Unveiling the first chief - A book on the life and times of former Chief Justice Wee Chong Jin

Singapore, 28 September 2010 – He was the first Asian member of the Bar to be appointed to the Singapore High Court and at 46 years old, short of six years on the Supreme Court Bench, Wee Chong Jin became the first local to be appointed Singapore’s Chief Justice. The legal career of our first Chief Justice – a story of his times, the cases and the people are captured in a book The First Chief: Wee Chong Jin – A Judicial Portrait published by Academy Publishing, a division of the Singapore Academy of Law. Wee Chong Jin was also the Academy’s first President.

This book was launched today by Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong at the old Supreme Court Building in Court number 1 – the court room where Wee Chong Jin had presided for 27 years as the first Chief Justice of the State and later the Republic of Singapore. It was a trip down memory lane for most of the guests including High Court judges, Mr Wee’s family, friends and former colleagues. 

Wee Chong Jin would have turned 93 today. In the foreword to the book, Chief Justice Chan said, “It has been two decades since he left the judicial world, and therefore the most dynamic sector of the Bar today…would not have argued a case before him, and have no tangible memory of what he was like as a judge.” However, CJ Chan feels that the book is timely and “all members of the Bar, especially the present generation of lawyers, should read [it] to get the flavour of the public persona of Chong Jin. He had sought by example and precept, to uphold the dignity of his office, the integrity of the Judiciary in administering justice, and the rule of law throughout his long years of service as Chief Justice.”

The book is as much a record of the mood and climate of the formative years of Singapore as it is an account of Wee Chong Jin’s life. It traces his childhood days in Penang, through his Cambridge years, legal practice in Singapore and up to his ascent as the head of the Supreme Court judiciary. This is all set against the social and political turbulence of the times. The author, John Koh, spent three years perusing 327 judgments passed by Wee Chong Jin and researching the law reports, Parliamentary debates, journals and oral history records to produce the manuscript. The author has also critically explored Wee Chong Jin’s “commonsensible” approach towards judicial decision-making with illustrations of cases and the controversies that he had to deal with.

While he held a very public office, Wee Chong Jin was a very private person. In addition to his judicial duties, he was also Chairman of the Presidential Council and was on occasion asked to serve as Acting President. He was also President of the Singapore Golf Association from 1962–2002. A chronology of Wee Chong Jin’s life is attached for reference.

Guests at the book launch had a rare glimpse of the other facets of Wee Chong Jin’s life through a display of photographs from the Wee family collection which traced his personal history and legal and public career.

The First Chief: Wee Chong Jin – A Judicial Portrait is retailing at $60.00 (before GST). To purchase a copy, please call (65) 6332 4388.

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About Singapore Academy of Law

The Singapore Academy of Law (the “Academy”) is the umbrella body of the legal community in Singapore and has close to 8,000 members.

The work of the Academy is focused on three key areas: supporting the growth and development of the Legal Industry; building up the intellectual capital of the legal profession by enhancing Legal Knowledge; and improving the efficiency of legal practice through Legal Technology. The work of the Academy is driven by these three core mandates. This in turn is directed towards raising the standard and quality of legal practice and building a strong and dynamic legal community in Singapore.

Besides its role as the official law reporting agency in Singapore, the Academy’s other functions include providing continuing legal education for its members, legal publications, promoting legal research and scholarship, the reform and development of the law, alternative dispute resolution and the administering of formal training programmes for lawyers-to-be.

For more details on the Academy, visit www.sal.org.sg

About Academy Publishing

Academy Publishing is a division of the Singapore Academy of Law. It was officially launched on 18 May 2007 by the President of the Academy, the Honourable the Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong. This division was set up to publish books and other texts on Singapore law, and its objectives are threefold: 
• To provide affordable legal materials to the legal profession (including corporate counsel), law academics, law students, and the Judiciary; 
• To provide an alternative avenue to the academics in our law schools to publish their writings and thereby to encourage them to produce more works; and 
• To disseminate the laws of Singapore to a wider public in the region and internationally.

The titles to be published are selected by a Commissioning Panel helmed by the Honourable Judge of Appeal Justice Andrew Phang Boon Leong.

Academy Publishing is not profit-driven and its immediate priority is to publish books on areas of law that fulfil practice and student needs, although other kinds of legal texts will also be included.


Attachment: WeeChongJin_Chronology.pdf    

Foo Kim Leng (Ms)
Assistant Director, Corporate Communications 
Tel:  +65 6332 5365/9635 8850
Email: [email protected]