SINGAPORE: Law Minister, K. Shanmugam said the nation’s Chief Justice sets the tone for the administration of justice in the country and added it is a heavy responsibility.
Mr Shanmugam on Monday delivered a Ministerial statement in Parliament to pay tribute to former Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong who retired from public service on November 6 this year.
Mr Shanmugam said Singapore has been singularly fortunate that in the past six years, the responsibility has been discharged by Mr Chan.
He said Mr Chan, who was appointed Chief Justice in 2006, was a firm believer in the rule of law and the duty of the court to uphold the law.
Mr Shanmugam said: "He had an excellent judicial temperament, no flourish, no hyperbole, no drama. He always cuts to the chase, succinct and always well ahead of counsel and always on top of the issues. A first—rate, world class judicial mind.
"As a judge, the Chief Justice believed that and I quote, "judgments should be expressed in a language that a reasonably educated layman can understand" and indeed his judgments stand out for their clarity and simple elegance.
"He believed in procedural fairness, that "Litigants must come away from the court with the feeling that even though they lost, they have had their day in court and have been heard.""
Alvin Yeo, MP for Choa Chu Kang GRC, and member of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Law and Home Affairs, said: "I think I speak for many of the lawyer MPs in this House, and you’re going to hear a lot of them over the next few days, in echoing the sentiments of the Minister for Law when he read out his tribute, the tribute of the government for the ex—Chief Justice."
Mr Shanmugam told the House that Mr Chan’s appointment in 2006 was received with great enthusiasm by the legal community.
Outside of the courtroom, Mr Shanmugam said Mr Chan also demanded that lawyers meet the highest standards of professional conduct, and took decisive measures to safeguard clients’ monies from errant lawyers.
Mr Chan also constantly encouraged the legal fraternity — from Senior Counsel to law student — to do more pro bono work, to improve access to justice for the less fortunate in the country.
And he emphasised the need for competent advocacy in all areas of litigation.
To promote the development of Singapore law, Mr Shanmugam said Mr Chan issued a Practice Direction that Singapore cases should be cited in preference to foreign cases.
In the course of his judicial career, he wrote almost 380 judgments, or more than 30 a year and his judgments, which spanned many areas of the law, will continue to influence Singapore jurisprudence.
Mr Shanmugam said the judgments, which span many areas of the law, will continue to influence Singapore jurisprudence.
Concluding, Mr Shanmugam stressed that Mr Chan rose from humble beginnings to serve in all the high offices of the law — Judge, Attorney—General and Chief Justice.
His tenure has strengthened the rule of law in Singapore, and he has cemented his place as one of Singapore’s greatest jurists.
Mr Shanmugam said Mr Chan retires with the great respect and warm affection of all who have worked with him and appeared before him.
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