Progress Singapore Party (PSP) held its first meeting for its legal team today, attended by its Secretary-General, Dr Tan Cheng Bock and Assistant Secretary-General, Mr Leong Mun Wai.
A photo of the gathering was shared by Khush Chopra, a non-practicing lawyer, on his Facebook page.
The legal team which is headed by Alex Tan Tiong Hee, PSP’s Central Executive Member, is said to be part of the party’s effort to build legal skills and capacity to help it navigate the headwinds from Singapore’s “progressive and innovative political regulatory regime”.
Khush who is part of the PSP legal team provides a background of the legal landscape in Singapore in his Facebook post.
“Following former solicitor general Francis Seow’s call in 1986 for a more active Bar that was, inter-alia, more involved in law making, the then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew introduced amendments to the Legal Profession Act that for all practical intents and purposes prevented the Law Society from taking a more active role in commenting on existing or proposed legislation unless its views were specifically sought by the Government.” wrote Khush.
He explains that these amendments have prevented the Law Society from proactively assisting the Government in all matters affecting legislation or otherwise examine and if it thinks fit to report upon current or proposed legislation unless the Government submits the same to the Law Society.
“However a political party like the Progress Singapore Party is not so constrained.”, he pointed out. Noting that the challenges are great for members of the bar who represent human rights activists, social media, or other politically connected parties.
Pervasive climate of fear with legal actions
Khush also mentions how the team is acutely aware of the use of law suits and legal action against social media and bloggers critical of the ruling party, People’s Action Party (PAP) and its policies and the chilling effect this has in an already pervasive climate of fear.
He argues that the ruling party has augmented its tactics of using defamation lawsuits to bankrupt political opponents and disqualify them from running for office with the latest fake news law, “Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act” which is why they have undertaken a programme to bring together lawyers with various skill sets to develop internal skill sets and capacity to maintain and uphold the rule of law with a view to addressing repressive actions.
“We are also currently working to bolster technical legal skills and provide the Party with assistance in developing effective strategies for questioning repressive laws.” wrote Khush.
The party is also constantly on the lookout for members with professional backgrounds. In Khush’s post, he makes an invitation for more lawyers and other professionals to come forward to join their team.