School of Law, SMU

THE SINGAPORE COURTS have been taking an approach that is very deferential to the political branches of the government – the executive and the legislature. This doesn’t mean that they are deliberately biased in favour of these branches, for example because they have been induced to do so. It means that there is a judicial attitude of giving the political branches much leeway, assuming that action taken by the executive or legislation passed by Parliament is constitutional unless such acts are completely absurd or arbitrary.

This extremely high standard stems from the courts’ view of their role in the constitutional system. I would like to suggest that this view means that the courts have limited their role of upholding the Constitution[1] unnecessarily. Continue reading

The Status of International Human Rights Conventions under Singapore Domestic Law

Jaclyn L Neo
Assistant Professor,
Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore

The High Court today struck out Wee Kim San Lawrence Bernard’s application for judicial review on the basis that the plaintiff had no locus standi. Mr. Wee had argued that the government’s failure to clarify the position that homosexual males are protected from discrimination under Article 12 of the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore is a violation of his constitutional rights. One of Mr. Wee’s arguments was that the Singapore government’s obligation to provide protections for homosexuals stems from its accession to both the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (“UNCRPD”) and the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (“CEDAW”).

Leaving aside the substantive question of whether the provisions under UNCRPD or CEDAW cover and assist claims for protection against sexual orientation discrimination, the case raises interesting legal question of the status of ratified treaties/conventions under Singapore law. Singapore is a dualist state. This means that ratified treaties/conventions are not part of domestic law until specifically incorporated. This contrasts with monist states, where treaties are self-executing/automatically incorporated; no additional legislative act is required. Continue reading