Magna Carta to be exhibited at Supreme Court Building in mid-November

From left to right; Dr Kevin YL Tan, British High Commissioner to Singapore H.E. Scott Wightman, Dr Jack Tsen-Ta Lee

The British High Commission has announced that it would be hosting the visit of Magna Carta, one of the most important documents from history from 19 to 23 November at a joint public exhibition at the Supreme Court Building. This exhibition is part of a tour of Magna Carta to seven countries between September to December 2015, to mark the 800th anniversary of the famous documents.

Singapore is one of only nine cities playing host ot Magna Carta as it tours the globe; the other stops are in New York, Luxembourg, Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Malta and Lisbon. Singapore has been chosen to mark SG50 and because of Singapore’s status as a legal hub.

To ensure its safety and security during this extensive tour, British Airways is conveying this national treasure in its First Class flight and airport facilities. UK law firm Clifford Chance and its local partner Cavenagh Law LPP are the sponsors of the exhibition in Singapore.

Hereford cathedral’s copy of Magna Carta is just one of four copies from 1217 still in existence. It will be accompanied in Singapore by the only surviving copy of the 1215 King’s Writ, a letter from King John to local authorities announcing the issuing of Magna Carta.

The media was treated to a quick glimpse of the replicas of Magna Carta, one of the most famous and important documents in history at Eden Hall, the Residence of the British High Commissioner on Wednesday morning. (The actual documents would be displayed under high security at Supreme Court.)

Replicas of the 1215 British Library Magna Carta and 1217 Hereford Cathedral Magna Carta, plus a replica of the 1215 King’s Writ. that ordered officials to comply with the Magna Carta.

British High Commissioner to Singapore H.E. Scott Wightman says, “I am delighted that Magna Carta is coming to Singapore; a visit that reflects the deep friendship that Singapore and the United Kingdom enjoy. In Singapore’s Jubilee Year, it’s another UK contribution to the celebrations of our biding ties that started with the successful State Visit of President Tony Tan to the UK in October last year, continued with Prime Minister David Cameron’s visit to Singapore in July, and then saw HRH the Duke of York and Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond participate in the National Day Celebrations in August. Magna Carta was sealed in the United Kingdom, but its significance is truly global, and its heritage shared by both the UK and Singapore.”

Dr Kevin YL Tan, Adjunct Professor NUS Faculty of Law, who is also one of the exhibition’s curator said in the press briefing on Wednesday, “…really if one looks into the real history and context of the Magna Carta, it is remarkable in the sense that if you read its terms, it should never have survived 800 years, the document could have survived but the ideas and the rules.”

Dr Jack Tsen-Ta Lee, Assistant Professor of Law at Singapore Management University speaking on the significance of Magna Carta to Singapore, said “Magna Carta actually directly applied to Singapore as a statue together with other ancient British statues which has constitutional significance such as the bill of rights in 1688, the Habeas Corpus act (1679) and so on. This was brought into force by the 1826, second charter of justice which actually set up the court system in the Straits settlement of which Singapore was a part and also made English law applicable to Singapore.”

He added, “Despite the fact that Magna Carta since 1993 no longer directly applies as a statue to Singapore, clearly its significance is on going. And I think it is on going in three ways, it is made very clear in our court in Singapore, no less than the court of appeal that certain provisions in the constitution can trace their ancestry back to Magna Carta, in particular, article 9 of the constitution which protects the right of liberty and article 12 of the constitution which protects the right to equality.”

Magna Carta – Foundation of Democracy

Magna Carta was a peace treaty between King John of England, and the rebel barons after the barons had the king surrounded in London on 17 May 1215 due to. While the peace treaty eventually ended up in failure, but it provided a new framework for the relationship between the King and his subjects.

Although most of the clauses of Magna Carta have now been repealed, the many divergent uses that have been made of it since the Middle Ages have shaped its meaning in the modern era, and it has become a potent, international rallying cry against the arbitrary use of power.

Three of those clauses in the document that remain part of English law. One defends the liberties and rights of the English Church, another confirms the liberties and customs of London and other towns, but the third, 39th clause is the most famous:

No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land.
To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.

This clause gave all free men the right to justice and a fair trial although this clause did little for most people who were bounded by their service to their landlords.

Some of Magna Carta’s core principles are echoed in the United States Bill of Rights (1791) and in many other constitutional documents around the world, as well as in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and the European Convention on Human Rights (1950).

During its visit to Singapore, the Magna Carta will be on display to the public for free at the Supreme Court building at an exhibition entitled ‘800 Years of Magna Carta’, at the same time the Supreme Court will also host its own complementary exhibition which would showcase documents from Singapore that are rarely shown to the public.