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01 Jun 07
Former Canadian minister of justice, Professor Irwin Cotler, was in Singapore last Friday to deliver the inaugural Biennial Lecture of the Law Society of Singapore entitled Pursuing Justice and Confronting Injustice: Lawyers Can Make a Difference.
Professor Cotler gave his lecture at the Supreme Court last Friday where he talked about lawyers being the vanguard in the fight against injustice.
The talk was attended by members of the Singapore bar as well as senior members of the bench including Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong.
During his visit, Professor Cotler also met Dr Chee Soon Juan. Dr Chee briefed the former minister, who was also Canada’s Attorney-General from December 2003 to January 2006, about the worsening situation of human rights in Singapore and urged him to speak up on the injustice that confronts human rights defenders here.
In particular, Dr Chee cited recent police actions against activists calling for freedom of speech and assembly as well as the defamation suits against the Singapore Democrats and the Far Eastern Economic Review.
On the economic front, the SDP secretary-general explained: “We have a situation where the nation’s reserves are effectively in the hands of three individuals – Lee Kuan Yew, Lee Hsien Loong and Ho Ching, Lee Hsien Loong’s wife. This is a crazy position for Singapore to be in.”
Dr Chee also raised the matter of the International Bar Association convening its annual conference in October this year and the fact that the rule of law in Singapore will be a subject of intense discussion during the meeting. Professor Cotler agreed that the IBA conference is an important one.
Apart from being a former minister and Attorney-General, Professor Cotler is also an internationally renowned human rights lawyer and peace activist, serving as counsel to former prisoners of conscience, including Nelson Mandela in South Africa, Jacobo Timmerman in Latin America, and Muchtar Pakpahan in Asia.
He is, presently, a Member of the Canadian Parliament.
He is also at the forefront in helping to develop of international humanitarian law and has helped to bring Nazi war criminals to justice and advocated the establishment of an International Criminal Court.