12 May 2006

The Deadly Embrace of Politics

A brief extract from Yawning Bread concerning the case being held in Canada and the 'independence' of the Singaporean judiciary which has been circulating since January 15, 2006.

You would not know it from the Straits Times' story headlined "Law Ministry rejects Canadian firm's charges of 'biased judiciary' " (10 May 2006), but a good part of Singapore's economic future is riding on the dry legal arguments in a case being heard in Toronto, Canada.

That would be some case, wouldn't it?

What's even more interesting is that it is actually a private commercial dispute between 2 companies -- one Singaporean and the other Canadian -- yet the case has now expanded to the broader question of whether the Singapore judiciary is of first world standard.

The Singapore firm, Oakwell Engineering Ltd, won its case against the Canadian, Enernorth Industries Inc in previous rounds in Singapore. However, to enforce its claim of the court award, Oakwell had to go to the Canadian courts, since Enernorth's assets are primarily in that country.

In the first Canadian hearing, the Ontario Superior Court, under Justice Gerald Day, ruled that Oakwell could seize the assets of Enernorth, pursuant to a judgment by the Singapore Court of Appeal.

However, this has now been appealed to the Court of Appeal for Ontario, Enernorth's argument being that the Canadian judiciary cannot enforce an order coming from a state that does not have Canadian standards of justice. The Court of Appeal thus has to decide whether Singapore's judiciary meets Canadian standards of impartiality.

If it rules in favour of Enernorth, then an earth-shaking precedent will be set. The ruling can be cited by other courts in the United States, UK, Australia, etc, to refuse to recognise and enforce judgments made by Singapore courts. Should that happen, our dream of marketing legal services, including arbitration and trial, as one more plank of the new "knowledge and services economy", will be impaired. Why would foreign companies rely on Singapore lawyers and our judicial processes when the results are not recognised elsewhere?

Moreover, an adverse ruling would also cast doubt on all other commercial judgments rendered in Singapore, which may impact on other companies' perception of how safe their investments are from political bias.

continue reading.
Why did the Straits Times break the story only now?

1 comment:

Capt_Canuck said...

by reading YawningBread's article and thoughts, it would seem that the problem is a case of Singaporean Laws regarding the accused person as guilty until proven innocent, but then when it comes to Canada, it is a case of innocent until the accused party is proven guilty. At least, that was the feeling I got that is causing the problem.

should be interesting to see if this has any bearing on criminal and extradition laws. If the laws of Singapore are not considered as valid and legal, then if a Canadian does a criminal offence in Singapore and then escapes to Canada safetly, could the Singaporean officials demand the person be sent back? and would the canadian gov't respond knowing that the Singaporean legal system is not a just and legal system? would be like sending a person into the arms of thugs and criminals to dole out their own form of vigilante criminal justice.

but, then again, just my wild and meandering thoughts on this.