Singh’s sorry courtroom behaviour

November 5, 2004
Singapore Democrats

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Even laypeople know there exists an etiquette regarding courtroom behaviour. Apparently Senior Counsel, PAP MP, and lawyer for MM, Mr Davinder Singh, has no knowledge of it. Either that or he just couldn’t be bothered.

Throughout the 3-day hearing, Mr Singh was on several occasions seen fiddling with an electronic gadget (presumably a palmtop or handphone). The Senior Counsel would stand up and ask Dr Chee a question and when Dr Chee gave his response, Mr Singh would sit down and start playing with the gadget.

At one stage, Dr Chee asked Mr Singh to stop doing it because it was highly distracting to Dr Chee to be answering Mr Singh’s question while the lawyer was not paying attention.

Taken aback and looking a little embarrassed, Mr Singh did not apologise but instead said that he was “multi-tasking”.

It is strange that a counsel should being engaged in other tasks while in the midst of cross-examining a witness. Either he is not interested in the defendants evidence and/or he doesn’t have to worry about the proceedings and/or he is supremely confident of the case.

At other times, he was engaged in a conversation with his colleague Mr Hri Kumar. Again, Dr Chee stopped his reply and asked Mr Singh to please cease his talking with Mr Kumar.

In fact the only thing Mr Singh seemed interested in was to read out wild and untrue allegations about Dr Chee, confident that the local media will lap them up in detail which, of course, they did.

When it came to questioning Dr Chee, Mr Singh was scraping the bottom of the barrel. In trying to show how Dr Chee had deliberately schemed to miss the hearing on 6 September, he asked why Dr Chee could not leave his family and come back to Singapore for the hearing and then rejoin them after the hearing.

Dr Chee replied that he could not leave his wife to fly to Taiwan with their three children, especially when the youngest was a one-month old infant.

Mr Singh then asked why Dr Chee could not accompany them to Taiwan and them leave them with his in-laws and then return to Singapore for the hearing. Dr Chee replied that his in-laws were not in the best of health and would not be able to help take care of the children.

Mr Singh – in a triumphant tone apparently thinking he had caught Dr Chee out – then asked why was Dr Chee then able to leave his children alone with his wife when he visited Hong Kong.

Dr Chee replied that at that time his sister was with them and, being in a much better condition healthwise, had no problem helping his wife to take care of the children.

Stumped, the Senior Counsel quickly moved on to the next question.

Obviously the Straits Times did not report this incident. Nor did the media report that Mr Singh had accused Dr Chee of trying to give the impression that his wife had not seen her parents in Taiwan when in fact she had just been back recently.

Dr Chee asked Mr Singh to not sink to such depths as to even begrudge his wife of visiting her home. First, Mr Singh didn’t know that sometimes Mrs Chee doesn’t get to visit her parents for up to a year or two. Second, it was despicable for Mr Singh to try to exploit this situation especially when he didn’t know the facts.

When Dr Chee asked the counsel to refrain from such indecent and unbecoming behaviour, Mr Singh had no reply and quietly moved on to other questions.

Again, none of these exchanges were reported by the media.