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Honorable the Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong, Minister K. Shanmugam, President Hunter, President Getnick, President Krishnamani, Dean Furmston, Distinguished Members of the Bar of Singapore and of the State of New York, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:

Two states aside the greatest waterways of the world;

Two cities boasting the finest harbors in the world;

Two centers of entrepreneurial energy admired the world over;

Two giants of global finance, banking and commerce;

Two jurisdictions that trace their legal systems to the fundamental maxims and procedures of the common law;

Two peoples whose forbears each came from lands thousand of miles away, driven by famine, economic dislocation and political disjunction…

Ladies and Gentlemen, these two jurisdictions, New York and Singapore, located at opposite ends of the earth, almost at the antipodes of the globe, now come together in this Lion City, in the persons of the leaders of their professions, academies and courts of law, for this extraordinary Meeting, planned for and anticipated for almost three years, now finally realized notwithstanding last year’s global economic shock and major political change in the United States and elsewhere.

It is my great privilege and pleasure, as the Chair of the International Section of the New York State Bar Association, to welcome the leaders, members, colleagues and friends of our Section to Singapore, pointing out with special mention the Charge d’Affaires of the United States of America in Singapore, Daniel Shields; the President of the New York State Bar Association, Mr. Michael Getnick; and the Chairs of the Steering Committees for this Conference, Ambassador Eduardo Ramos-Gomez [Duane Morris] and Mr. Meng Meng Wong [Wong Partnership] of Singapore and Mr. Glenn Fox [Alston & Bird] of New York City.

It is equally my great privilege and pleasure to welcome the leaders, members, colleagues and friends of the Singapore bar to this convocation of attorneys and law counselors from the State – and, yes, that also means the City - of New York.  It is a very special honor to acknowledge the presence and participation of the Honorable Chief Justice of Singapore, Mr. Chan Sek Keong; Minister of Law of the Republic of Singapore, Mr. K. Shanmugam; Ambassador-at-Large and former Chair of the historic United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Tommy Koh; and the many other distinguished representatives of the government, the courts, and the professional legal societies of Singapore.  It is my special honor to acknowledge the presence tonight of the leadership of the Singapore Management University, including the University President, Howard Hunter, and  the  Dean of the School of Law, Michael Furmston, and to thank them and all their colleagues for their hospitality this evening in hosting this Opening Ceremony and Cocktail Reception, for the extraordinary support they have given to developing the content of our Program by helping us identify speakers and panelists, and for so many other gestures of assistance and support.  Let me also take this opportunity to thank the Honorable Chief Justice of Singapore and his staff for hosting the sessions that we will enjoy tomorrow morning at the Courthouse of the Supreme Court.  And let me thank you, Minister Shanmugam and your staff at the Ministry of Law for the making possible the hospitality of Maxwell Chambers International Arbitration Center for the events on Wednesday afternoon and evening and your personal participation in the Plenary Session on the Meaning and Advancement of the Rule of Law.    

Let me say at the outset that we view this Meeting
-  not just as an educational conference; -  although we hope learning and insight will abound throughout our sessions;
-  not just a networking opportunity although we hope many constructive and profitable connections will begin here;
-  not just an opportunity to see and observe lands and peoples far from our respective homes, although we hope the signal beauty of Singapore and the warmth and humanity of our delegations will be enjoyed by all;
but an opportunity to build long-lasting relationships of dialogue, cooperation and constructive engagement between the lawyers, scholars, legislators and leaders of our two jurisdictions.

To that end, we have all been delighted that the highest court of New York State, our Court of Appeals, has given its sanction to the eligibility of graduates of the Joint Masters of Law program of the National University of Singapore and New York University to stand for admission to the bar of the State of New York, subject to reasonable conditions proposed by the Universities to meet certain concerns of the Court of Appeals.

Let me also express my great satisfaction that this opening ceremony of our Meeting will conclude with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the New York State Bar Association, through its International Section, and the Singapore Management University, through its Law School, in which the two parties endeavor to work together to support their mutual purpose sand efforts through communication, cooperation and scholarship.

As you know, the theme of our Meeting is: ”New York and New Asia: A Partnership for the 21st Century.”  Let this Meeting indeed be the beginning of a partnership for the 21st Century between the legal communities of New York and the New Asia that is Singapore!

Dear Colleagues from Singapore:

I would like to share with you a few facts about the New York State Bar Association and its International Section.  The Association is the organization of lawyers admitted to the bar in the State of New York and lawyers throughout the world admitted to the bars of jurisdictions outside New York who want to have a relationship with the legal communities and institutions of New York. We have over 75,000 members, of whom approximately 71,600 live in the United States approximately and 3500 live outside the United States.

Membership is not compelled by any rule of court.  Although for over a century and a quarter, we have born the proud name of our state, we are not an organ of any government authority nor are we supervised by any state agency. As stated in the Brief History and Purpose of our Association that you can find on the Association’s website [], 

The Association’s objectives, originally stated in its constitution adopted in 1877, are the same today.  They are to cultivate the science of jurisprudence, promote reform in the law, facilitate the administration of justice, and elevate the standards of integrity, honor, professional skill and courtesy in the legal profession.  As a link between the state and the individual lawyer, as a force for constructive change and as a chief exponent of the rights and liberties of the public, the New York State Bar Association stands proud and capable, ready to serve. 

I am sure that President Getnick will be telling you more about the work of the Association as a whole during his remarks at the Singapore Supreme Court tomorrow morning.

The International Section of the New York State Bar Association has almost 2200 members, with a majority of our members residing in the United States but a very substantial portion of the members living outside the United States as members also.  As stated on our webpage [], “The International Section of the New York State Bar Association is dedicated to the international practice of law on all planes of international life – whether commercially or for the public good – and the support of the rule of law throughout the world.”

The International Section (“NYSBA International”) accomplishes these goals through two main axes:  First, a system of over thirty committees dedicated to almost every area of law practice in its cross-border or transnational aspect as well as regional committees and committees dedicated to international public law, international organizations and human rights – and, second, a network of chapters in over fifty jurisdictions throughout the world.  As we discussed at the First All-India Meeting of our India Chapter in New Delhi last June, NYSBA International stands firmly rooted – and even has its reason for existence - in the vitality and broad reach of what I call “international civil society,” while at the same time being firmly committed to the strengthening of the rule of law between states (as well as within states) and to the support of a worldwide system to protect international human rights. 

Dear Colleagues from New York:

I was first privileged to visit Singapore over thirty years ago.  My purpose was to visit a gentleman who was a scholar, a linguist and a priest – Carlo von Melckebeke, appointed the Catholic Church’s representative to the Chinese Diaspora – he hailed from Belgium but in a lifetime of service in China up to and even for awhile after the 1949 Revolution he came to deeply interiorize in his soul and even in his appearance the culture of China and the sense of spiritual, familial, and cultural solidarity for which the cultures of the Confucian tradition are so well known.  After my visit, I wrote of how, during a fifteen minute taxi ride on the way to Nassim Road, I passed by “a sweeping alternation of gardens, parks, high rise apartment complexes and rows of small store-front shops.”

I remember walking downtown from Nassim Road along Orchard Street to the downtown area.  Orchard Road was not as full of people or as built up then but I was impressed by the sense that everyone seemed to be able to have basic housing, basic life needs, and basic safety.  If it could even be said at that time that Singapore was a part of what we used to call the Third World, this was no ordinary Third World City!

I was also particularly impressed by the commitment to maintaining religious harmony and concord, promoted among other means by the observance of public holidays on the more important religious festivals of each of Singapore’s main religious traditions.

Today, ladies and gentlemen, there are fewer small store-front shops and many more impressive skyscrapers in Singapore than thirty years ago.  Everyone knows about the reputation Singapore has gained as a thriving modern port, a world-class manufacturing center and as a financial and commercial hub not just for Southeast Asia but for the world itself.  It continuously receives the highest levels of praise for its success in fighting corruption, in maintaining one of the best educated and highly trained work forces in the world, in consistently and thoughtfully applying objective legal norms in matters of commerce, business, and finance, and for maintaining a strong sense of personal security, prosperity and comfort among its citizens.  During this Conference we will have an opportunity to see at first hand the institutions Singapore has built to enlarge and enhance its role as a legal as well as economic center, including the modern chambers of its Supreme Court and the state-of-the-art facilities in its newly established Center for International Arbitration.  Most of all we shall have the opportunity during our sessions to engage the leaders of Singapore’s legal profession in debate, dialogue and friendship. 

And now to everyone:

There is more to Singapore than all these factors and achievements, which are perhaps familiar to many of us.   Singapore came to its independence and its fast-paced maturity in an area of the world and against a background of culture that is Asian rather than European, primarily Confucian rather than Judeo-Christian, and during a period of resurgent nationalism, revolution, and Cold War politics and competition.  You can read a riveting account of that story in the memoir of Singapore’s founding Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, The Singapore Story.

Singapore is sometimes associated with the idea that “Asian” or “Confucian” values differ from “Western” values and that therefore it is difficult to speak of universal norms or criteria for the relationships between citizens and their governments, the role of the individual in the formation of governments and the allocation of power and duties among the institutions of government.  There is sometimes a feeling that the United States or Europe is too quick to want to impose on non-Western countries the “liberal” political values that arose in the aftermath of the American and French Revolutions.

To that point, I want to simply make three brief comments:

First, almost all the major religious/philosophical/cultural traditions have articulated a basic principle about human relationships that puts inter-personal reciprocity at the core of the moral system: For example, from the Western traditions, Hillel’s formulation from the Talmud, "Do not due to another what is hateful to you - all the rest is commentary;” and Jesus’ formulation as reported in the Gospel of Luke, “do unto others what you want them to do to you.”  From the East, we have, among others, the formulation of Confucius as reported in  the Analects, “Never impose on other what you would not impose on yourself” and the formulation of the epic Mahabharata, “Never do another that which you would consider injurious to yourself: this in brief is the rule of dharma.”  There is attributed to the Prophet Mohamed a saying from one of his last sermons that is in the same vein.

I do not mean to suggest tonight that the whole system of what we refer to as international human rights can be deduced from these formulations.  But everything about government, the social order, even international relations themselves comes down, in the final analysis to how human beings relate to other human beings.  Therefore. I do mean to say that any radical relativism in the discussion of global norms is very hard to sustain in the light of this constant theme of human reciprocity that runs across the broad spectrum of Western and Eastern traditions.

Second, I believe our various religious/philosophical traditions all recognize that the most basic values of empathy, fellow-feeling, compassion and charity do not simply happen in the abstract but are strongest when first experienced and sustained in the relationships of parent to child, brother to sister, the young to the old and the old to the young, spouse to spouse, beloved to beloved.  “Filial piety and fraternal duty – surely they are the roots of humaneness,” we read in the Analects.  In words attributed to Martin Luther, “the family is the school of love.”  However the institutions that may embody or celebrate these relationships may be developed or formulated, the experience in the West and East does not in the end greatly differ in this respect.

Third, the modern concern with global human rights, the rule of law and a strong role for the individual in the life of the state and the world community is grounded in an event of the last century whose dark shadow none of us can totally escape – the calamity we know as the Second World War.   Singapore directly experienced the ravages of occupation and oppression during the War that New York fortunately never did and whose magnitude can hardly be imagined.  Estimates of the numbers of young men from Singapore who were summarily executed in the wake of the Dalforce defense and other acts of resistance, according to the Minister Mentor, range from 50,000 to 100,000:  keep in mind that the whole population at the time was under one million.

The Minister Mentor himself describes how he narrowly escaped being one of those interned and killed.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights – in addition to the establishment of the United Nations itself – represents one of the legal monuments that the generation that survived the War established - not just to expiate the dead but to establish principles that could serve as a deterrent from a recurrence of global war and holocaust.  It may be true that Western voices were more prominent than Eastern voices in the formulation of the Universal Declaration.  But that, I submit, does not gainsay the validity of what the authors of the Universal Declaration were trying to achieve.  The ideologies that supported and inspired the states that launched the aggression that started the war often appealed to values not only of nation and class but, however cynically, very effectively at least for a time, to values of community, solidarity and family.

There were not enough individuals who could or would say “no.”

The political institutions at the time in the countries that succumbed to totalitarian rule were not strong enough to provide a mechanism to deflect the rush towards collectivism and absolutism.

I submit that the Declaration sanctions freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, and the right to participate in government primarily to support and encourage the assumption by individual citizens of a responsibility for their governments, for the good of their societies, for the promotion of peace and justice, to work for change when change is needed.  For the work of our New York State Bar Association and its International Section - especially for the work we do educating the public as well as lawyers about the law, constructively criticizing government at the state and also federal levels, proposing and lobbying for reform of the law - the freedoms I just mentioned are indispensable.

Ladies and Gentlemen, We hope that our Association and its International Section can be a model as to how these rights can be exercised honorably, responsibly, constructively -  in a way that is fully consistent with the aspirations of Asian as well as Western peoples.  We hope we can help, in some small way, to develop what the Minister Mentor himself has described as “that culture of accommodation and tolerance which makes a minority accept the majority’s right to have its way until the next election, and wait patiently and peacefully for its turn to become the government by persuading more voters to support its views” (From Third World to First, p. 549).  We hope that there shall come a time when these rights are better understood and more fully integrated into legal culture throughout the world.  We hope that, in good time, in part through interchange and dialogue at events like this Meeting, the contrasts between “Asian” and “Western” or even “Confucian” and “liberal,” at least in the area of civil law and constitutional law, will be more and more a matter of degree or emphasis rather than a matter of essential distinction or substantial difference.

[At the conclusion of his Address, Mr. Galligan introduced Minister Shanmugam to give his Welcome Address, highlighting the Minister’s career before his entrance into government as a litigation partner at the Singapore law firm of Allen & Gledhill and the support of his Ministry for the Meeting.]