Mr K Shanmugam is the Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law. He was first appointed to the Singapore Cabinet in May 2008.
Mr Shanmugam has been Law Minister since May 2008, and was concurrently:
- Second Minister for Home Affairs, May 2008 – October 2010;
- Minister for Home Affairs, October 2010 – May 2011, and since September 2015;
- Minister for Foreign Affairs, May 2011 – September 2015;
As Minister for Home Affairs, since September 2015, Mr Shanmugam has overseen several programmes and initiatives including: the transformation of the Singapore Police Force’s counter-terrorism capabilities, the introduction of rapid response forces such as the Emergency Response Teams, the In-Situ Reaction Teams, and Rapid Deployment Troops; and the launch of SGSecure, a community-based national movement to strengthen community resilience and emergency preparedness. He has overseen the greater integration and use of technology to transform the operations of the 10 agencies of the Ministry, including the Police Force, Singapore Civil Defence Force, Immigration and Checkpoints Authority, and Internal Security Department.
There has also been a comprehensive overhaul of the Penal Code to modernise Singapore’s criminal laws and confer greater protections for the vulnerable in society, including women and children; and the review of the Misuse of Drugs Act to strengthen Singapore’s drug rehabilitation regime. The new rehabilitation regime provides a legal framework to assist drug abusers on their road to recovery and reintegration through community and family support. Mr Shanmugam has also made clear, the Government’s resolve to tackle religious extremism and actions which harm racial harmony, by both articulating the Government’s philosophy and through actions taken to deal decisively with these issues.
As Minister for Law, Mr Shanmugam has, since 2008, overseen changes to Singapore’s legal profession, to build a more vibrant legal sector. These include: reforming the arbitration regime in Singapore, leading to Singapore’s development as one of the leading arbitral seats in the world and the leader in Asia; encouraging international law practices to anchor regional work in Singapore; and facilitating collaboration between Singapore and international law practices. The Singapore International Commercial Court and the Singapore International Mediation Centre were also established, further consolidating Singapore’s position as a premier dispute resolution hub.
The Singapore Convention on Mediation – the first United Nations (UN) treaty named after Singapore – was successfully adopted in 2018 by consensus by the UN General Assembly. In a powerful statement for multilateralism, 46 States, including several of the world’s largest economies such as China, India, and the United States, signed the Convention when it opened for signature on 7 August 2019 in Singapore.
There have also been significant changes to the criminal and family justice systems, such as enhancing access to justice through Government funding for legal representation of accused persons; transforming the family justice system to place the child’s welfare and best interests at the centre of this system, and help families navigate the court system with less costs; and introducing community-based sentences to harness community resources in rehabilitating offenders.
Prior to entering Cabinet, Mr. Shanmugam was one of the Senior Partners at Allen & Gledhill LLP and Head of Litigation & Dispute Resolution. Allen & Gledhill was the largest law firm in Singapore at the time. He was in practice for over 20 years, and was appointed Senior Counsel in 1998.
When he was in private practice, Mr Shanmugam was consistently recognised in international publications as one of the top litigation, arbitration and insolvency Counsel in Singapore. He has been described as the “complete lawyer”, a “titan” of Singapore litigation, and “formidably logical and aggressive” (The Asia Pacific Legal 500, 2001-2007; Who’s Who Legal, Singapore 2008). He regularly handled trial work in major corporate, commercial and insolvency disputes, malpractice suits and inquiries; and has acted, amongst others, for the then-Chief Justice of Singapore, and for all three of Singapore’s Prime Ministers. Over 100 of Mr Shanmugam’s cases have been reported in Singapore’s law reports.