E-book on pioneers of legal fraternity

SINGAPORE - Back when Singapore was still a British colony, its legal scene was dominated by foreign firms, lawyers and judges.

Aspiring lawyers did not yet have a local law school to attend.

The setting is captured in an e-book launched on Friday by the Singapore Academy of Law (SAL).

Titled Legal Tenor: Voices From Singapore's Legal History (1930-1959), the 274-page work features transcripts of interviews with 15 legal personalities, including former MP J.B. Jeyaretnam, former chief justice Wee Chong Jin and first chief minister David Marshall. Audio clips of the interviews are also included.

Such voices of the "pioneering generation" of the legal fraternity "evoke a real sense of our historical past and of an era when Singapore transitioned from colonial rule to self-governance", said Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon yesterday at a dinner event to mark SAL's 25th anniversary as well as launch the book.

Transcripts were minimally edited so that interviewees can tell their stories as they remember it, said playwright and National University of Singapore associate professor of law Eleanor Wong, who curated the book.

"Don't think of it as history but rather the oral accounts of people who lived at the time, which cumulatively tell a story," she said.

The book project drew its contents from interviews done by the academy and Prof Wong, and accounts separately gathered by Singapore's Oral History Centre, which is part of the National Archives of Singapore.

Said Prof Wong: "What struck me was the sense that people in that period wanted Singapore to come into its own as a legal system."

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