Yesterday’s (5 February 2018) Parliamentary sitting is a perfect lesson on Singapore’s system of government.
Minister for Law K. Shanmugam made a ministerial statement on the City Harvest Church decision by the Court of Appeal.
He said the government “believes that the sentences are too low”.
But he added, that the sentences reflect the law as it stands after the High Court’s decision last year, confirmed by the Court of Appeal. “The Courts decide these matters”.
According to Parliament’s website, the Government of Singapore follows the Westminster system, with 3 separate branches: Legislature, Executive and Judiciary.
As a rule of thumb, all three branches are separate. The judiciary in this case is separate and independent from the Executive and Legislature; the Legislature and Executive do not have any influence on the Judiciary in its sentencing and verdict.
That said, the final verdict on the City Harvest Church’s six leaders last week is also a good example of how laws have to be updated and revised from time to time.
And why do laws need to be revised? The answer is simple: to keep laws updated according to the current social dynamics and environment, and to make it more effective in maintaining a safe and secure society in today’s context.
It is not to make the lives of Singaporeans more restricted or difficult, but to ensure that the law is current and just.
Minister Shanmugam said that the Court of Appeal itself “acknowledged this gap in the law, and it said that there was no “good policy reason” to ignore the “heightened culpability” of directors and key officers of charities, societies, and companies who commit Criminal Breach of Trust”.
“The CA (Court of Appeal) also pointed out that the obligation of the Court is to set out the legal position correctly on what the law says, and leave it to Parliament to amend the law as it deems fit.” – Minister K Shanmugam
The last time such a review of the Penal Code was made was in 2008.
Similarly, this time, a committee will undertake the review and put up recommendations for public feedback before the recommendations are put to Parliament for amendments to the law.