Ex-law prof fails in bid for PR status review

Mr Tey Tsun Hang had his permanent resident status revoked last year when he left Singapore without a re-entry permit.
Mr Tey Tsun Hang had his permanent resident status revoked last year when he left Singapore without a re-entry permit.

Judge throws out his appeal, saying case is an abuse of court process

Former law professor Tey Tsun Hang, whose Singapore permanent resident (PR) status was revoked last year when he left the country without a re-entry permit (REP), has failed in his bid to have it reviewed.

Calling the case an abuse of the court process, the High Court yesterday threw out Mr Tey's appeal to get the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) to reconsider his PR status, and process his application to renew his REP.

Justice Quentin Loh, in his judgment grounds, pointed to Mr Tey's lengthy delay in filing the court application, and how he had skipped appealing to the Home Affairs Minister - the normal process when PR status is revoked.

He also noted Mr Tey's drastic change of position at the eleventh hour - at the hearing last month.

Mr Tey had made a turnaround and claimed he was unaware of any ICA decision regarding the earlier cancellation of his REP.

This was because, he argued, cancellations were not "decisions" that could have been appealed against.

In matters relating to national policy like immigration, the judge stressed, there were good and self-evident reasons why they were best left to the executive arm and not the courts, "which are ill-equipped to make such decisions".

He said ICA's policy, among other things, was not to grant REPs automatically and that a PR who is under probe or has been charged, convicted or is appealing against the conviction is generally not granted an REP unless the case is concluded.

In February, the 43-year-old was acquitted in a High Court appeal, of corruptly accepting gifts and sex from a student in exchange for better grades.

Mr Tey, a Malaysian and former district judge here, had been a PR since 1997, but left Singapore in October last year through the Tuas checkpoint without a re-entry permit.

ICA officers had reminded him then that he would lose his PR status if he left without the REP.

His lawyer M. Ravi applied to the court to get ICA to review his PR status.

The Attorney-General's Chambers, represented by Senior Counsel David Chong, sought to strike out the application last month.

Justice Loh noted that the day before he left Singapore, Mr Tey had failed to visit ICA headquarters to get a one-month extension of his REP, even though he had agreed to do so.

"It was Tey's unexplained refusal to visit (ICA) on Oct 14, pay the very modest fee and obtain the REP that led him to be without the REP," he said. Justice Loh also rejected Mr Tey's "highly unorthodox" call for the court to order ICA to consider and process his application for the REP.

"Tey is presently in no position to apply for an REP, given that he is not even a permanent resident," said Justice Loh.

"In the face of Tey's refusal to appeal to the minister and his vacillating conduct particularly on Oct 14, 2013, it is odd that he chose to take this matter directly to the court and to pitch his case this high," he added.

Asked if he would appeal against the decision, Mr Tey said yesterday via e-mail that the costs of appeal were prohibitive, and that he was "extremely disappointed" at the outcome of the case.

A decision is still pending on whether the court should give him permission to apply for judicial review of his sacking from the National University of Singapore last year.

vijayan@sph.com.sg