INTERNATIONAL BAR ASSOCIATION CONFERENCE
BY LEE SIEW HUA
ST PHOTO: SHAHRIYA YAHAYA
THE PANEL: Speakers at the symposium included (from left) NUS professor Simon Tay, Non-Constituency MP Sylvia Lim, ex-IBA president Francis Neate and Malaysian Bar Council president Ambiga Sreenevasan.
WORKERS’ Party chairman Sylvia Lim said Singapore is capable of dealing with rule of law issues on its own and does not need outside interference.
Ms Lim, a law lecturer, was a panellist at a Rule of Law Symposium that ended the week-long International Bar Association (IBA) conference.
She was making a point about checks on executive power when she observed that much as she desired political reforms, these have to be pushed within the boundaries of the law. The election outcome must be respected.
And while the IBA and other global conferences are useful for Singapore to measure itself against international benchmarks on issues like rule of law, no external help is needed, she indicated, saying:
“We Singaporeans are quite capable of deciding what kind of country we want…I don’t think we need anyone outside to canvass our agenda for us.”
She had prefaced her speech by saying she wished to “draw a balance” between the rule-of-law positions held by Deputy Prime Minister S. Jayakumar and Singapore Democratic Party politicians, who had questioned Singapore’s rule of law.
Like her, National University of Singapore law lecturer Simon Tay also touched on interference.
In his comments on the brightening prospects for the rule of law in South-east Asia, on the same panel, he said: “The international community has a very influential role.
“But I think for Singaporeans and the region, if that influence turns to interference, it will be resented and resisted, not only by the Government and the state, but also really by many of the people.”
International standards or the international community is often “a code word for the US or the West”, he said, adding: “It will take time for Asians and others to put up their own normative ideas of what we think of as content of law.”
Nigerian lawyer Funmi Oluyede said that while rights are universal, cultures and traditions are different. “The mistake the West makes is in foisting what works in their society on ours.”