Attorney-General Prof Walter Woon’s comments on CIL at the opening of legal year 2010.

01/01/2010 no comments

EXTRACT FROM THE SPEECH OF ATTORNEY GENERAL PROF WALTER WOON AT THE OPENING OF THE LEGAL YEAR 2010, 9 JANUARY 2010.

9. One of the projects that did finally come to fruition in 2009 was the Centre for International Law. This has been a long time in gestation. The CIL was finally launched in October last year by Senior Minister Professor Jayakumar. Although co-located with the Law Faculty of the National University of Singapore the CIL is a University centre, which is an indication of the importance that NUS places on it. The Executive Director is Assoc Prof Robert Beckman, a name familiar to generations of international law students from our Law Faculty. The International Affairs Division of AGC has been involved from the start. The PSSC of IAD works closely with the Executive Director of the Centre to ensure relevance and quality of the projects and conferences undertaken. The CIL, I must emphasize, is not the mouthpiece of the Singapore government. If it were, there would be no value to us. It is first and foremost an academic institution whose brief it is to put Singapore on the map when it comes to international law.

10. IAD has a virtual monopoly of the practice of international law in Singapore. IAD officers give advice to government agencies on matters involving international law, attend international conferences to defend Singapore’s interests, provide the legal component in our teams negotiating international agreements, and even lead negotiations in some areas. The involvement of IAD officers in the CIL is inevitable. The CIL already has the inestimable advantage of access to the leading practitioners of international law in Singapore, including Professor Tommy Koh and His Honour Judge of Appeal Chao Hick Tin. IAD officers will contribute to the work of the CIL by lecturing, writing and sharing their experiences. For the students this will be invaluable; there is a world of difference between a teacher who says “I know this is the law because I read it in a book that someone else wrote” and one who can say “I know the law because I was there when they negotiated the treaty.” Few other centres will be able to match ours in terms of people who practise rather than merely theorise about international law.

For the full text of Prof Woon’s speech, click here.