Jeyaretnam reinstated as an attorney after appeal is accepted
By Leong Wee Keat, TODAY | Posted: 20 September 2007 0651 hrs
SINGAPORE: The next time he appears in court, it may not be as a defendant, a role that veteran opposition politician J B Jeyaretnam has been familiar with in recent years. Instead, he could be the lawyer acting for a defendant.
Mr Jeyaretnam, who was discharged as a bankrupt in May has been reinstated as an attorney after a High Court Judge accepted his appeal for a Practising Certificate.
Earlier this month, a High Court Registrar had rejected Mr Jeyaretnam's application as he had yet to pay $2,556.40 in bankruptcy charges to the Official Assignee. Under a provision in the Legal Profession Act, either the Attorney-General or the Law Society of Singapore can request that the Supreme Court reject such an application on grounds "related to the suitability of persons to be advocates or solicitors".
But Mr Jeyaretnam had appealed, arguing that the Attorney-General had no power to make the request and that the provision did not apply in his case. According to submissions to the court, the Attorney-General countered that as Mr Jeyaretnam had failed to pay the costs ordered, "grave doubts can arise as to the extent to which he can be entrusted with client's monies".
Mr Jeyaretnam told the court he could afford to pay the sums due, and that he would do so eventually. But even if this were true, the Attorney-General countered, an "irresistible conclusion" could be drawn that Mr Jeyaretnam "had wilfully chosen not to obey the Orders of Court mandating payment" and "this would amount to an act of Contempt of Court".
As to the amount owned, Mr Jeyaretnam told reporters on Wednesday that he was waiting for the OA to give him a statement and there could be "some balance due" to him.
"The fact that I haven't paid is no ground for refusing me a certificate," he said. "It doesn't make me not a fit and proper person."
On Wednesday, in a closed-door hearing lasting 30 minutes, Judge of Appeal V K Rajah accepted Mr Jeyaretnam's application.
TODAY understands that the application was successful as Justice Rajah felt it was "not appropriate to impose conditions" on this application. Full grounds of the judge's decision are expected later.
This is the second time Mr Jeyaretnam has been reinstated to the Bar. In 1986, he was disbarred after being found guilty of false declarations of the Workers' Party's accounts. He was jailed and fined but he returned to practice soon after.
In 2000, he was again disbarred after being made a bankrupt, when he failed to settle defamation charges to several individuals, including then-Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong and Law Minister S Jayakumar .
In May this year, he was awarded a conditional discharge after paying $233,255.78 to the OA.
A cheerful Mr Jeyaretnam met reporters on Wednesday at his sparsely furnished rented office in the heart of Chinatown. He said he moved in two months ago, confident that he could resume his practice. He declined to reveal the rent for the office space but added that the landlord was his friend.
Mr Jeyaretnam had brought along his previous firm's signage last used at his practice at the old Colombo Court and mounted it up at his new office.
The former District Judge said he would "mainly do court work". About "four to five parties" have already approached him to ask about his services.
Asked about the kind of cases he would handle, Mr Jeyaretnam said he would not rule out any including those involving the Singapore Democratic Party and their supporters.
"Anybody who wants me to defend him or take up his case, I would certainly consider," he said.
Mr Jeyaretnam, who turns 82 next January, said he is "not worried" over whether he could last the pace during a lengthy trial. He also hopes to register his new political party the Reform Party next month.
Asked what's next for him, Mr Jeyaretnam replied with a laugh: "Take a trip to Mars."
I must say I feel happy for JBJ.
His new empowerment will result in many more people being helped by his service.
After saying above, gazelle must not take it that I dun support you hor.Edited by reddressman 20 Sep `07, 8:57PM
Originally posted by Rock^Star:RESPECT. Fighting all the way till 6 feet under.
He could have been living in luxury retirement.
MM accumulated enough wealth to get up from the grave to fight to protect the wealth.
JBJ will fight all the way till 6 feet under - even without the wealth that MM has taken from JBJ.