For He’s A ‘Jolly’ Good Fella!

The Singapore courts are being ‘judged’ this week as to how they pass judgement on the now infamous author of ‘Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock‘ by Alan Shadrake.

I must admit though that I am a tad disappointed at the little or no coverage of the court proceedings by the local news media, ChannelNews Asia who has claimed to be there for ground breaking news. Nevertheless, there are of course several other agencies who are covering the court proceedings and giving you live updates (ie: The Online Citizen).

What is it about the published book that has made it so sensational that the government has decided to take the author to court?

Apparently, 14 passages in the ‘I’m not sure how many passages long book’ is under scrutiny for “the insinuations and imputations contained in these 14 statements constitute an attack to the entire judicial system in Singapore” as mentioned by Deputy Attorney General, Hema Subramaniam.

What were those passages?

I wouldn’t know until I have the opportunity to read it but clearly the prosecutor has made it known to all the reporters and media present at the hearing that reproducing those passages will constitute to legal proceeding – sending out a very stern message for sure.

I do wonder however though that if Shadrake was being taken to court for what he had written which was purported to be an insult to the judicial system, why doesn’t the Media Development Authority(MDA) ban the sale of the book in Singapore from the onset and left it late to ban it, after it has gone on sale and only after Alan Shadrake was in Singapore to launch it?

Nevertheless, why is it that only Alan Shadrake is being criminalized? Because if Shadrake was being sent to court for writing those passages, then shouldn’t the publisher be taken to court as well for abetment to help publish? Perhaps also all the people involved in delivery of the books and even bookstores for purchasing them in the first place as well as the staff of the bookstore who had ordered them and placed them on the shelves?

Okay, obviously not right because quite a number of those people have no knowledge of the content of the book except perhaps the Purchasing Manager. Hmmmm….

And shouldn’t the MDA be taken to court for failing to ban the book earlier and allowing such a book launch to be held which has led to an enormous amount of public resources to be eaten up on the judicial proceedings when it could have been used for others? (MDA has since filed a criminal defamation suit against the author although they were not mentioned in the book based on reports widely circulated online and has banned the book.)

The organisers and sponsor location should be taken to task as well including food and drink caterers as well! Okay, just organisers and sponsor locations because they had knowledge.

And then shouldn’t the National Library be taken to task then for purchasing and allowing the book to be read even though it sits lying in the reference section because readers may have a misaligned view of the local judiciary system? Shouldn’t National Library wait till the court proceedings are over and judgement has been passed before making a decision on whether or not the book should be allowed for public circulation?

And the latest in court proceedings has revealed that Alan Shadrake is no longer to be on trial for criminal defamation but on charges of contempt of court for ‘scandalizing the judiciary’, which in my opinion can constitute to a lot of things.

It’s perhaps best put into contrast to the situation of ‘Prejudice to Conduct of Good Order/Discipline’ under the context of civil servants (I am not a Civil Servant) but ‘Contempt of Court’ definitely reeks of more serious charges.

Of course, the Defense Lawyer, infamous Human Rights lawyer, M.Ravi argues that the book should be read in it’s entirety so that one can understand and interpret the selected quotations (passages under scrutiny). And I’d agree to this.

I’d draw parallel of what he said much akin to reading passages from the Quran as compared to reading it as a whole.

Most times, individuals who scandalize the religion for their own benefit and skew others awry is by picking out selected passages which speak of what they seek for.

Misconceptions with Islam is often about how Islam speaks about violence or about how Prophet Muhammad S.A.W had plenty of wives at one go which is not the case. Scandalizing such issues is what causes misunderstanding and disharmony between those who are in the unknown with insufficient knowledge and against such issues with those who are in the know with sufficient knowledge who are then burdened with the task to tirelessly defend those issues.

A simple example from the Quran would be how some men have purposely misinterpreted the passage “Marry two, or three, or four women of your choice but if you are not able to remain just, marry only one”.

Reading the whole sentence makes sense that if you are unable to remain just to more than one woman, you should just marry only one then but there have been known individuals who have misguided themselves and others to put into the equation that Muslim men are allowed to marry: one + two + three + four women = 10 women!

Such individuals are what causes conflicts and members of different faiths who do not understand the truth of the text are then led to believe that yes, Muslim men can marry up to 10 women.

Bringing back to the case on hand, I’ve no idea what the 14 passages under scrutiny speaks about the judiciary but I surely hope that the other passages of the book should be allowed to stand as evidence as well to complement those passages in question because those are passages that Alan Shadrake wrote as well.

With how the case is unraveling, it is definitely interesting to see what will happen.

It has been predicted by many though, that with the limitations the defense is allowed to litigate their case, Alan Shadrake can expect to be sent to prison. Oh well, I’m no lawyer anyway but let’s see if Alan Shadrake can turn out victorious as how he had first entered court with the ‘V’ finger sign to signal ‘Victory’ which is why he is being put on trial for ‘Contempt of Court’.

10 thoughts on “For He’s A ‘Jolly’ Good Fella!

  1. It’s very scary to be in a court hearing. I have attended a few court hearings. Though I’m not the accused, I always have butterflies in my stomach!


  2. Pingback: Daily SG: 20 Oct 2010 « The Singapore Daily

  3. The MDA has still not banned the book. They have simply advised bookstores not to carry it. Which basically means that bookstores in Singapore are actually still allowed to sell the book if they wish, but no one dares to.

    Although M Ravi is arguing that the book has to be read in entirety, the proceedings are still focusing on the 14 statements that have been isolated. It’ll be too long for the media to quote the 14 statements (and I think many of them won’t want to risk it) but it generally has to do with the 5 general insinuations the AGC highlighted (which you can see from TOC reports).


    • If that’s the case..

      MDA should be taken to task too for not issuing a ban on it because that would mean that they agree with the 14 passages in question as well to allow it to remain in circulation in Singapore.

      Are we entitled to citizens arrest?


      • Haha, I wish!

        M Ravi argued that since the MDA hasn’t even banned the book the AG is being over-zealous, hypersensitive and wasting Court resources, which I agree with.

        Also, since the investigation for criminal defamation is still ongoing, M Ravi said that the AGC should have waited for that investigation to be concluded before they even went ahead with these contempt of court proceedings.


      • Hmmm..

        If the judge agreed with us that MDA should enact a total ban on the book first. The case would have been thrown out of court because if the authority managing it doesn’t find that the statements had brought disrepute to the judiciary. I’m sure there are people in the authority who have been placed in charge to look into the legal implications to allow the book to be put on sale in the first place. Obviously, that person read the whole book not just 14 passages to have passed it. Now, the judge is probably dreading this case because his profile is on the line.

        The Civil charges were only brought upon after the Criminal charges were issued as a result of Alan’s handsign in court when he attended court the first time.

        But i’m not sure which is of a higher level of importance.

        I do agree that the since the criminal defamation was filed first, it should have proceeded first. But maybe the people investigating the charges are taking such a long time because there’s nothing criminal about it in the first place!


  4. It seems stupid to want to charge him with contempt of court, and when they gather enough evidence for defamation haul him out and charge him with criminal defamation! That could be seen as double jeopardy, and is both ridiculous as well as embarrassing.


    • First – put the author’s credibility in disrepute with Civil Charges.

      Second – Once that’s achieved, with such uncredible reputation as a freelance journalist writing such a book was not his area of expertise nor was he even fit to comment on it because he’s not trained in law and not a citizen nor is he living here to understand the legal system. Therefore, a criminal defamation charge will affirm this.


  5. “Nevertheless, why is it that only Alan Shadrake is being criminalized? Because if Shadrake was being sent to court for writing those passages, then shouldn’t the publisher be taken to court as well for abetment to help publish? Perhaps also all the people involved in delivery of the books and even bookstores for purchasing them in the first place as well as the staff of the bookstore who had ordered them and placed them on the shelves?”

    You may like to know that when the govt took action against the AWSJ for the very first time, this was exactly what happened – the person who was in charge of distributing it was also charged! I think his name is John something, a Singaporeans.

    That this is not done presently because the govt DON’T DARE to anatagonise the Malaysians and the publisher who are in West Malaysia. It is typical BULLYING of those who are docile, but no balls to touch the Malaysians who would definitely come down on the govt like a ton of bricks! Recall that Vivian Bala got into trouble when he referred to the Malaysian press as ‘buayas’ -Malay for crocodiles. He was subsequently panned anfd given much bad press in Malaysia.


  6. I don’t know how many of you have read this book but as a Singaporean I’m shocked beyond believe how a group of educated sane men can bend towards a certain persons will when they know the very essence of human rights is being questioned.
    Allan’s clear,concise and succinct methodology of removing layers and layers despondent mystery of how a highly exalted intitoution has behaved in the most dehumanising way to stroke a powerful ego really sickens my Singaporean soul.


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