While many are getting excited over the by election at Punggol East and the announcement of PM Lee to review AIMgate, I'm wondering if Professor Tey Tsun Hang is paying the price for 'writing a book' or 'having sex with a student'? [Link
] and [Link
I thank the reader who highlighted this article [Link
] to me after reading my thoughts here
It makes good reading.
Sex charge an academic persecution of law professor?
COMMENT In 1993, Dr Chee Soon Juan was sacked by his employer the National University of Singapore for allegedly using research funds to send his wife’s doctoral thesis to the United States. Just a few months earlier, he became the first Singaporean academic to join an opposition party and contest in the general election.
In 1994, Dr Christopher Lingle, a foreigner, fled the island state after writing a commentary published in the International Herald Tribune. He was found guilty of contempt of court by a Singapore court, in his absence.
One would imagine Singapore academia would from then on be well ‘sanitised’ of any form of ‘foolhardy’ and ‘in-your-face’ dissent and direct challenge, at least until now.
Some time by the end of 2011, a book titled ‘Legal Consensus – Supreme Executive, Supine Jurisprudence, Suppliant Profession of Singapore
’ by NUS law professor Tey Tsun Hang, a Malaysian, suddenly popped up in Hong Kong. It was published by the Hong Kong University.
The book title itself is loaded with significance. Firstly, exclaiming ‘supreme executive’ is a direct and explicit, almost certainly a most foolhardy, way of attracting direct trouble to the author.
Secondly, calling the legal profession in Singapore ‘suppliant’ carries many emotions that only those in it will appreciate. More troublesome, of course, is that Prof Tey was part of the ‘executive’. He was a former subordinate judge before he became part of the National University of Singapore.
It was a shout in silence, but a very reckless one. For, very soon after that, he would get a full taste of the response. He got it wrong – the situation has not actually changed since the 1990s. There are still some lines that must not be crossed by the academia.
Scandalising the Singapore judiciary
For lay persons, the book is actually an interesting read because it is less legalistic than you would imagine from the title. It charts the evolution of politics in Singapore and political supremacy of the ruling party, PAP, with the orientation and perspective from the legal profession.
Chapter 1 lays the foundation by describing the political model based on ‘Asian’ values, as championed by Singapore’s first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew (father of the current Prime Minister):
“The mantra of ‘Asian’ values was adopted as a direct challenge to Western ethno-centric imposition of a rights-oriented ideology… The imposition of ‘Asian’ values was, in itself, a pragmatic response to achieve communitarian good.
“It served as a replacement for western liberal ideology, which is deemed by the PAP as a threat to its political dominance… importation of Asian values has been seen as artificial and selective; certain Confucianist values… were emphasised, while other values… were conveniently neglected. … to create a hegemonic state that is submissive to its aims…”
It then relates the many court cases of defamation, in particular political defamation, that have effectively silenced critics of the government from the large damages imposed that bankrupted them. It was a blow-by-blow account of how Singapore judges had been a party to such an achievement.
This is followed by the subject of scandalising the Singapore judiciary, where there has been significant prosecution of contempt of court over the decades. The legal thinking, often narrow and ignoring other competing interests in the society, of the judiciary is elaborated, with the case-law meticulously mined and examination of a jurisprudence assembled over decades.
The Singapore judiciary has in fact become diminished, or rather, has chosen to diminish its role, having “internalised the supreme political ideology, resulting in excessive deference to the executive determination of public interests, and the watering down of both criminal and civil-political rights”.
The final blow to the legal profession is how the Law Society, being the body vested with statutory powers, had its role and authority diminished over the decades. The book deals with this subject extensively in its final chapter, detailing the many confrontations occurred between the government and the Law Society in the 1980s.
After suffering the aftermaths of its key leaders incarcerated and changes to the legislation clipping its powers, the Law Society eventually has to compete with another body, the Singapore Academy of Law, fighting over their roles and functions, while having many overlapping powers. A cleverly crafted plan to divide the legal profession and an exercise of co-option, according to the author.
Malaysians should beware. Recently, a minister proposed such an alternative to the Bar Council.
Prof Tey ended his book with a Latin phrase, “aude sapere”, which literally means “have courage to use your own reason”. Courage, indeed, for what is happening to him now is making the book even more exciting. His book was published in late 2011 by the Hong Kong University, not by his own university.
Mini version of Sodomy II
The Chief Justice of Singapore, Chan Sek Keong, criticised his writing in February 2012. According to Singapore newspaper reports, by early April, 2012, he was arrested by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (the Singaporean equivalent of MACC) for investigation on charges of corruptly gaining favours from students.
After being rendered incommunicado overnight, he was admitted to a government hospital, apparently giving in to the torture he suffered and collapsing on the floor of the interrogation room. It was obvious that the authorities were acting fast in a typically efficient manner in response to the signal of the chief justice with tremendous seriousness.
The National University of Singapore frantically tried to salvage the situation, because it has the most to lose. The newly-minted Yale NUS College, a prized catch of the PAP regime, is still in early development and is already facing challenges from Yale professors. The case may be seen as a setback to academic freedom and the return of the old politics of the 1990s.
The National University of Singapore conducted its own review, absolving Prof Tey (right
) of any improper conduct, practically pleading the authorities to drop the case.
All went on in silence behind the scene, until late July 2012. At first, the English-language tabloid, New Paper, carried a report of the investigation without naming Prof Tey. The following day all newspapers came out with detailed reports and names.
On the third day, Prof Tey was promptly charged in court with corruptly obtaining sex and gifts in return for favourable grades to a female student. The Singapore newspapers went crazy for weeks, but it seems, not many have questioned why the leak to the media and the over-efficient manner in which Prof Tey was charged in court occurred.
Further embarrassing details have surfaced that other male and female students were also called in for investigation, on suspicion of committing similar corrupt offences. But the fact that they were wiped off the charge sheet indicates that the authorities were on a fishing expedition from April 2012.
His trial is scheduled to run from Jan 10 to 22.
For Malaysians who are familiar with Sodomy II, this is a mini version, whereby the defence has been repeatedly dealt with roadblocks and frustrations. The authorities refused to give him various key evidences, including the students’ grades, his hospital records and statements from important witnesses.
Interestingly, having researched himself how the PAP regime has been using the defamation and contempt of court as the tools to silence dissent, Prof Tey now has to face a new tool he has not covered in his book – what Singaporean newspaper call him “sex for grade professor”. It is an irony he had not considered such a possibility.
Perhaps Singaporeans should discover the book to help them connect the dots.
Most ironically, being a Malaysian, Prof Tey started the foreword of his book with a big “thank you” to Singapore, expressing his deep gratitude to Singapore as his home since 1997. Perhaps, it is the Singaporeans who should say “thank you” to Prof Tey, for having the courage to speak up and is now suffering the consequences.
Article first appeared on: http://www.freemalaysiakini2.com/?p=62232