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Let’s not rest on our laurels when it comes to rule of law

As the Attorney-General’s Chambers celebrates its 150th anniversary, the message about being grounded in the rule of law rings clearly in the report, “Rule of law a game-changer for S’pore: PM” (April 1).

Edwin Teong Ying Keat

As the Attorney-General’s Chambers celebrates its 150th anniversary, the message about being grounded in the rule of law rings clearly in the report, “Rule of law a game-changer for S’pore: PM” (April 1).

Conscientious effort goes into revising statutes insofar as precedent cases are concerned and with regard to ensuring an equitable society.

For instance, the need for increased privacy led to the Personal Data Protection Act in 2012, which included legitimising the credibility of initiatives like the Do Not Call Registry.

It follows that we should credit our legal pioneers for their contributions that engendered the judicial system we have today.

Upholding the rule of law can potentially be more difficult going forward, however, when voices from other judiciaries filter in and come into conflict with existing judgments.

Take, for example, the judgment passed in the United States granting Amos Yee asylum on the basis that he was prosecuted on the pretext of silencing his political opinions (Blogger Amos Yee granted asylum in the US; March 25, online).

While it is not my prerogative to comment on the judgment’s validity, it is vital to note that with relevance to the rule of law, such comments are a deviation from our rulings, creating a risk of conflict between societies.

It requires fortitude to hold steadfast to the judgments of one’s judiciary, which constitute a stabilising factor in upholding the rule of law.

Another facet of enshrining the rule of law is to ensure the accessibility of law.

To quote Britain’s former senior law lord Tom Bingham, in his book The Rule of Law, this entails the law being “accessible and so far as possible intelligible, clear and predictable”.

A constant review of laws is therefore required such that they can be understood by the common man.

In terms of applicability, however, legal representation is still needed, which pro bono initiatives such as the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme do well to supplement.

But perhaps more governmental pro-bono organisations can be established to tap the apparent glut of lawyers and, simultaneously, allow them to cater for the masses in line with the ethos of legal practitioners — to embody compassion while giving it.

To conclude, while we laud ourselves for our commitment to the rule of law, central to the success of any society is to remain grounded and strive for improvement.

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