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A Fireside Chat with Law Minister K Shanmugam

9 Sep 2013

Mr Shanmugam (left), with NUS Faculty of Law Dean Prof Simon Chesterman, addressing questions from students
Singapore Minister for Law and Foreign Affairs Mr K Shanmugam visited the NUS Faculty of Law on 2 September 2013 for a Fireside Chat session with the students. Commenting on the changing social and political climate, he touched base on a wide variety of topics such as the ageing population, the economy, freedom of speech, criminal law and contempt of court.  

Speaking about how globalisation and technology have affected Singapore, the resulting economic anxieties and the greater online discourse meant that the government has to seek public opinion on specific issues when it comes to policy making. The Minister also spoke about how there is always a trade-off between the different needs of the country and how national funds have to well appropriated in this respect.

On defamation and the freedom of speech, Mr Shanmugam said: “You want public debate to be honest on issues which matter to people. My personal conduct is completely irrelevant to that debate unless what you say is true.”

He added: “Every country enforces restrictions on speech; it’s a question of where you draw the line and whether you have a clear rationale for it.”  

On contempt of court, he advised to “criticise and express your feelings about court judgments in the strongest possible terms but do not suggest that the judge had a motive, an extraneous reason or pecuniary interest for deciding the way he did.” He further noted: “The judiciary is an institution and the judges can’t defend themselves in their personal capacity; they ought to be protected and it’s a balance. If you allow them to be attacked regularly, after some time, the way in which society perceives the judiciary will go down.”

The Fireside Chat is part of the NUS Faculty of Law’s series of fireside chats to provide law students with the opportunity to engage in discussions with members of the legal fraternity on wide-ranging topics.  The previous event saw former Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong speaking on the topic of “Constitutional Law”.

By Faculty of Law