About the Legal Service Commission changes

“Under the existing Constitution, the LSC comprises of the Chief Justice as President, the Attorney-General, the Chairman of the Public Service Commission, a High Court Judge nominated by the CJ and up to 2 members of the PSC.

Under Cl 8 of the Bill, the composition of the LSC is to be changed to include up to 2 nominees of the Prime Minister.

If the Bill is passed, the LSC still retains its role of deciding on dismissal and disciplinary action of legal officers. For officers above a certain threshold grade, the LSC will also make career decisions such as promotions and transfers.

Could the Minister clarify further the rationale for having a new category of LSC members who are the PM’s nominees?”

– Non-Constituency MP Sylvia Lim in Parliament, July 17, 2007. Read her whole speech here.

Sylvia Lim raised a very valid point. Will not the Attorney General, Chairman of the PSC and the two PSC nominees be enough to reflect the Government’s view on key decisions by the Legal Service Commission (LSC)? The Govt already has a de facto “majority” with them on the LSC. Why is there a need to pack the LSC with even more Government nominees?

Most Singaporeans have already made up their mind whether our courts are independent or not. Contrary to what Ms Lim says, this tweaking is not going to affect their perceptions much. But I hope it does not affect the way the Subordinate court judges (whose career progression is determined by the LSC) mete out their judgments, particularly for politically charged cases like defamation cases.

Author: Gerald Giam

Gerald Giam is the Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC. He is a member of the Workers' Party of Singapore. The opinions expressed on this page are his alone.

4 thoughts on “About the Legal Service Commission changes”

  1. We’re screwed if it gets through.

    It’s not whether our current PM will abuse his power, it’s whether present and future PM appointments will use it to their political advantage.

    Isn’t there a clear example in US, where the Bush Administration/Alberto Gonzales has made a mockery out of the judicial system?

  2. First, let me commend your blog, which I have been reading with great interest.

    This latest development is the culmination of the events of 1961, when the left wing of the PAP broke away. Devoid of mass support, the English-speaking moderates entered into an alliance with their hitherto estranged counterparts within the state bureaucracy and statutory boards.

    Certainly, the courts will rule impartially on economic matters. However, regarding political affairs, the judges will defend their corporate interests as members of the establishment.

    K.J.

  3. Well said, KJ. But what happened to “country above self”? Or does it all come down to how much one earns, and the opportunity cost of not toeing the line?

    thor – Good point. We need to think long term. Perhaps the PAP is doing that — to prevent any challenge to its authority, even from the judiciary and legal service.

  4. Regarding “country above self”, I suspect that many, if not most, members of our Establishment have confounded corporate group with country. In addition, I surmise that most reckon that their enlightened self-interests entail the survival of the group even at the expense of some of the members. Certainly, the concerns of the country are not necessarily synonymous with those of the corporate group, as indicated by instances such as the Philippines.

    K.J.

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