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, a blog has been started that has republished some of Professor Tey’s more politically charged articles.
Prof Tey obtained first class honours from Oxford University 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 PP v Tey Tsun Hang is not perceived as political persecution will probably be almost as important as securing a conviction against Prof Tey.