Legal Consensus: Supreme Executive, Supine Jurisprudence, Suppliant Profession of Singapore
Author: Tsun Hang Tey
Singapore's schizophrenic jurisprudence is fascinating to many legal scholars. Its genius has been to present Singapore as one of the most sophisticated and open societies with its common law, all the while being careful to help keep its highly-controlled political and social system largely intact.
Tey puts forward a brilliant examination of a jurisprudence that has been assembled over decades. It builds on meticulously mined case-law, to illuminate issues ranging from the use of civil defamation proceedings to tackle political dissent, the use of death penalty and criminal due process, to arrive at some insights into the core political values enforced by the Singapore judiciary. It is a careful study of what goes into its decision-making and reasoning process. It throws a great deal of light on how the Singapore judiciary has bought into – wholesale - the political emphasis on the supreme importance of government in human affairs, and on the overriding priority of stability and status quo - a worldview that emphasises respect for hierarchical relationships, that privileges the collective over the individual, and regards voices different from the dominant political discourse as dangerous to Singapore’s social and political order.
With impressive zeal, Tey works through a massive amount of jurisprudence to expose its Legalistic thinking. But it also paints a disturbing picture, of a worldview that challenges the assumptions about the primacy of individual rights and the essential principles of constitutional reasoning that lie at the heart of democratic systems. The broader thesis seems to be that the Singapore Consensus could not have been constructed without its Legal Consensus, itself a result of the consistent complicity of the Singapore judiciary. This book hints at the power relations and dynamics between the political establishment and the Singapore judiciary.
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