Sunday, July 29, 2012

Legal scholar critical of Singapore politics and law charged with corruption

Public Prosecutor v. Tey Tsun Hang: AGC denies link to Professor’s politically charged academic publications

Published by The Online Citizen on July 28, 2012 (source)

Tey Tsun Hang


Tey Tsun Hang
Tey Tsun Hang



The Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) has denied any link between the politically charged academic publications of NUS Law Faculty’s Associate Professor Tey Tsun Hang and the prosecution against him for corruption for allegedly sleeping with law student Darinne Ko in return for improving her grades.

In response to media queries, the AGC said in an emailed statement:

“There is no link between these charges and Mr. Tey’s academic publications and writing,”.

Speculation started after Prof Tey said in a statement to the press:

“I am known to speak up, amongst other things on the Singapore legal system”. He further went on to state that his writings are in good faith with no ill intent and his defense will be in a similar vein.

Despite being mainly an academic specializing in equity and trusts, Prof Tey has also been known to publish articles containing critiques of the Singapore political system.

Recently (on Apr 2, 2012), a blog, The Singapore Consensus, has been started that has republished some of Professor Tey’s more politically charged articles.

Prof Tey obtained first class honours from Oxford University (ed. should be King's College, London) and practised law in Malaysia before being hired by then Dean of the Faculty of Law Professor Chin Tet Yung to teach at NUS Law faculty.

Subsequently, Prof Tey left academia to enter the legal service in the Supreme Court as a Justice Law Clerk during the tenure of the then Chief Justice Yong Pung How.

Prof Tey subsequently left to practice in the top litigation firm in Singapore, attaining the rank of Associate Director.

Prof Tey then went on to become a District Judge, after which he returned to academia at NUS Law Faculty.

The recently started blog, entitled “Singapore Consensus”, collates the writings of Prof Tey, a Malaysian citizen, that are directly critical of the Singaporean legal system.

In a 2010 article entitled “Judicial Internalising of Singapore’s Supreme Political Ideology” published in the Hong Kong Law Journal, Tey argued that “Right from the beginning of Singapore’s nationhood, an obvious and unbridgeable disconnect appeared – between its leadership’s political ideology and the aspirations on human rights and constitutionalism of its legal community.

In another article published in 2010 in the Hong Kong Law Journal entitled “Criminalising Critique of the Singapore Judiciary”, Tey argued:

“The ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) of Singapore legitimises its authoritarian political regime – and insulates it from substantive scrutiny – via a three-pronged strategy: first, through its tightly controlled media and communications channels; secondly, by delivering an admirable economic performance and, creating and maintaining an awe-inspiring standard of living; and thirdly – and most importantly – through its legal institutions. However, there are profound logical flaws and stark absences of consistency in the judgments that help secure this legal state of affairs”.

The other articles Professor Tey has written in a similar vein are likewise equally critical of the Singaporean political and judicial system.

One of his articles is titled “Death Penalty Singapore-Style: Clinical and Carefree”.

In this article, Prof Tey argues that “Singapore has developed a jurisprudence that death penalty and capital proceedings are no different from other minor criminal proceedings. Instead of scrutinising criminal legislation on their substantive fairness, the courts have instead consistently restricted their adjudicative function to one of procedural assessment. In so doing, formalistic and textualist techniques are employed to achieve crime control ends at considerable expense of due process”.

In another article dealing more directly with the political system in Singapore titled “Singapore’s electoral system: government by the people?”, Prof Tey critiques the Singapore deviation from the Westminster political model as follows:

“In its post-independence constitutional development, the dominant People’s Action Party political leadership had made a series of constitutional amendments to its original electoral system, introducing innovative schemes such as Group Representation Constituencies, Non-Constituency Members of Parliament, Nominated Members of Parliament and the Elected Presidency.

These changes have resulted in an electoral system that is so different and divergent from the Westminster model that it should be regarded a unique regime of its own. This paper advances the view that the constitutional evolution of its electoral system is reflective of a political vision structured along elitist lines – underscored by a desire to restructure the voting behaviour of its citizens, and ensure predictability and the preservation of the status quo. It has been driven by paternalistic assumptions about what is beneficial for its citizens.”

In light of questions Yale University faculty have raised about academic freedom in Singapore, the AGC’s next steps to ensure that the case of Public Prosecutor v Tey Tsun Hang is not perceived as political persecution will probably be almost as important as securing a conviction against Prof Tey.

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NUS law professor faces corruption charges

Yahoo!News, July 25, 2012 (source)

National University of Singapore associate law professor currently being investigated in a sex-for-grades scandal has been identified as former district judge Tey Tsun Hang.

According to a The New Paper (TNP) exclusive on Wednesday, the equity professor was arrested in April and is now out on bail.

The Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau has him under probe for allegedly having sex with a 23-year-old law student – who has since graduated – in exchange for better grades for an elective course she was enrolled in last year.

It is understood that the student made the first move in approaching the professor and the pair allegedly had sex on more than one occasion.

The student was not arrested, although her statements were taken. According to TNP, the student is currently a pupil at a local law firm.

Other local media reported that she had told some of her friends about her deal with Tey, believing it had blown over.

From government service to academia

Before starting work at NUS Law, Tey was a district judge with Singapore's Subordinate Courts, and had even spent time as a state counsel at the legislation division of the Attorney-General's Chambers.

He did his postgraduate civil law degree at Oxford University, as well as his undergraduate law baccalaureate at King's College London, and had been practicing for a number of years at a top firm here.

Current students at NUS Faculty of Law described Tey as “charismatic”, “nice” and “eccentric”.

One of his former students told Yahoo! Singapore that he had a "peculiar habit of walking around the lecture hall and interacting with individual students" on topics that were not at all related to equity, a second-year course he taught.

She added that he was "somewhat odd" at times, although acknowledging that some of her classmates did find his lectures entertaining.

An upper-level law student, who declined to be named, similarly described Tey as one who “likes to make jokes in lecture and has a quirky sense of humour.”

“He does seem a little eccentric, but you can tell he is a very intelligent person," he said. "He’s nice enough, though, and is always willing to entertain students’ questions after lectures."

A fourth-year NUS law student, who declined to be named, agreed and said that Tey “was very approachable for consultations … [and] has his quirks but generally, he’s a really really nice person”, and added that most of her friends were in agreement with her.

She also commented that competition in the law faculty is strong as “everybody wants to get a second upper [degree] so they can go to bigger and better firms”. The law fraternity here recognises its "Big Four" firms as Allen & Gledhill, WongPartnership, Drew & Napier and Rajah & Tann.

The 22-year-old also speculated that the undergraduate in question had probably agreed to have sex with her professor after yielding to the pressure of getting into an established law firm.

What are the charges?

According to Shashi Nathan, director of Inca Law, the undergraduate’s act could be seen as gratification – which is a corruption act to show favour or reward. “[Corruption] doesn’t always have to be an exchange of money; providing sexual service is also a form of gratification,” he said.

However, Nathan noted that the case may not be as straightforward as it seems, as the intention to act corruptly may not be enough to prove corruption in the eyes of the law.

There are two terms to fulfill in order to prove corruption – (1) a corrupt element must be present in the transaction itself and (2) the person under investigation must intend to act in a corrupt manner, he said.

The criminal lawyer also said that since there is an “element of trust in him (the professor) and the institution, he may face a higher sentence” although that depends on the number of charges he is slapped with.

When contacted, a NUS spokesperson said that the university is aware that there is an ongoing investigation regarding an NUS staff member.

“In this case, we have not started our own inquiries, pending the results of the investigations initiated by the authorities, which are ongoing. But we will continue to co-operate fully with the authorities in the meantime,” said the spokesperson.

“When addressing questions of wrongdoing, NUS has a Code of Conduct to which its staff must adhere. Possible consequences of violating the Code of Conduct range from a warning to dismissal.”

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Yahoo!News, July 27, 2012 (source)

National University of Singapore associate law professor Tey Tsun Hang was charged Friday (July 27, 2012) morning with six counts of corruption in a sex-for-grades scandal.

In two of the charges, Tey, 41, a former district judge, was accused of having corruptly obtained sexual gratification from a Darinne Ko Wen Hui in July 2010, when she had been a student at NUS, as inducement for showing favour in assessing her academic performance, court documents showed.
In the other charges, Tey allegedly obtained from Ko from May to July that same year a Mont Blanc pen worth S$740, two tailor-made shirts valued at S$236.20, an iPod Touch worth S$160 and payment of a bill amounting to S$1,278.60.

Later in the afternoon, Tey asked for permission to leave the country on 30 August for one academic year starting from September to teach at Hong Kong University's faculty of law.

The district judge that heard Tey's application, however, called it “premature” and fixed a date for further mention to 23 August, the same date as the pre-trial conference for the charges against Tey.
According to Tey’s lawyer Peter Low, who spoke to reporters after the afternoon court session, Tey has already “committed to the (Hong Kong University’s law) faculty and students”.
In the morning, after his court appearance, Tey spoke to reporters and noted the seriousness of the charges and allegations against him.

"At stake is my liberty, integrity and livelihood. My reputation has been tarnished and my family suffers a as result," he said.

"I am known to speak up, amongst other things, on the Singapore legal system. I write in good faith, and with no ill intent. In similar vein, I shall fearlessly defend myself against the charges, and vigorously.

"I have no illusion about the arduous journey ahead of me.

"I pray for a worthy trial -- a trial that allows the truth to come to light, a trial that allows me to vindicate myself," he said.

Tey appeared at the Subordinate Courts close to 930am Friday with a walking stick and accompanied by a team of lawyers.

The pre-trial conference has been set for 23 August. His passport has been impounded.

It was disclosed in court on Friday that Tey had been taken in for questioning by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau on Thursday morning and released only after midnight.
On Friday, an NUS spokesperson said that the university has started an investigation into the case and suspended Tey from active duty.

"The University takes a very serious view of breaches of its regulations. NUS has a Code of Conduct to which its staff must adhere. In the event of breaches, appropriate action will be taken including dismissal for serious violations of the Code of Conduct," the spokesperson said.

It is understood that the Ko made the first move in approaching the professor, who is married with a daughter.

Ko, who has since graduated from NUS, was not arrested, although her statements were taken. According to The New Paper, which broke the story, Ko is currently a pupil at a local law firm.

Other local media reported that she had told some of her friends about her deal with Tey, believing it had blown over.

Before starting work at NUS Law, Tey was a district judge with Singapore's Subordinate Courts, and had even spent time as a state counsel at the legislation division of the Attorney-General's Chambers.

He did his postgraduate civil law degree at Oxford University, as well as his undergraduate law baccalaureate at King's College London, and had been practicing for a number of years at a top firm here.

Current students at NUS Faculty of Law described Tey as “charismatic”, “nice” and “eccentric”.

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Tey Tsun Hang (source)

Designation

Associate Professor
Qualifications

BCL (Oxford), LL.B (KCL), AKC, Advocate & Solicitor (Singapore), Advocate & Solicitor (Malaya), Barrister (Gray's Inn)
Appointment(s)

Director, Centre for Commercial Law Studies


Research Interests

Trusts
International Trusts
Regulation of Wealth Industry
Subjects Taught

Equity & Trusts
International & Comparative Trusts
Personal Property
International & Comparative Insolvency
Financial Regulation & Reform
Brief Biodata

T H Tey directs the Centre for Commercial Law Studies and edits the Asian Journal of Comparative Law.
Representative Publications

Books (2010)


1. Trusts and Asset Protection

2. Trusts and Forced Heirship

3. Trusts and Shared Property

4. Trusts Credit Security and Trading

5. Trusts Trustees and Equitable Remedies - Text and Materials


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The Singapore Consensus (source)



Singapore’s jurisprudence of political defamation and its triple-whammy impact on political speech


Public Law, Autumn 2008, 452-462

by Assoc. Prof. TEY Tsun Hang


ABSTRACT

Singapore’s governing People’s Action Party (PAP) leadership has always been sensitive towards political criticism. Singapore has a highly sophisticated legal framework that imposes close and strict regulation on the local press and media system. The foreign media is also subject to considerable political control. Informal “out-of-bounds (OB) markers” had been mentioned and reported in the local press, in an attempt to give some clarity to the boundary of what the Singapore political leadership considered to be legitimate political criticism.

There have been consistent criticisms that the frequent use of defamation actions by the Singapore political leadership against opposition leaders and newspapers has the effect of silencing political dissent from within or without. It has been argued that this trend of political defamation actions is a violation of the fundamental constitutional right to freely hold and peacefully express one’s political opinions, and that it amounts to severe restrictions on freedom of expression that cannot be justified under international standards, seriously compromising the fundamental right to make political expression freely in public without fear of reprisal.

[ FULL TEXT PDF (1.3MB) ]

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Criminalising Critique of the Singapore Judiciary


Hong Kong Law Journal Vol 40, Part 3 (2010) , 751-785

by Assoc. Prof. TEY Tsun Hang

ABSTRACT

Despite its small size, Singapore occupies a position of special significance in the debate on the relationship between economic development and political, social and legal institutions. The ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) of Singapore legitimises its authoritarian political regime – and insulates it from substantive scrutiny – via a three-pronged strategy: first, through its tightly controlled media and communication channels; secondly, by delivering an admirable economic performance and, creating and maintaining an awe-inspiring standard of living; and thirdly – and most importantly – through its legal institutions. However, there are profound logical flaws and stark absences of consistency in the judgments that help secure this legal state of affairs. This article confines its analysis to the criminal offence of scandalising the judiciary, in the context of critical reporting of the judgments in political defamation cases in Singapore.

[ FULL TEXT PDF (4.2MB) ]

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Singapore’s electoral system: government by the people?


Legal Studies, Vol 28, No 4, Dec 2008, pp 610-628. Blackwell Publishing

by Assoc. Prof. TEY Tsun Hang

ABSTRACT

Singapore’s Westminster parliamentary system of government was adopted as a historical result of it being a British colony. In its post-independence constitutional development, the dominant People’s Action Party political leadership had made a series of constitutional amendments to its original electoral system, introducing innovative schemes such as Group Representation Constituencies, Non-Constituency Members of Parliament, Nominated Members of Parliament and the Elected Presidency. These changes have resulted in an electoral system that is so different and divergent from the Westminster model that it should be regarded a unique regime of its own. This paper advances the view that the constitutional evolution of its electoral system is reflective of a political vision structured along elitist lines – underscored by a desire to restructure the voting behaviour of its citizens, and ensure predictability and the preservation of the status quo. It has been driven by paternalistic assumptions about what is beneficial for its citizens. This paper examines the subsequent implementation of the schemes, before reflecting on how it is a system that has the potential to affect adversely the development of political participation and political pluralism, and dilute democratic politics in Singapore.

[ FULL TEXT PDF (3.2MB) ]

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Judicial Internalising of Singapore’s Supreme Political Ideology


Hong Kong Law Journal Vol 40, Part 2 (2010) , 293-336

by Assoc. Prof. TEY Tsun Hang

ABSTRACT

Right from the beginning of Singapore’s nationhood, an obvious and unbridgeable disconnect appeared – between its leadership’s political ideology and the aspirations on human rights and constitutionalism of its legal community. Singapore’s political leadership has spent much energy articulating a “pragmatic” ideology on political governance – placing primacy on economic progress, good governance and nation-building and emphasising a “communitarian” approach to human rights instead of individual rights. The political leadership’s conception of the rule of law smacks of a “thin” one. The government religiously adheres to legal formalities,rather than substantive theories of political morality, to legitimise its actions, if primarily for the instrumental role of rule of law in economic prosperity. This article examines the government’s response to the seminal Court of Appeal case of Chng Suan Tze v Minister of Home Affairs, where the government’s immediate and hard-hitting constitutional and legislative amendments – overruling the court’s decision on a preventive detention case – clearly demonstrated its intent to ensure that the Singapore judiciary accept its limited role and that the judiciary accept a concept of the rule of law which should not be substantially different from that understood and accepted by the political leadership. This article examines in detail how the Singapore judiciary’s acceptance of the government’s “thin” conception of the rule of law has a direct bearing on the approach taken towards constitutional adjudication in Singapore.

[ FULL TEXT PDF (6.8MB) ]

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Confining the Freedom of the Press in Singapore: A “Pragmatic” Press for “Nation-Building”?


Human Rights Quarterly 30(2008) 876-905

by Assoc. Prof. TEY Tsun Hang

ABSTRACT

Singapore’s political leadership has molded a sophisticated press control regime that befits its “pragmatic” political ideology on the primacy of executive leadership and limited freedom of expression. This article – setting Singapore’s constitutional and legal framework and political system as a backdrop – delves into the legal structure that has been constructed, fine-tuned, and consolidated over decades of legislative amendments to explore its essential features and strictures. This article advances the view that the legal framework is reinforced with a non-legal combination of an ideological construct of a hegemonic culture and consensus politics through strategic political co-optation. The court litigation that was resorted to for vindication also seems to have produced a reinforcing effect. The article also reflects on how the unique press control regime has turned Singapore’s de-constructed Fourth Estate into an established political institution.


[ FULL TEXT PDF (6.1MB) ]

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Death Penalty Singapore-Style: Clinical and Carefree


Common Law World Review 39(2010) 315-357

by Assoc. Prof. TEY Tsun Hang

ABSTRACT

Singapore has developed a jurisprudence that death penalty and capital proceedings are no different from other minor criminal proceedings. Instead of scrutinising criminal legislation on their substantive fairness, the courts have instead consistently restricted their adjudicative function to one of procedural assessment. In so doing, formalistic and textualist techniques are employed to achieve crime control ends at considerable expense of due process. This paper seeks to discuss the jurisprudence that has been moulded, and examines how much it has deviated from other Commonwealth jurisprudence.


[ FULL TEXT PDF (5.1MB) ]

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Excluding Religion from Politics and Enforcing Religious Harmony – Singapore-style


Singapore Journal of Legal Studies (2008) 118-142

by Assoc. Prof. TEY Tsun Hang

ABSTRACT

The Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act is a unique feature in the legal landscape of Singapore. The statute – an important part of the Singapore government’s large and extensive arsenal of legal instruments to regulate inter-ethnic-religious relations in the country – gives the executive untrammelled discretion to curb political expression and political activity in the interests of maintaining religious harmony. Placed against the backdrop of its political developments, this article explores the political motives for the introduction of the statute, examines the exact nature of its structure and scope, and compares it against other legal instruments that perform similar political control. A particular focus is upon how the statute underscores the thinking behind Singapore-style state paternalism, and reflects its political leadership’s deep distrust of the electorate, and instinct to restructure voting behaviour and party politics. This article also reflects on the adverse effect of such enforced stricture on otherwise legitimate political activities by religion-linked organisations in Singapore.


[ FULL TEXT PDF (4.5MB) ]


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1 comment:

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