Yong Pung How

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The Honourable
Yong Pung How
DUBC DUT(First Class)
Yong Pung How at the ground-breaking ceremony for the new School of Law building, Singapore Management University - 20140120-01.jpg
At the ground-breaking ceremony for the new School of Law building of Singapore Management University on 20 January 2014
2nd Chief Justice of Singapore
In office
28 September 1990 – 10 April 2006
Appointed by Wee Kim Wee
Preceded by Wee Chong Jin
Succeeded by Chan Sek Keong
Judge of the Supreme Court of Singapore
In office
1 July 1989 – 27 September 1990
Appointed by Wee Kim Wee
Personal details
Born (1926-04-11) 11 April 1926 (age 91)
Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Federated Malay States (now Malaysia)
Spouse(s) Yong Wei Woo
Alma mater Downing College, Cambridge

Yong Pung How (simplified Chinese: 杨邦孝; traditional Chinese: 楊邦孝; pinyin: Yáng Bāng Xiào; born 11 April 1926) DUBC DUT(First Class), is a former Chief Justice of Singapore, serving from 1990 to 2006. Prior to his judicial career, he was a lawyer, banker and senior government official. Since 2010, he has been the Chancellor of the Singapore Management University.

Early career[edit]

An ethnic Chinese of Hakka ancestry, Yong received early education at the Victoria Institution in Kuala Lumpur. He then went on to Cambridge University, where he studied at Downing College. While in Cambridge, he developed close friendships with two fellow Singaporean students at the university – Lee Kuan Yew and his wife Kwa Geok Choo. Yong was made an Exhibitioner and an Associate Fellow in his college years. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (Law Qualifying I: Class 1; Law Tripos I: Class 2, Division 2; Law Tripos II: Class 2, Division 1) in 1949, and with a Bachelor of Law (Class 2, Division 1) in 1950. In 1970 he furthered his education with the Advanced Management Program at the Harvard Business School.

Yong was called to the English Bar at the Inner Temple in 1951. He returned to his hometown as an advocate and solicitor of Malaya in 1952, practising law as a partner at Shook Lin & Bok, a law firm founded by his father who worked there until his retirement from practice in 1970. During this period he also served in 1953 as the arbitrator appointed by the Governor of Singapore to resolve the dispute between the Government and the General Clerical Services and Telecommunications workers. He was also admitted into the Singapore Bar in 1964[1] and appointed the role as Chairman of the Public Services Arbitration Tribunal in Malaya from 1955 to 1960, and as a Chairman of the Industrial Court in Malaysia between 1961 and 1967. He also had commercial powers invested upon him as Chairman of the now-defunct Malaysia-Singapore Airlines between 1964 and 1969, and as Deputy Chairman, Malayan Banking Berhad (Maybank) between 1966 and 1971.

Career as a banker[edit]

In 1971, Yong switched from law to finance, and formed Singapore International Merchant Bankers Limited (SIMBL) and the Malaysian International Merchant Bankers (MIMB) in Malaysia serving as Chairman and Managing Director of both companies. At the same time he also served as a member of the Singapore Securities Industry Council from 1972 to 1981. He announced his retirement from the SIMBL and MIMB offices in 1976. That same year, Yong was appointed Vice-Chairman of the Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation.

He was seconded in 1982 by the Singapore Government to form and head the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC), and the Monetary Authority of Singapore as well. His experience in commercial banking proved to be invaluable to GIC as he effectively re-organized and streamlined the use of Singapore's foreign reserves. He was also made Deputy Chairman of the Currency Commissioners, and Alternate Governor for Singapore of the International Monetary Fund.[2] In 1988, Yong became the first Chairman of the newly formed Institute of Policy Studies, and established the Regional Speakers Programme which saw prominent speakers and intellectuals from around the region to share their understanding of the culture and politics of the countries in the region. This initiative greatly helped with the development of Singapore governance.[1]

Yong returned to the Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation in 1983, as chairman and chief executive officer before returning to law as a judge in 1989.

Chief Justice[edit]

Chief Justice Yong's chambers in the Old Supreme Court Building

On 28 September 1990, Yong was appointed the Chief Justice of Singapore, replacing Wee Chong Jin. During his first speech at the opening of the legal year, he announced the abolition of the traditional wigs worn by judges and lawyers, and the use of archaic terms of address for judges of the Supreme Court such as "My Lord" or "Your Lordship".[3] He also made the Singapore justice system more efficient in processing cases during his tenure by introducing cutting-edge technology into the courtroom.

In 1991, there were about 2,000 lawsuits due to be heard in the High Court. A lawsuit could take several years to be heard. Some measures were introduced to resolve the problems which he described as an "embarrassing" state of affairs. When Yong left, it took only six months for the High Court to conclude a hearing.[4]

However, the speed in which trials were conducted led some critics to accuse Yong of convicting indiscriminately, leaving the burden of proof to the accused. As Chief Justice, he was also known to impose punitive sentences to those appealing cases he deemed to be frivolous.[5]

Yong instituted night courts in the Subordinate Courts, eliminating the need for members of the public to take time off work to attend court to answer to summonses for regulatory and minor offences. He also initiated the Justices' Law Clerk (JLC) scheme, under which top law graduates from leading universities in the United Kingdom and Singapore are actively recruited to the Singapore Legal Service.[6] The Electronic Filing System (later replaced by the Integrated Electronic Litigation System – designed to streamline the litigation process using technology – was also introduced during Yong's tenure as Chief Justice.

Yong was succeeded as Chief Justice by Chan Sek Keong, formerly Attorney-General of Singapore.[4]

Awards and honours[edit]

Yong was conferred the Darjah Utama Bakti Cemerlang (Distinguished Service Order) in 1989 and the Order of Temasek (First Class) on 9 August 1999, with a citation stating that 'as Chief Justice since 28 September 1990, Justice Yong Pung How has made the Singapore Judiciary world class".[4]

On 17 September 2001, Yong was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws (LL.D.) degree by the National University of Singapore Faculty of Law in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the judiciary and the judicial system in Singapore. Yong was credited with introducing sweeping reforms in the legal service, enhancing the quality and efficiency of Singapore's judicial process and making the Singapore judiciary world-class. Among his innovations was the introduction of case management which helped clear the backlog of cases and reduced the waiting time for the disposal of cases.[7]

On 14 July 2007, Yong was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree by the Singapore Management University (SMU) in recognition of his contribution to Singapore's legal sector. Yong was appointed as the chairman of the SMU School of Law's advisory board in March 2007.[8]

Also in 2007, Singapore Management University established the Yong Pung How Professorship of Law, named after Yong and made possible by a S$3 million endowed contribution from the Yong Shook Lin Trust - the late Yong Shook Lin was himself a prominent lawyer and was Yong Pung How's father.[9]

On 1 September 2010, Yong was appointed Chancellor of the Singapore Management University, the university official who presides over all major formal ceremonies involving the university.

Personal life[edit]

Yong's wife, Wei Woo, is a graduate from the London School of Economics. They have a daughter, Yong Ying-I, who is a Permanent Secretary at the Public Service Division.

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b Press Statement from Prime Minister's Office, Singapore Government Press Release No. 52/Aug 02-0/90/08/31.
  2. ^ Advisory Board Chairman - Mr Yong Pung How, Singapore Management University, retrieved 19 January 2008 .
  3. ^ Yong Pung How (2006), Audrey Lim [et al.], ed., Speeches and Judgments of Chief Justice Yong Pung How, Singapore: SNP Reference, ISBN 978-981-248-130-6 . See also "Court dress", Supreme Court Practice Directions (PDF) (2007 ed.), p. II-14, para. 17  and "Forms of address", Supreme Court Practice Directions (PDF) (2007 ed.), p. II-15, para. 18 .
  4. ^ a b c CJ Yong Pung How to retire, Chan Sek Keong to succeed him, Channel NewsAsia, retrieved 19 January 2008 .
  5. ^ Singapore Law – News for 2001, The Straits Times, retrieved 19 January 2008 ; Hell's kitchen for Singapore maids, The Age, retrieved 19 January 2008 .
  6. ^ In Conversation With Chief Justice Yong Pung How (PDF), Subordinate Courts of Singapore, retrieved 19 January 2008 .
  7. ^ Honorary Doctor of Laws conferred on Chief Justice Yong Pung How, National University of Singapore, archived from the original on 13 January 2008, retrieved 19 January 2008 
  8. ^ Former Chief Justice awarded honorary degree by SMU, Singapore: The Sunday Times, 15 July 2007 .
  9. ^ http://law.smu.edu.sg/yph2013?itemid=885

Further reading[edit]

  • Yong, Pung How (1996), Hoo, Sheau Peng [et al.], ed., Speeches and Judgments of Chief Justice Yong Pung How, Singapore: FT Law & Tax Asia Pacific, ISBN 978-981-3069-07-7 .
  • Yong, Pung How (2006), Lim, Audrey [et al.], ed., Speeches and Judgments of Chief Justice Yong Pung How, Singapore: SNP Reference, ISBN 978-981-248-129-0 . 2 vols.
Legal offices
Preceded by
Wee Chong Jin
Chief Justice of Singapore
Succeeded by
Chan Sek Keong