It all started on 15 July when Mr Wong received a letter from psychiatrist, Dr Calvin Fones, who had seen and assessed Mr Ravi’s state of mind on 14 July. In his letter, which was addressed to the “Law Society”, Dr Fones said Mr Ravi was “having a manic relapse of his bipolar disorder” and added that Mr Ravi “is currently unfit to practice law and his illness is likely to affect his professional capacity.”
On 16 July, Mr Wong attempted 3 times to interrupt court proceedings, where Mr Ravi was presenting his cases, to notify the courts of the content of Dr Fones’ letter. In two of those instances, the judges dismissed Mr Wong’s complaints against Mr Ravi and allowed Mr Ravi to proceed with his presentations in court. Witnesses at the courts revealed that Mr Ravi had acted normally and in fact, according to one, he had exhibited “exemplary” behavior.
Mr Wong’s attempts in trying to interrupt court proceedings were reprimanded and described by judge Philip Pillai as “unprecedented.” It also caused alarm among members of the public, and has raised deep concerns among members of the legal fraternity as well.
In response to the criticisms, the LSS tried to explain and defend Mr Wong’s behavior by saying that it had simply “informed the judge of the contents of the letter as it felt it was in the public interest to do so, and as officers of the court.”
A day later, however, the LSS did a complete about-turn and effectively disavowed any responsibility for Mr Wong’s behavior – despite having said it was “the Law Society” which had informed the court, implying that Mr Wong was acting on the society’s behalf. Now, in its second statement, the LSS said Mr Wong had “decided to go to Court on his own volition with Dr Fones' information.” Indeed, the LSS disclaimed responsibility 3 times in its second statement – repeating that “Mr Wong had acted very much on his own” and that “a member of the LSS secretariat decided to go down to the Court to observe the proceedings… at his own initiative” as well.
The LSS’ statement seems to make light of Mr Wong’s behavior too – saying that Mr Wong had acted “with the best of intentions.” It also said that the “LSS is confident that it has discharged its duties properly and in good faith.”
And in an audacious and arrogant attempt of its own to extract itself from any responsibility and instead point the blame at others, the LSS statement – signed by its president, Mr Wong Meng Meng – says, “LSS asks that commentators check their facts, preferably with LSS, before making their comments.”
It is a laughable attempt at casting blame elsewhere when the LSS’ second statement showed that the LSS itself did not ascertain the facts before it released its first statement on the matter - “Council was not in possession of the full facts,” the LSS said in its second statement, attempting to disavow its responsibility.
The president of the LSS’ explanation, however, cuts no ice with some within its own ranks. On 24 August, it was reported that a motion was filed with the LSS for the society to “shed more light on its recent clash with lawyer M Ravi.” The motion is being supported by “more than 50 members” of the LSS.
“Basically, some members of the Law Society have expressed concern over the incident and have not received a full explanation as to what transpired,” said lawyer Noor Marican, who is one of those leading the motion.
Criminal lawyer Josephus Tan agreed, adding that the society is obliged to account to its members. "Many of us are concerned about what happened," criminal lawyer Josephus Tan was reported to have said. "Procedurally, it's puzzling, to say the least. As vested members, we want an explanation from the Law Society," he added.
There has been no word from the LSS on whether the motion will proceed.
Mr Ravi had lodged a complaint against Mr Wong Siew Hong with the LSS and had asked that the “necessary and relevant disciplinary proceedings be initiated against him by the LSS.”
It is unclear if the LSS is indeed initiating disciplinary proceedings against Mr Wong.
Mr Ravi has also started legal proceedings against the LSS and Mr Wong Siew Hong for defamation and has served both parties the writs of summons.
In the latest twist to the episode, the LSS has “applied for a court order to have M Ravi medically checked by a psychiatrist from the Institute of Mental Health to determine if he is fit to practise law in Singapore.” In its application, the LSS said if Mr Ravi failed to submit to the medical examination at the IMH, his practising certificate will be suspended; and that if the IMH report concludes that Mr Ravi is unfit to practise law, his certificate will be suspended.
The LSS’ court application is made after Mr Ravi had seen a doctor three times in the last two months, the latest on 7 August.
On 23 July, Dr Munidasa Winslow, a psychiatrist at the Winslow Clinic at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, had attended to Mr Ravi who had voluntarily sought Dr Winslow’s examination. Dr Winslow again saw Mr Ravi on 7 August and noted, “He was well oriented to time, place and person. He was not depressed and his mood was elevated.”
Dr Winslow, who himself was the former chief of the Addiction Medicine Department at the IMH, said “Mr Ravi would benefit from medication to stabilize his mood” but he added that “this need not be imposed on him.”
Mr Ravi had submitted Dr Winslow’s medical report to the LSS on 10 August, according to a Straits Times’ report.
Some are, therefore, asking why the LSS is seeking a court order to compel Mr Ravi to see a psychiatrist again, given that the LSS has been given Mr Ravi’s medical report as recent as 10 August.
The questions one would ask are: what exactly is the LSS concerned about? Has Mr Ravi’s conduct as a lawyer in any way been detrimental to his clients? Has any of his clients complained to the LSS about Mr Ravi? Has any judge, who has presided over court proceedings involving Mr Ravi, raised any concerns about his conduct or professionalism?
Why has the LSS not sought to deal with whatever concerns it may have with Mr Ravi in private, instead of doing so in such a public fashion – first trying to disrupt court proceedings and now lodging an application with the courts?
The LSS’ own behavior these last two months or so leaves many questions unanswered and members of the public are rightly concerned about its seemingly unprofessional conduct, and what it is trying to achieve with regards to Mr Ravi.
Why is it “going after” Mr Ravi while at the same time apparently doing nothing at all about Mr Wong Siew Hong whose conduct has raised serious concerns about the LSS and indeed about the LSS’ integrity and professionalism itself?
Even the Association of Criminal Lawyers of Singapore (ACLS) had criticised the LSS and said that the behaviour of Mr Wong had “left a very bitter taste in the mouths and has potentially brought the Bar into disrepute.”
Yet, the LSS seems to have taken Mr Wong’s behavior lightly, and indeed seemed to have defended him – and the LSS has not indicated at all whether it will even hold an inquiry into Mr Wong’s conduct.
Instead, the LSS seems bent on entirely focusing its energy on Mr Ravi, even as it has not provided any explanation or substantiation to why it is concerned about Mr Ravi’s conduct as a lawyer.
As mentioned at the start of this article, the LSS gives one an impression of a headless chicken running amok recklessly – devoid of any sense of responsibility. How does the LSS expect the public to have, in its own words, “confidence in LSS as an independent professional body which has always balanced the interests of the public and individual lawyers” when its own professionalism and integrity is being doubted – by its own woeful conduct?
Perhaps the LSS should start with cleaning its own house and getting it in order – before pointing fingers at its critics and dismissing concerns raised about it, or going on what some see as a witch hunt against Mr Ravi.
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