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Between Hermes and Themis: An Empirical Study of the Contemporary Judiciary in Singapore

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Drawing upon interviews in 1995 and 1998 and analyses of judicial appointments from 1975–1998, the article offers a new explanation of judicial-executive relations in Singapore. It attempts to explain how the judiciary in Singapore actually functions, partly by using the concept of the core executive to locate the judiciary more accurately within its political context. The study demonstrates that the judicial system has been hegenomized by a number of political and bureaucratic strategies, and interprets its role in terms of the overall goals of the political executive. The lower judiciary is an amateur judiciary and forms part of the executive government. Despite this, the contemporary superior judiciary is not wholly a creature of the political executive, as is often postulated, but rather the result of a compromise which balances the need for a reputable judiciary with the requirement by the political executive for the judicial system to assist with the control of political opposition. This negotiated balance is qualitatively different from the relationship that characterized that between the Lee Kuan Yew governments and their Supreme Courts until 1991 and reflects the maturing of hegemonic control strategies under Goh Chok Tong. The analysis was completed in 1999.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2001-12-01

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