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Legal History of Singapore

By bearjean Dec 06, 2008 2350 Words
The legal system of Singapore

Contants

Introduction
Legal history
Common law and custom law
Constitution
Legislature
Judiciary
Specialities in Singapore legal system
Self comments
Conclusion

*Note: I check the official webside, there is only Singapore legal system instead of Singapore's legal system, so in my whole passage I use the word Singapore legal system.

Introduction
Singapore, a thriving city-state, overcomes the dearth of natural resources to become one of the juggernaut economies of Asia. When we look into its path to a developed country, we can easily recognized the importance its legal system has on it. As the development of any other counties, the legal system of Singapore inevitably underwent tension as the world situation changed so rapidly, however, the swiftly and deftly Singapore responded in creating new laws and institutions or adapting existing ones has achieved an immense effect. Legal history

Early 19th century, under the rule of the Sultan of Johor, with a community of fishermen numbering no more than 200, Singapore formed the basis of a rudimentary legal system, which is the mixture of Malay customary and adat laws (localised traditional laws and customs in Indonesia and Malaysia). Singapore was founded by Sir Thomas Raffles of the British East India Company in 1819 which marked the starting point of its modern legal system. In 1826, an English Act of Parliament was passed to enable the Crown to make provision for the administration of justice in Singapore and Malacca as well as empowered the Directors of the British East India Company to declare Singapore and Malacca to be annexed to Penang and to be part of that settlement. It was at the year 1858, the British East India Company was abolished and the Straits Settlements came under the new India Government, Singapore was made the administrative center and this complexion remains until 1867. By an order in Council made under the Government of the Straits Settlements Act in 1867, the Straits Settlements were transferred to the Colonial Office in London and became a Crown Colony. From 1942 to 1945, Singapore was occupied by the Japanese which meant that Singapore would be administered and justice dispensed, according to the rules and regulations of the Japanese. The British resumed control of Singapore after the Japanese surrendered in 1945. May 1959, marked the culmination of the road to self-government and the beginning of the arduous road to independence via merger with Malaysia. In 1963, together with Sarawak, North Borneo and the existing states of the Federation of Malaya, they formed Malaysia. However, Singapore's membership in Malaysia was so short that social unrest and disputes between Singapore's ruling People's Action Party and Malaysia's Alliance Party resulted in Singapore's expulsion from Malaysia. 9 August 1965 was the day Singapore became an independent republic. Yusof bin Ishak was appointed as the Republic's first President on 22 December 1965, while the first prime minster of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew was elected in 1959, the same year as Singapore achieve its self-government. The Singapore Parliament completed the constitutional and legal procedures and formalities to accord with Singapore's independent status on 22 December 1965, including rectifying the anomaly of the Singapore High Court being part of the Malaysian judiciary. The drive to create an autochthonous legal system gained increased momentum in the late 1980s and accelerated with the appointment of Yong Pung How as Chief Justice in September 1990. This coincided with the period of intensive constitutional remaking to develop an autochthonous government and parliamentary system of Singapore. The landmark Practice Statement on Judicial Precedent, announced in 11 July 1994, declared that the Privy Council, Singapore's predecessor courts, as well as the Court of Appeal's prior decisions no longer bound the permanent Court of Appeal. Through a long arduous period, Singapore has founded a comparative integrity legal system. Common law and custom law

Singapore has inherited the English common law tradition as some of her neighbors (India, Malaysia and Myanmar) and thus enjoys the attendant benefits of stability, certainty and internationalization in British legal system. The common law system of Singapore can be characterized as doctrine of judicial precedence or stare decisis. According to this doctrine, the body of law is created incrementally by judges through the application of legal principles to the facts of particular cases. In this regard, the judges are only required to apply the ratio decidendi (or the operative reason for the decision) of the higher court within the same hierarchy. The English common law shows greater impact on the certain traditional common law area (such as Contract,Tort and Restitution) of the development of Singapore law, with respect to the other statute-based area (such as Crminal Law, Company Law and the Law of Evidence), other jurisdictions such as India and Australia shows stronger influence on approach and content of these statute. However, the erstwhile tendency of Singapore courts to adhere to English decisions has recently given way to significant departures from the English courts (even in the traditional common law areas). There is a greater recognition of local jurisprudence in the development of the common law in Singapore. Historically, Equity (or the body of principles of fairness or justice) used to be employed by the courts to ameliorate the defects or weaknesses inherent in a rigid common law system in England. Muslim law was administered by Syarial Court in governing the specific personal legal matters, marriages, divorces, the nullity of marriages and judicial separations under the Administration of Muslim Law Act (AMLA) in respect of Muslims or parties married under Muslim law (though the High Court has concurrent jurisdiction with the Syariah Court on specific matters relating to maintenance, custody and division of property). Significantly, with respect to issues of inheritance and succession, the AMLA expressly accepts particular Islamic texts as proof of Muslim law. Constitution

The Constitution is the supreme law of Singapore, any legislation that contrary to the Constitution shall be void. The provisions of the Constitution cannot be amended without the support of two-thirds of the total number of the elected Members of Parliamen, while in respect of specific constitutional amendments seeking to amend the discretionary powers of the Elected President and the provisions on fundamental liberties, however, at least two-thirds of the total number of votes cast by the electorate in a national referendum is also required. The constitution emphasize on certain fundamental rights, these individual rights are not absolute but qualified by public interests such as the maintenance of public order, morality and national security. The special position of Malays, as the indigenous people of Singapore is constitutionally mandated, besides the general protection of racial and religious minorities. Express provisions delineating the powers and functions of the various organs of state, including the Legislature (Section 5), the Executive (Section 6) and the Judiciary (Section 7) are also contents of the constitution. Legislature

The main function of the Singapore Parliament is the enactment of laws governing the State. The law-making process usually begins with a Bill drafted by the Government legal office, during the parliamentary debates on important Bills, the Ministers sometimes make impassioned speeches to defend the Bill and answer pointed queries raised by the backenchers. Under some circumstance, the Members of Parliament (MPs) may decide to refer the Bill to a Select Committee to deliberate upon and submit a report to the Parliament. If the report is favourable or the proposed amendments to the Bill are approved by Parliament, the Bill is adopted by the Parliament and passed The Presidential Council for Minority Rights (PCMR) established under the Singapore Constitution is tasked, except for certain exempted bills, to scrutinize Bills for any measures which may be disadvantageous to persons of any racial and religious communities without being equally advantageous to other such communities, either by directly prejudicing persons of the community or indirectly giving advantage to another community. In terms of composition, both elected and non-elected Members of Parliament (MPs) constitute the Singapore Parliament, while the non-elected MPs do not enjoy voting rights on constitutional amendments, money bills and votes of no-confidence in the Government. Judiciary

Singapore has won a strong international reputation because of her great efficiency and strength of its judiciary. Strict case management and Alternative Dispute Resolution methods have reduced drastically the backlog of cases which bothered the Subordinate Courts as well as Supreme Court in the 1980s. Chan Sek Keong was appointed as the Chief Justice in 11 April 2006, and he focused on the implementing initiative to enhance assess of justice and the development of substantive jurisprudence in Singapore. The judge is the arbiter of both law and fact in Singapore, the jury system had been entirely abolished in 1970, while judicial power is vested in both the Supreme Court and the Subordinate Courts. The highest court of the land is the permanent Court of Appeal which hears both civil and criminal appeals emanating from the High Court and the Subordinate Courts. A special Constitutional Tribunal was established, within the Supreme Court, to hear questions referred to by the Elected President on the effect of constitutional provisions. The High Court Judges enjoy security of tenure while the Judicial Commissioners are appointed on a short-term contract basis. Both, however, take the same judicial powers and immunities. Their judicial powers consist of both original and appellate jurisdiction over both civil and criminal matters. The Subordinate Courts (consisting of the District Courts, Magistrates' Courts, Juvenile Courts, Coroners Courts as well as the Small Claims Tribunals) have also been set up within the Singapore judicial hierarchy to administer justice amongst the people. The District Courts and the Magistrates' Courts share the same power over specific matters such as in contractual or tortious claims for a debt, demand or damage and in actions for the recovery of monies. However, the jurisdictional monetary limits in civil matters for the Magistrates' Courts and District Courts are $60,000 and $250,000 respectively. These two courts also differ in terms of criminal sentencing powers. Imprisonment terms imposed by the Magistrates' Courts are limited to two years as for the District Courts, seven years. The Small Claims Tribunals, on the other hand, afford a speedier, less costly and more informal process for the disposition of small claims with a monetary limit of only $20,000 Apart from the above courts, there are still a kind of court called Family Court which engaged in divorces, maintenance, custody and adoptions. Specialities in Singapore legal system

Among all the countries in the world, Singapore's legal system has its own peculiarities, One in my point of view is flogging as a punishment, the other is the relationship between prime minister and president. The flogging is the embodiment of the strictness of Singapore's penalty, it is a king of corporal punishment. The convicted criminal is normally tied to a post with bared buttocks in such a way that he must stand on tip-toe, because the position is thought to permit less movement to help absorb the searing pain. The administrator of the punishment usually holds the ratan with both hands, and takes a run up before using the cane with all his strength. After the flog, medical officer will inspect and decide whether the man should take the caning 3 months later or he is durable for another flog. As for most misdemeanor, caning is selective, dominated by the judge. One famous case about the flogging was a sentence Singapore made on an American citizen, Michael Peter Fay, a 18-year-old by the time May 5 1994, he was accused for theft and vandalism. The number of cane strokes in his sentence was reduced from six to four after US officials requested leniency. The other peculiarity on the Singapore legal system is concerned with the authority among the President and the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister of Singapore is appointed by the President of Singapore under the Article 25 of the constitution. The President, acting on the advice of the Prime Minister, also appoints other Ministers from among the Members of Parliament. The Prime Minister is the effective head of the executive branch of government. He chairs the Cabinet, which is constituted under Article 24 of Constitution. That is to say, the President is the representative of the country, while the Prime Minster is the real executor of the country. Self comments

The history as a colony of Britain left Singapore a series of common law system, with the effort of all the Judges and the Ministers of the Parliament, Singapore form a comparatively complete system of law, which has a rigorous limits of the power of authorities and judiciaries as well as the independence. This limitation and independence make the whole government an effective and efficient organization. As to the restriction law places on ordinary people, the strictness shows its advantages, and this strictness lead to a harmonious society. The legal system in Singapore is proved to be successful after all the reserves it had been through. Conclusion

The rich tapestry of laws, institutions, values, history and culture consist of the legal system of Singapore today, while this Singapore-made quilt continues the drive to weave a better jurisprudential kaleidoscope bounded by a unique national identity, which means a never-ending quest for the legal system to be both effective and efficient while according justice on the basis of fairness, equity and impartiality. Such legal innovation will be guided by compatibility with Singapore's needs and local conditions. Since law is regarded as a fundamental economic value, which must be carefully nurtured and harnessed to enhance Singapore's aspiration to be a prosperous nation. Resources:

http://www.singaporelaw.sg/content/LegalSyst.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lee_Kuan_Yew
http://www.aseanlawassociation.org/papers/sing_chp1.pdf
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_P._Fay
http://www.inter-lawyer.com/law//(worldlegalsystems)

structure of Singapore legal system

↗ Prime minister ↘
â†"
Parliament â†' Ministers â†' legislator â†"
↘ MPs(Members of Parliament) ↗

Judicature

Jean 鲍沣粲 Bao Feng Can 0726004

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