Aug 4, 2008
Why Law Society should not join political debate
IN HER column last Friday, 'Move politics beyond a spectator sport', Ms Chua Mui Hoong argues that in the game of politics, the Government should just be the groundsman who maintains the sports field, and allows others free access to play the game.
That is not how the government works in any country. In a democracy, when voters elect a political party to form the government, they are choosing the leadership team and its policies to take the country forward. Naturally, citizens are still free to participate in political debate, and to organise themselves into interest groups or parties to do so. But when views differ on important issues, the ultimate test of which should prevail has to be who can win the support of citizens for his point of view. This means political parties have to contest elections, put the issue to voters, and settle the matter through the ballot.
Ms Chua advocates empowering the Law Society to comment publicly on legislation, whether or not referred to it by the Government. Laws, however, are the tools to achieve social, political or economic objectives, and these objectives themselves are not the prerogative of lawyers, but should be decided in the political arena. Lawyers who want to join this debate, or promote their political views, are free to get together and form associations to push for these views, just like other citizens.
But to argue for the Law Society to join the political debate, as Ms Chua does, is to misunderstand its nature and role. The society is a statutory body created by Parliament for a specific purpose, namely to oversee the governance and discipline of the legal profession. There is no reason to give it a special status beyond this to play a political role, especially when no other professional body has such a right.
The council of the Law Society is elected by lawyers to oversee the profession. On political issues, the views of the Law Society, as expressed through its council, will not necessarily reflect the views of the profession as a whole. If the Law Society could participate in politics, we would in effect be licensing its council members to push their personal political agendas, using the resources, status and cover of the Law Society. This is in the interests of neither the legal profession nor Singapore.
Press Secretary to the Minister for Law
Ooooh... nothing like a little subtle reminder to make those lawyers tremble and know their places hahaha! And most Sg lawyers will not have the courage to speak the truth to PAP gahmen.