– Professor S Jayakumar, Deputy Prime Minister and Co-ordinating Minister for National Security received top honours from the Singapore Academy of Law (“SAL”) for his contributions to Singapore’s legal system both as an academic and a policy maker.
The title Honorary Member for Life and Fellow for Life is an honour bestowed by the Senate of the Academy on distinguished members in recognition of their outstanding contributions to the legal and judicial system, and to the stature of the legal profession in Singapore.
The ceremony to confer the title on Professor Jayakumar was held tonight at Four Seasons Hotel and witnessed by leading members of the legal fraternity and members of the Academy, including Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew.
In the 20 years of the Academy’s history, this is only the fifth time that the honour has been conferred. The other four persons who have been conferred the title are Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew in 1990, Former Chief Justice Dr Wee Chong Jin and Dr David Marshall in 1991 and Former Chief Justice Mr Yong Pung How in 2007.
Professor Jayakumar studied law at the University of Singapore and was the top student of his batch. He was admitted to the Bar in 1964 and taught at the Faculty of Law at the University of Singapore, becoming Dean in 1974.
In 1988, he succeeded Mr E W Barker as Minister of Law and held the portfolio until April 2008. He was one of the longest-serving Law Ministers of the Commonwealth, if not the world.
In the Citation for Professor Jayakumar, it was noted that Professor Jayakumar was an active and engaged Law Minister, known and respected by all. He was a prime mover for the setting up of the second law school at the Singapore Management University. Under his stewardship, departments like the Legal Aid Bureau, the Insolvency and Public Trustee’s Office and Community Mediation Unit were developed and strengthened.
As Foreign Minister, Professor Jayakumar played a key role in representing Singapore’s interests in the international arena. His expertise in both law and politics were an advantage when dealing with diplomats and politicians. He made an immeasurable contribution to Singapore’s success in the recent ICJ proceedings regarding Pedra Branca.
In his speech, DPM Jayakumar said the Academy was especially significant to him because the very first legislation he had moved in Parliament as then Law Minister, was that which established the Academy in 1988. Tracing the origins of the body, he recounted how Minister Mentor Lee (who was then Prime Minister at that time) had been the prime mover behind its formation. DPM Jayakumar also commended SAL's varied achievements over twenty years and he highlighted SAL's success in bringing together all the groups within the legal fraternity. Noting that the legal landscape had many exciting changes ahead he called on the Academy to continue to play its central role in these changing times.
The Academy also celebrated its 20th anniversary tonight by honouring those who have contributed to the work of the Academy. The inaugural Singapore Academy of Law Awards was presented to eight individuals.
Professor Tan Yock Lin, Professor Jeffrey Pinsler and Professor Yeo Tiong Min received the Singapore Law Merit Award 2008 for their contributions to the development of Singapore Law. The SAL Merit Awards 2008 were given to Mr Ronnie Quek Cheng Chye, Mr George Lim Teong Jin, Mr Charles Lim Aeng Cheng, Mr David Chong Gek Sian and Mr Tan Ken Hwee for their service in promoting and advancing the objectives of the Academy.
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The Singapore Academy of Law is the umbrella membership body of the legal community in Singapore and has more than 7,000 members. They include all advocates and solicitors of the Supreme Court, members of the Singapore Judiciary and Legal Service officers, corporate counsel and faculty members of law schools. The President of the Academy is the Honourable the Chief Justice of Singapore.
Over the past 20 years, the Academy has evolved from a membership-based body to a service-based institution focusing on three key areas - enhancing legal knowledge, improving efficiency of legal practice through the use of technology and supporting the legal industry. The activities in each of these areas are directed towards raising the standard and quality of legal practice and building a strong legal identity in Singapore.