Considered approach needed for extradition treaties: Indranee

Workers' Party chairman Sylvia Lim (Aljunied GRC) yesterday asked if the Government planned to increase the number of countries with which Singapore has extradition agreements.

Speaking during the debate on the budget for the Ministry of Law, Ms Lim cited the case of Standard Chartered bank robbery suspect David James Roach, who fled to Thailand in July 2016, a country which has no extradition treaty with Singapore.

She asked if it was acceptable that Singapore currently has extradition arrangements with only 43 out of nearly 200 countries.

Responding to Ms Lim, Senior Minister of State for Finance and Law Indranee Rajah told Parliament that Singapore is open to concluding more extradition treaties and arrangements, but it was not just a matter of numbers alone.

"Negotiating an extradition treaty is not without complexities," said Ms Indranee, adding that the Government would take a "careful and considered approach".

The Government has to consider if an extradition arrangement would be mutually beneficial to Singapore and the other country, and whether any differences in the legal systems of both countries can be rationalised.

Singapore is actively engaged in negotiations for a model Asean extradition treaty, she said. "We have achieved significant progress and, like many other Asean partners, are hopeful that work on this instrument will be concluded as soon as possible," said Ms Indranee.

EXTRADITION CHALLENGE

One need only look at the case involving David Roach to illustrate the Asean challenge. Roach was suspected of committing a bank robbery in Singapore in July 2016.

He escaped to our Asean neighbour Thailand, was arrested and convicted of other offences under Thai law, and is only now being extradited from London to Singapore because he was being deported from Thailand to his home country Canada via London.

With the move towards greater Asean integration, the fact that such suspects can go to a fellow Asean country to escape justice does not seem acceptable.

ALJUNIED GRC MP SYLVIA LIM, asking for updates on a proposed Asean extradition treaty and Singapore's efforts to ink more extradition pacts with others, in the light of the extradition case of Canadian robbery suspect David James Roach.

In her speech, Ms Indranee also revealed that the Government is reviewing means testing for qualification for legal aid. The details will be announced later this year, she said.

Three Members of Parliament, Dr Tan Wu Meng (Jurong GRC), Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC) and Mr Chen Show Mao (Aljunied GRC), spoke about expanding access to legal aid.

Ms Indranee noted that Singapore was the first country in South-east Asia to have a legal aid scheme in 1958. Over the past 60 years, the Legal Aid Bureau has assisted many low-income Singaporeans in civil proceedings, she said.

In terms of criminal legal aid, since 2015, the Government has provided close to $6 million to the Law Society Pro Bono Services, she noted. This enabled the society's Criminal Legal Aid Scheme to help almost four times as many applicants last year, compared with before 2015.


Selina Lum

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 03, 2018, with the headline 'Considered approach needed for extradition treaties: Indranee'. Print Edition | Subscribe