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Colonial Cases

Newspaper commentary, Siam

The New York Times, 16 October 1876

THE AMERICAN FLAG DISGRACED.

HOW A UNITED STATES CONSUL DEGRADED HIS OFFICE - OUTRAGES PERPETRATED UPON AMERICAN CITIZENS - HOW HE CLAIMED CONTROL OVER SPIRITUAL AFFAIRS - THIS COUNTRY THE GUARDIAN OF LIQUOR-SELLERS IN SIAM.

The Siam Weekly Advertiser, a newspaper printed at Bangkok, is responsible for the following taken from a long account of the disgraceful conduct of the late Consul to that country:

Here is another illustration of the character of F. W. Partridge, the late United States Consul.  An American had in his employ some Chinese blacksmiths.  These men were arrested and terribly shipped by opium farmers, on the ground that smuggled opium was found in their house.  This American prosecuted the opium farmer for damages done his employees.  He had a written contract with these Chinese, but it had not been filed at the consulate.  The Siamese objected to paying damages, on the ground that the contract was not valid.  A day was appointed by the Consul to examine into the validity of the contract.  In the meantime a rumor came to the Consul of that petition, and that this American had signed it.  The Consul determined upon his course at once.  A warrant was issued for the arrest of the American charging him with the "crime of aiding and abetting the Siamese to overthrow him, 'the American Consul.'"

On the day when the contracts were examined, the Vice-Consul said to this man that he "would pay for signing that petition."  The contracts were pronounced worthless by the Consul, the American was fined $100 and $89 costs and flung into prison, his wife and child were driven out of their house, and everything taken possession of by the Consul.  And as if this were not enough to appease their revenge, the vice-Consul, followed by his worthy henchman, entered the cell of the prisoner, and demanded of him the book containing his contracts with the Chinese.  The prisoner knowing that they would destroy the book refused to give it up.  The Vice-Consul abused him in the foulest of language, and finally struck him, then out handcuffs on him and with a pistol matched him about Bangkok.

But our worthy Consul essayed to shine in another role, that of "Pontifex Maximums."  Not only did he claim control over the property, liberty, and life of Americans in secular affairs, but he claimed the authority to arbitrate in spiritual things.  An American physician of Siam, wishing to marry, went to the Consul and asked him if he would come to the residence of the bride's mother on the eve of the wedding, and in this manner give civil sanction to the marriage. Such had been the custom of former United States Consuls, and also the custom of the Consuls of some other nationalities.  The Consul refused, saying the parties must be married in his office, and by him.  To this the parties consented, innocently supposing that they could have a religious ceremony at the bride's mother's.  A large party of guests were invited. But they had reckoned without their host.  Bride and groom went down to the Consulate.  The Consul asked them if they had a ring; they replied no; Consul answered, "You cannot be married without a ring."  The parties were compelled to return home for a ring, and return to the Consulate, hoping that the ceremony would now be performed without any more trouble.  But they had reckoned without their host again.  When the ceremony was about to begin, the Consul asked them if they intended to have a religious ceremony in the bride's in the evening; they replied yes.  The Consul replied "he would not permit it.  If they undertook anything of the kind, he would arrest them and the clergyman performing the ceremony." And before he would proceed with the ceremony he made the groom promise he would not have a religious marriage at home.

The Americans, incensed at such usurpations, addressee a note to the Consul asking him "why he forbade a religious ceremony."  His reply was in harmony with the deed.  He said that Americans had no right to ask him any questions, nor criticize his actions. "It was an insult to his Consular dignity" to do so.

Concerning the whisky business, the facts are briefly these: The Consul sells to Siamese, Chinese, or whosoever will buy, licenses giving them the right to sell liquors, and when in this nefarious business they are under the protection of the American Government.  The United States thus becomes the guardian if liquor-sellers in Siam.  The American, however degraded he might be, could not but feel some sense of shame to see the flag of his country foliating over many whisky-boats ands rum-shops in Siam.  This money was pocketed by the Consul.  He took advantage of a flaw in the treaty to enrich himself, rob the Siamese of their revenue, and the king of his subjects.  Right and decency were trampled under foot - dollars - dollars were his thoughts by day and his dream at night.

 

SIAM - THE BANGKOK CONSULATE AFFAIR.

SIAM - THE CONSULAR COURT AT BANGKOK - BRITISH SUBJECTS.

HC Deb. 23 April 1888 [152]

MR. P. W. MACLEAN (Oxford, Woodstock)

Asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether serious complaints have been made to Her Majesty's Government by a large number of British subjects resident in Siam relative to the administration of justice in the Consular Court at Bangkok, in that country; whether, in default of the removal of the grounds of such complaints, such British subjects have asked that they may be placed under the protection of the Consul at Bangkok of some friendly European or American Power; and, whether, under these circumstances, Her Majesty's Government have taken, or propose to take, any steps to remove the cause of such complaints, if well founded.

THE UNDER SECRETARY of STATE (Sir JAMES FERGUSSON) (Manchester, N.E.):

Some complaints relative to the administration of justice in the Consular Court of Bangkok have been received at the Foreign Office.  They appear to have originated with certain Englishmen in the employment of the Siamese Government.  Inquiry has been made; but Her Majesty's Government do not consider that the complaints are well founded, and they do not propose to take any steps in the matter.  It is hardly necessary that I should state that in countries such as Siam, where Her Majesty exercises by Treaty extraterritorial jurisdiction, there can be no question of placing British subjects under the protraction of the Consul of any other Power.

 

The Times, 23 April 1888

PARLIAMENTARY QUESTIONS.

Mr. F. Maclean. - As to the administration of justice in the Consular Court at Bangkok.

 

The Times, 24 April 1888

HOUSE OF COMMONS, 23 April.

BRITISH SUBJECTS IN SIAM.

Mr. F. MACLEAN asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether serious complaints had been made to Her Majesty's Government by a large number of British subjects resident in Siam relative to the administration of justice in the Consular Court at Bangkok in that country; whether in default of the removal of the grounds of such complaints such British subjects had asked that they might be placed under the protection of the Consul in Bangkok or some friendly European or American Power; and whether under these circumstances Her Majesty's Government had take or proposer to take any steps to remove the cause of such complaints if well-founded.

SIR J. FERGUSSON. -  Some complaints relative to the administration of justice in the Consular Court of Bangkok have been received at the Foreign Office.  They appear to have originated with certain Englishmen in the employment of the Siamese Government.  Inquiry has been made, but Her Majesty's Government do not consider that the complaints are well founded, and they do not propose to take any steps in the matter.

   It is hardly necessary that I should state that in countries such as Siam, where Her Majesty exercises by treaty extra territorial jurisdiction there can be no question of placing British subjects under the protection of the Consul of any other Power.

 

North China Herald, 12 May 1888

CORRESPONDENCE.

THE BARRISTER'S RIGHT OF AUDIENCE.

To the Editor of the

NORTH-CHINA DAILY NEWS.

   Sir, - On behalf of the legal profession I will ask you to be kind enough to mention the grievous insult which has just been offered to one of its representatives here.  .  .  . 

I am, Sir, &c.

E. B. MICHELL, of the Middle Temple, Barrister at Law, Bachelor en Droit, M.A. &c.

Bangkok, Siam, 19th April, 1888.

 

The Times, 23 August 1889

HOUSE OF COMMONS.

Mr. MOLLOY called attention to the complaints regarding the conduct of the Consular Court of Siam, and asked whether the Ambassador who was about to go out would have all the papers and memorials from the British residents there placed in his hands with a view to a full and exhaustive inquiry.

SIR J. FERGUSSON said he should not like it to go forth that the Consul at Bangkok was an officer not deserving of public confidence.  He was a gentleman of long standing, who had passed upwards of 20 years at that place.  The new Minister to the Court of Siam was on his way out, and if the constitution of the Consular Court required alteration he would have an immediate opportunity of reporting to the Secretary of State to that effect.

 

Hansard, 14 April 1890 [517-518]

MR. MOLLOY (King's Co., Birr)

Last year I called the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the condition of the Consular Courts in Siam, and he promised then that the Minister would, on his arrival, take the matter into consideration.  I should like to know what has been done.

SIR J. FERGUSSON.

The Consular Court at Bangkok has been brought under the Supreme Court at Singapore, by which any miscarriage of justice will be rectified.  But I am not aware that anything has taken place to show that the Consular Court at Bangkok is not an efficient Court.

 

The Times, 25 December 1891

SIAM.

SINGAPORE, DEC. 24.

    Dr. MacGowan, of Bangkok, has published a letter in which he alleges that the British Minister in Siam was the means of getting him dismissed from the Siamese service.  The Minister is going to present Dr. MacGowan in the Consular Court.  The Chief Justice will shortly leave Singapore for Bangkok in order to try the case. - Our Correspondent.

 

The Times, 22 April 1897

THE FRENCH IN NORTH SIAM.

[French refusing to recognize an International Court.]

The French refuse to recognize the jurisdiction of this Court; all cases therefore in which a French subject is concerned as plaintiff are at a standstill.  And as there is no French Consular Court nearer than Nan, and as the French Consul has, at times, been for months absent at Bangkok, cases in which a French subject is defendant are also in abeyance.  This is a legitimate grievance, which bears with equal hardness upon French, British, and Siamese.  The cases are accumulating, yet nothing is done.

 

The Sheffield Daily Telegraph, 1 September 1900.


SIAMESE LAW PREFERRED BY BRITISH SUBJECTS.
  It is not generally known, says Mr. J. Stewart Black, in his report to the Foreign Office, on the trade and commerce of the Consular district of Chiengmai, that all British subjects in this Consular district are under Siamese jurisdiction, and are liable to be tried and punished by Siamese law. As the trial of civil suits in any case has some bearing on trade, it may not be out of place to put on record, for once, a statement of the sums which are annually adjudicated by the Court, which is termed the International Court of Chiengmai, though, strictly speaking, it is a Siamese Court in which Siamese law, and nothing but Siamese law, is administered and heard entirely in the Siamese language. This Court was brought into existence by a treaty signed in 1883 for the trial of cases in which Siamese subjects and British subjects are concerned, according to Siamese law; but an arrangement is proposed by which, if a British defendant is likely to suffer any injustice from the peculiarity of Siamese law, or from the action of the Siamese judge, his case can be tried according to English law. This is devised in a simple but effective manner by a clause, which stipulates that the British Consul may, if he think proper in the interest of justice, transfer the case to the British Consular Court, where it is disposed of according to law prevailing in England as far as circumstances admit. The transfer of a case has only happened thrice in the history of the Court, and then it was done for technical reasons, and was in no way due to the action of the judge. In fact, as a matter of experience, it has been found that it is much more convenient, and, probably, on the whole, much more advantageous, for a British subject to have his law suits disposed of according to Siamese law than according to the law which Britons generally regard as the bulwark of their rights in Oriental countries.
  This may appear a startling statement at first sight.  But not so startling when local circumstances are taken into consideration. First of all, most business transactions here are done with natives in the native language, and contracts and agreements are, as a rule, drawn up in a language and in terms familiar to the native. It is much easier to get justice done on such documents in a native court than in a court where the documents constituting a contract would be severely scrutinised and possibly thrown out for want of form. The sum total of the powers conferred on the British Consul by treaty, apart from the right of transferring a case, is contained in the few words that "the Consul is entitled to be present at the trial," and that "he may make any suggestions to the judge he may think proper in the interest of justice."  However limited this may be in theory, in practice it amounts to the Siamese Judge and the British Judge sitting as colleagues, and, as a rule, the Siamese judge is happy to receive and be guided by reasonable suggestions. It may well be surmised that in the early days of this court, when old-fashioned judges presided, there was considerable difficulty in getting the judges to listen to reason, but they have passed away.  The present Siamese judge was educated and brought up in Edinburgh, is imbued with thoroughly modern ideas, disposes of his cases with despatch and legal acumen, and does not attempt to confuse the points in issue by the application of obscure and obsolete sections of Siamese law, as many of his predecessors were fond of doing.
  Then, the great majority of British subjects are Burmese and Shans, and they naturally prefer a law to which they are accustomed, as Siamese law in its broad principles resembles that of the old kingdom of Burma, and even Englishmen would, as a rule, rather trust to the elasticity which can be given to the native laws rather than run the risk of the technicalities to which a trial according to English law and procedure might give rise. Generally speaking, Siamese law is easier in its restriction as regard the ordinary transactions, in respect of which most litigation arises. There is no space here to enter into particulars, but, in illustration, it may be mentioned that 10 years is the limit allowed by what may be termed the Siamese Statute of Limitation; no particular form is prescribed for mortgages of bills of  sale, and there is no penal legislation in respect of promissory notes or the stamping and witnessing of such documents,  But the great advantage to the British subject in this system is that when he is plaintiff  and the defendant is Siamese, he has more certainty of getting justice than the British subject resident in Bangkok or other parts of Siam where the treaty of 1853 does not apply. This is due not only to the "suggestions" of the British Consul during the trial, but to the beneficial effect of an appeal court composed of the British Consul-General and the Siamese authorities at Bangkok. In similar cases in other parts of Siam the treaties do not provide for any consideration regarding the decision, and cases in which the defendant is a Siamese subject are decided solely by the Siamese courts.

 

The Times, 18 September 1900

THE INTERNATIONAL COURT OF ZIMME.

One of the most curious tribunals having jurisdiction by treaty over British subjects is the International Court of Zimme, or Chieng-mai, in northern Siam.  All British subjects in Siam are subject to the jurisdiction of their own Consuls only, but in 1883 an arrangement was made by which British subjects in the Lao States in Siam were to be under Siamese law, administered by a Siamese Judge.  The British subjects in the States are almost wholly Burmese and Indians working the forests and as small traders, pedlars, and the like. Mr. Black, our Consul in Zimme, gives an interesting account of the working of this tribunal in his last report. 

It is provided that if the British defendant is likely to suffer any injustice from the peculiarity of Siamese law, or from the action of the Siamese Judge, his case can be tried according to English law by the British Consul, if he thinks proper in the interests of justice, transferring the case to the British Consular Court, where it is disposed of according to law prevailing in England as far as circumstances admit. The transfer of a case has only happened three times in the history of the Court, and then it was done for technical reasons, and not because of the action of the Siamese Judge.  In fact, it has been found that it is much more convenient, and probably on the whole, much more advantageous, for a British subject to have his suits disposed of according to Siamese law than according to the law which Britons generally regard as the bulwark of their rights in Oriental countries, because most business transactions are done with natives in the native language, and contracts and agreements are, as a rule, drawn up in a language familiar to the natives.  It is much easier to get justice done on such documents in a native Court then in a Court where the documents constituting a contract would be severalty scrutinized and possibly thrown out for want of form.

The power conferred  on the British Consul, apart from the right of transferring a case, is that he "is entitled to be present at the trial," and that "he may make any suggestions to the Judge he may think proper in the interest of justice."  However limited this may be in theory, in practice it amounts to the Siamese Judge and the British Consul sitting as colleagues; and, as a rule, the Siamese Judge is happy to receive and be guided by reasonable suggestions.  The present Siamese Judge was educated in Edinburgh, is imbued with modern ideas, disposes of his cases with despatch and legal acumen, and does not attempt to confuse the pints in issue by the application of obscure and obsolete sections of Siamese law, as man y of his predecessors were fond of doing.  Then, the great majority of British subjects being Burmese and Shans, they naturally prefer a law to which they are accustomed, as Siamese law in its broad principles resembles that of the old Kingdom of Burma.

Generally speaking, Siamese law is easier in its restrictions as regards ordinary transactions in respect of which most litigation arises.  Thus ten years is the period allowed by what may be termed the Siamese Statute of Limitations; no particular form is prescribed for mortgages or bills of sale, and there is no penal legislation in respect of promissory notes or the stamping and witnessing of most documents.  The great advantage, however, to the British subject in this system is that when he is plaintiff and the defendant is Siamese, he has more certainty of getting justice that the British subject resident in Bangkok or other parts of Siam where the treaty of 1883 does not apply. This is due not only to the "suggestions: of the British Consul during the trial, but to the beneficial effect of an appeal Court composed of the British Consul-General and the Siamese authorities at Bangkok.

In the last five years 492 cases have been tried in the Zimme Court, the aggregate amount involved being about £20,000 a year; and considering that the total number of British subjects does not exceed 4,000, most of them illiterate coolies, and that the two dozen odd Europeans are nearly all connected with the three British timber companies, it will be seen that those who resort to litigation have heavy pecuniary interests at stake.  It is a surprising amount of litigation for a community which in numbers does not exceed a large-sized village in England.  Most of the cases relate to the ownership of teak, or arise from transactions in connexion with it.

 

The Straits Times, 7 October 1902

   RATHER a curious affair came before the Consular Officials at Bangkok the other day when a British Indian, a watchman employed at the Japanese Legation, was arrested, charged with disturbing the priests at a neighbouring temple.  When the case cane before the Court the priests said that they were not allowed to be sworn and eventually they had to make affirmation.  They said that the accused had come to the temple and fired a revolver at them, afterwards throwing bricks.  This the accused denied and an old Siamese reported that the priests themselves had thrown the stones.  And at this stage of proceedings the accused was handed over to the Japanese Legation people for trial there.

 

The Straits Times, 2 May 1903

ON April 29th, the British Consular Court in Siam ceased to exist.  In lieu thereof is His Britannic Majesty's Court for Siam, over which Mr. W. J. Archer, C.M.G., presides as Judge.

 

The Times, 17 November 1903

LAW AND JUSTICE IN SIAM.

Mr. Stewart Black, formerly of the British Consular Service in Siam, and now Judicial Adviser to the Siamese Government, has published at Bangkok a report of the work of the Ministry of Justice for the year 121 of the Siamese era, or 1902-3.

... These Courts appear to work satisfactory; the procedure is essentially English in form and is based on that of the British Consular Court.

 

The Straits Times, 7 January 1904

   Mr. J. W. Archer, Judge of the British Consular Court, Bangkok, has been appointed Judge of the International Court in Egypt.

 

The Straits Times, 10 September 1904

APPEALING TO SINGAPORE.

   The British Consular Court at Bangkok on the 3rd instant heard argument on the question as to whether foreign law, such as Mohammedan law, can be legally administered by the British Court in an extra-territorial country like Siam.  The judge held that the Court had such jurisdiction upon which one of the counsel in the case observed that there was nothing to show that any other than English law could be administered in the British Court in Siam.

   His Honour upon this said that he would show counsel at once upon this this his view was erroneous.  Supposing that someone was to being up a Mohammedan for bigamy, the Court with throw it out at once.  Only the other day sitting at an Appeal Court he (His Honour) administered the law of Burma.  He might be right in the law - he hoped that he was, but the parties were poor and not appealing to Singapore. (Laughter).

 

The Sheffield Daily Telegraph, 1 September 1900.
SIAMESE LAW PREFERRED BY BRITISH SUBJECTS.
  It is not generally known, says Mr. J. Stewart Black, in his report to the Foreign Office, on the trade and commerce of the Consular district of Chiengmai, that all British subjects in this Consular district are under Siamese jurisdiction, and are liable to be tried and punished by Siamese law. As the trial of civil suits in any case has some bearing on trade, it may not be out of place to put on record, for once, a statement of the sums which are annually adjudicated by the Court, which is termed the International Court of Chiengmai, though, strictly speaking, it is a Siamese Court in which Siamese law, and nothing but Siamese law, is administered and heard entirely in the Siamese language. This Court was brought into existence by a treaty signed in 1883 for the trial of cases in which Siamese subjects and British subjects are concerned, according to Siamese law; but an arrangement is proposed by which, if a British defendant is likely to suffer any injustice from the peculiarity of Siamese law, or from the action of the Siamese judge, his case can be tried according to English law. This is devised in a simple but effective manner by a clause, which stipulates that the British Consul may, if he think proper in the interest of justice, transfer the case to the British Consular Court, where it is disposed of according to law prevailing in England as far as circumstances admit. The transfer of a case has only happened thrice in the history of the Court, and then it was done for technical reasons, and was in no way due to the action of the judge. In fact, as a matter of experience, it has been found that it is much more convenient, and, probably, on the whole, much more advantageous, for a British subject to have his law suits disposed of according to Siamese law than according to the law which Britons generally regard as the bulwark of their rights in Oriental countries.
  This may appear a startling statement at first sight.  But not so startling when local circumstances are taken into consideration. First of all, most business transactions here are done with natives in the native language, and contracts and agreements are, as a rule, drawn up in a language and in terms familiar to the native. It is much easier to get justice done on such documents in a native court than in a court where the documents constituting a contract would be severely scrutinised and possibly thrown out for want of form. The sum total of the powers conferred on the British Consul by treaty, apart from the right of transferring a case, is contained in the few words that "the Consul is entitled to be present at the trial," and that "he may make any suggestions to the judge he may think proper in the interest of justice."  However limited this may be in theory, in practice it amounts to the Siamese Judge and the British Judge sitting as colleagues, and, as a rule, the Siamese judge is happy to receive and be guided by reasonable suggestions. It may well be surmised that in the early days of this court, when old-fashioned judges presided, there was considerable difficulty in getting the judges to listen to reason, but they have passed away.  The present Siamese judge was educated and brought up in Edinburgh, is imbued with thoroughly modern ideas, disposes of his cases with despatch and legal acumen, and does not attempt to confuse the points in issue by the application of obscure and obsolete sections of Siamese law, as many of his predecessors were fond of doing.
  Then, the great majority of British subjects are Burmese and Shans, and they naturally prefer a law to which they are accustomed, as Siamese law in its broad principles resembles that of the old kingdom of Burma, and even Englishmen would, as a rule, rather trust to the elasticity which can be given to the native laws rather than run the risk of the technicalities to which a trial according to English law and procedure might give rise. Generally speaking, Siamese law is easier in its restriction as regard the ordinary transactions, in respect of which most litigation arises. There is no space here to enter into particulars, but, in illustration, it may be mentioned that 10 years is the limit allowed by what may be termed the Siamese Statute of Limitation; no particular form is prescribed for mortgages of bills of  sale, and there is no penal legislation in respect of promissory notes or the stamping and witnessing of such documents,  But the great advantage to the British subject in this system is that when he is plaintiff  and the defendant is Siamese, he has more certainty of getting justice than the British subject resident in Bangkok or other parts of Siam where the treaty of 1853 does not apply. This is due not only to the "suggestions" of the British Consul during the trial, but to the beneficial effect of an appeal court composed of the British Consul-General and the Siamese authorities at Bangkok. In similar cases in other parts of Siam the treaties do not provide for any consideration regarding the decision, and cases in which the defendant is a Siamese subject are decided solely by the Siamese courts.

 

The Times, 15 September 1905

FRENCH CONSULS IN SIAM.

Extra judge at Bangkok; other changes (upgrades & additions) in the Consular service.

 

The Times, 19 May 1906

SIAM AND TREATY REVISION.

(FROM OUR PEKING CORRESPONDENT.)

...  In furtherance of this policy our Government consented to the establishment of an International Court at Chiengmai, presided over by a Siamese judge, in which all cases arising in Northern Siam in which British subjects are parties, whether as plaintiffs or defendants, are tried according to Siamese law.  The British Consul has, however, the right to be present, and has power at any time, in any case in which the accused or defendant is a British subject, to transfer the case for adjudication to his own Consular Court.  This transfer clause the Siamese now seek to have rescinded.  They ask that British Asiatic subjects shall be deprived of the rights of extra-territoriality still remaining to them, and that the Siamese shall have full jurisdiction instead of limited jurisdiction.  In return they are willing to concede to them the right to hold land and houses in the interior. ...   [More in The Times, 21 May.]

 

The Times, 23 April 1908

THE NEGOTIATIONS WITH SIAM.

[Siamese offer various Malay States - Kelantan, Trengganu, Kedah, &c] in return for revision of extra-territorial rights.  Opposition from the Shan, and dissatisfaction with the Chiengmai Court.]

They are dissatisfied with this arrangement, and they petitioned in 1903 that the full powers of the British Consular Court should be restored.  [re Malay States] It was in return for material advantages that we consented to the partial abandonment of our Consular jurisdiction in 1883, of which the Burmese Shans in Northern Siam complain.  We cannot be too careful to avoid even the appearance of repeating so dangerous a blunder.

 

The Straits Times, 8 April 1909

   In the Netherlands Consular Court at Bangkok, recently, the case came on for hearing in which a man named Hak Heng Siang sues the Samsarang Sea and Fire insurance Company for a sum of ticals 10,000, claimed in respect of a policy of insurance upon some premises destroyed by fire in Sam pang last year.  The case is similar to two similar ones brought by the present plaintiff against other companies in the British Court in November last year.

 

The Times, 16 April 1930

MR. JOHN STEWART-BLACK, Judge Consular Court at Bangkok., &c.

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School