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Varieties of Constitutionalism in Asia

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 October 2021

Li-ann Thio*
Affiliation:
National University of Singapore Faculty of Law
*
Corresponding author. E-mail: lawtla@nus.edu.sg
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Abstract

Western liberal constitutionalism, the dominant vision of which is rights-oriented and court centric is hegemonic to the discourse. While important, this is a particular rather than total expression of constitutionalism which conflates constitutionalism with liberalism and treat this as paradigmatic. This may obscure all other non-liberal models or fuel their dismissal as sham constitutions. A third space must be found, without collapsing anti-constitutionalist, illiberal despotism with no objective limits on power into the sphere of constitutionalism, and without equating judicial review with constitutionalism. To that end, this article seeks to advance the project of pluralising understandings of constitutionalism, drawing from the rich variety of constitutional experiments in Asia, with its multiplicity of religions, political ideologies government systems, cultures, and levels of economic development. Against an idealised model of liberal constitutionalism deployed as an organisational tool to highlight features of non-liberal constitutionalism in their full variety, the article examines three typologies of constitutionalism: religious, socialist and communitarian. In so doing, the idea of normatively desirable and defensible constitutionalist models is investigated, through an inquiry that goes beyond text and courts to other sites of constitutional practice and governance.

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Article
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Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the National University of Singapore

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ibid

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143 Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, ‘Proceedings at the Opening of the Singapore Academy of Law’ [1990] 2 Singapore Academy of Law Journal 155, 155–156.

144 Parliament of Singapore, White Paper on Shared Values (Cmd 1 of 1991).

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ibid

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155 These are: (i) Belief in God, (ii) Loyalty to King and Country; (iii) Upholding the Constitution; (iv) Rule of Law and (v) Good Behaviour and Morality. Reproduced as an annex to Harding, Andrew, ‘The Rukunegara Amendments of 1971’, in Harding, Andrew & Lee, HP (eds), Constitutional Landmarks in Malaysia (Lexis Nexis 2007) 115, 130133Google Scholar.

156 Ritz Hotel Casino Ltd v Datuk Seri Osu Haji Sukam [2005] 6 MLJ 760 para 10.

157 See Yong Vui Kong v AG [2011] 2 SLR 1189 para 139. Here, the Court of Appeal affirmed the starting position was that all things are presumed to be done in due form (omnia praesumuntur rite esse acte). However, this was only a starting point as a presumption cannot determine an issue: Saravanan Chandaram v PP [2020] SGCA 43 para 154.

158 Keong, Chan Sek CJ, ‘Judicial Review - From Angst to Empathy’ (2010) 22 Singapore Academy of Law Journal 469 para 29Google Scholar.

159 Lee Hsien Loong v Singapore Democratic Party [2009] 1 SLR (R) 642 para 102 (Belinda Ang J).

160 Cmd 21 of 1989.

161 ibid para 17.

ibid

162 ibid para 15.

ibid

163 ibid para 16.

ibid

164 Thio, Li-ann, ‘Irreducible plurality, indivisible unity: Singapore Relational Constitutionalism and cultivating harmony through constructing a constitutional civil religion’ (2019) 16 German Law Journal 171Google Scholar.

165 ‘Song of Friendship’ Straits Times (4 Dec 2010); ‘Inter-faith concert gets strong show of support’ Straits Times (7 Jul 2015).

166 Toh Yong Chuan, ‘Shanmugam appreciates imam's sincere apology’ Straits Times (6 Apr 2017) <https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/shanmugam-appreciates-imams-sincere-apology> accessed 13 Aug 2021; ‘“Imam has shown sincere remorse, regret,” Shanmugam’ Today (5 Apr 2017) <https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/shanmugam-meets-imam-who-made-offensive-remarks-against-jews-christians> accessed 13 Aug 2021.

167 ‘Imam who made offensive remarks to be repatriated’ Today (3 Apr 2017) <https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/imam-who-made-offensive-remarks-be-repatriated-stern-warnings-two-others-mha> accessed 13 Aug 2021.

168 Konrad Lachmayer, ‘Constitutional authoritarianism, not authoritarian constitutionalism!’ (Völkerrechtsblog, 31 Aug 2017) <https://voelkerrechtsblog.org/constitutional-authoritarianism-not-authoritarian-constitutionalism/> accessed 13 Aug 2021.

169 Baxi, Upendra, ‘Constitutionalism as a Site of State Formative Practices’ (2000) 21 Cardozo Law Review 1183, 1210Google Scholar.

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