Chan Sek Keong


Chan Sek Keong
Chan Sek Keong
3rd Chief Justice of Singapore
Incumbent
Assumed office
11 April 2006
Preceded by Yong Pung How
Attorney-General of Singapore
In office
1 May 1992 – 10 April 2006
Preceded by Tan Boon Teik
Succeeded by Chao Hick Tin
Supreme Court Judge
Incumbent
Assumed office
1 July 1998
Judicial Commissioner
Incumbent
Assumed office
1 July 1986
Personal details
Born 5 November 1937
Ipoh, Perak, Federated Malay States
Alma mater National University of Singapore Faculty of Law

Chan Sek Keong (simplified Chinese: ; traditional Chinese: ; Mandarin Pinyin: Chén Xīqiáng; Jyutping: Chan Sek Koeng; born 5 November 1937)[1] is the current Chief Justice of Singapore, having taken over from the former Chief Justice Yong Pung How on 11 April 2006.[2] Chan was formerly the Attorney-General of Singapore, before being succeeded by Chao Hick Tin on 11 April 2006.

Contents

Early life and education

Chan was born on 5 November 1937 in Ipoh, Perak, in Malaysia, the third of five children. His father was a bank clerk in the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank. When the Japanese occupation of Singapore began, they fled to Taiping to stay with his grandfather.

He received his early education in King Edward VII School in Taiping together with his elder brother, and continued at the Anderson School when they moved back to Ipoh after the war ended in 1945. Chan, who was then eight years old, was placed together with other children who had missed entering school at the usual age of six years. At the time, Anderson School was the premier government school in Ipoh equivalent to the Raffles Institution of Singapore. He was happy in school, and mixed well with students from other races. In 1955, Chan scored eight distinctions for his Senior Cambridge School Certificate examinations – one of the best in Malaya that year. He was offered a teaching bursary. However, as becoming a teacher was not what he envisaged, he continued on to the Sixth Form to try to get a place in the university.

In his second year of the Sixth Form course, his English literature teacher Dr Etherton told him that a professor of law from the University of Malaya (now the National University of Singapore) would be visiting the school to encourage students in the form to take up a new law course offered by the University. Etherton saw Chan's potential for law and urged him to try for it. Chan, unaware about the career prospects a law degree could offer, took Etherton's advice and went for an interview conducted by Professor Lee Sheridan.[3]

Legal education and training

Chan, along with the other students, was a member of the first batch of students admitted to the Law Department in the University of Malaya in 1957. Four years later in 1961, he was among the inaugural group of 22 students to graduate from the Law Faculty of the University of Malaya in Singapore. He began his career with Messrs Bannon & Bailey in Kuala Lumpur as a pupil of Peter Mooney. Six months later he learned that the law degree he had graduated with was not yet recognized for admission to the Bar as the necessary legislation had not been enacted yet. As soon as the legislation was passed, Chan applied to the Bar Council of Malaysia to ask for the period of pupillage he was required to serve be shortened. Following a rejection of the request, Chan petitioned the court against the Bar Council's decision. R. Ramani, a leading advocate and Chairman of the Bar Council, appeared personally to object to Chan's petition on the ground that he had provided only one reason for abridgment of time when the relevant provision in the legislation referred to “reasons”. Justice H.T. Ong ruled in Chan's favour, holding that the provision should be interpreted to include situations where there was only one reason for reducing the length of a pupillage stint.[3]

Career

After being admitted to the Bar on 31 January 1962, he practiced as a lawyer for a number of years before being appointed the first Judicial Commissioner of Singapore on 1 July 1986. Two years later, he became a Judge of the Supreme Court of Singapore.

In 1992, he was appointed Attorney-General of Singapore. Acting in this capacity in 1997, he submitted an opinion to the Government of Singapore that although the Parliamentary Elections Act forbade unauthorized persons to loiter within 200 metres of polling stations on polling day, this did not apply to unauthorized persons who were inside the stations. Chan was asked to render this opinion following a complaint by the Workers' Party of Singapore that during the 1997 general election former People's Action Party Members of Parliament had loitered in polling stations. The decision was regarded as technically correct, but not in keeping with the spirit of the provision. Chan relinquished the position of Attorney-General on 11 April 2006 when he was appointed Chief Justice of Singapore.

Awards and decorations

Chan was conferred the Order of Temasek (Second Class) by the Government on 9 August 2008 for his outstanding contributions to the team representing Singapore in the Pedra Branca dispute against the Government of Malaysia before the International Court of Justice.[4] The same month, he became the first Singaporean and local law graduate to become an honorary bencher of Lincoln's Inn.[1]

On 21 November 2009, Chan became the first Asian jurist to be given the International Jurists Award in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the administration of justice which, according to International Council of Jurists president Adish Aggarwala, had "enhanced the dignity of the judiciary in Asian countries".[5]

Notes

  1. ^ a b "CJ Chan re-appointed", The Straits Times: B4, 11 April 2009, "President S R Nathan yesterday re-appointed Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong as head of the judicial system here for a second term. ... CJ Chan will hold the post of Singapore's Chief Justice for about 3½ years, until Nov 5, 2012, his 75th birthday." 
  2. ^ CJ Yong Pung How to retire, Chan Sek Keong to succeed him, Channel NewsAsia, 31 March 2006, archived from the original on 28 May 2008, http://web.archive.org/web/20080528112522/http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/200887/1/.html, retrieved 31 May 2006 ; Lawyers welcome Chan Sek Keong's appointment as new CJ, Channel NewsAsia, 1 April 2006, archived from the original on 15 May 2008, http://web.archive.org/web/20080515123317/http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/201025/1/.html, retrieved 1 April 2006 .
  3. ^ a b Kwek Mean Luck (3 August 2006), "In Conversation with Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong" (PDF), Inter Se (reproduced on the website of the Legal Service Commission), archived from the original on 14 July 2007, http://web.archive.org/web/20070714030134/http://app.lsc.gov.sg/data/In+conversation+with+CJ.pdf, retrieved 27 November 2009 .
  4. ^ "NDP awards", The Straits Times, 8 September 2008 .
  5. ^ "CJ Chan Sek Keong receives top jurist award", The Straits Times: B20, 26 November 2009 .

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