Strict response to ‘scurrilous’ attacks on S’pore judiciary

LAW Minister K Shanmugam was reported by Today on the 5 Jun 2008 to have said this:

“To make sure that you protect the integrity of the judiciary, and make sure that the people’s confidence in the judiciary is not affected, you have to be very, very strict about anyone who attacks the judiciary in scurrilous ways or calls into question its independence.” – K Shanmugam

So what Shanmugan is saying is that anyone who questions the independence of our judiciary can actually destroy its integrity and undermine people’s confidence in it. What kind of judiciary is it that doesn’t stand up to public scrutiny? What kind of judiciary is it that collapses in the eyes of the public the moment it is being questioned? If the judiciary has done no wrong, why does it fear probing and questioning?

Minister Shanmugam has also condemned attacks made on the judiciary as “totally unacceptable” and insists that it is the ‘duty’ of all Singaporeans to denounce such attacks.

In other words, what Shanmugam is saying is that we Singaporeans should never question the judiciary and should instead join hands to condemn anyone who does so. Isn’t he asking us to trust the judiciary blindly and to have faith that it will never go wrong?

Blind faith is a dangerous position we should never take. Many Germans in the second world war, blindly put their faith with Hitler and his party, never questioning his ideals and methods as long as he brought bread to the table. Look what blind faith brought to the Germans in the end.

Examples abound of flip flops in our judiciary that suggests that what it deems as right may turn out to be wrong after all. For two or three times, the judiciary decided that TT Durai had done no wrong and the parties accusing him were guilty instead. Finally when TT Durai went against the SPH, the tables were turned and TT Durai was finally found to be guilty.

Then there was the case of Jonathan Lock late last year. The courts initially decided that Mr Lock should pay NTUC something in the order of $120,000. If Mr Lock hadn’t had the courage to challenge the verdict, he would’ve become a silent victim of our ‘never erring’ judiciary.

So I disagree with Shanmugam that we should never question the judiciary. The fact that the judiciary can sometimes ‘err’ means that we should never take for granted that it will always be right. As such, I’m of the opinion that it is the duty of Shanmugam as law minister, to invite citizens to question the judiciary to minimise ‘wrongful’ judgements.

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