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Kasiviswanathan Shanmugam SC, (காசிவிஸ்வநாதன் சண்முகம்; born 26 March 1959), better known as K. Shanmugam, is a Singaporean politician and lawyer. A member of the governing People's Action Party (PAP), he has been the Minister for Law since May 2008 and the Minister for Home Affairs since October 2015, a post which he had briefly served from November 2010 to May 2011. He previously served as the Minister for Foreign Affairs from May 2011 to September 2015. He has been a Member of Parliament (MP) since 1988 representing the Sembawang Group Representation Constituency (1988-2011) and the Nee Soon Group Representation Constituency (since 2011), serving the Chong Pang ward in both constituencies.


Shanmugam was educated in Raffles Institution from 1972 to 1977, before going on to study law at the National University of Singapore where he graduated at the top of his class with a First Class Honours degree in 1984.


Legal career[]

After being admitted to the Singapore Bar as an advocate and solicitor in 1985, Shanmugam went into private practice and became a Senior Partner and Head of Litigation and Dispute Resolution at one of the largest law firm in Singapore, Allen & Gledhill.

Shanmugam had a successful practice and was consistently recognised in various international publications as one of the top litigation, arbitration and insolvency counsel in Asia including Euromoney Guide to the World's Leading Lawyers, International Who's Who, AsiaLaw and The Asia Pacific Legal 500.[1]

He has been involved in numerous cases, over a hundred of which have been reported in the Singapore Law Reports - a record of all legally significant cases heard in the Singapore Courts.[2]

While he was in private practice, he regularly handled trial work in major corporate, commercial, insolvency disputes for private and public listed companies, major international and Singaporean banking and financial institutions, multinational corporations and professional practices.

In 1998, Shanmugam became one of the youngest lawyers to be appointed a Senior Counsel of the Supreme Court of Singapore at the age of 38.

Political career[]

Shanmugam became a Member of Parliament (MP) in 1988 when he was elected as a member for the Group Representation Constituency (GRC) of Sembawang. He served as an MP and continued to practise law until 2008, when he was brought into the Cabinet to replace S. Jayakumar as Minister for Law.[3] He was concurrently made the Second Minister for Home Affairs in 2008, and succeeded Wong Kan Seng as Minister for Home Affairs in 2010.

Following the 2011 general election, Shanmugam relinquished his portfolio as Minister for Home Affairs and was made the Minister for Foreign Affairs, while continuing to serve as Minister for Law.[4]

Shanmugam was re-elected in the 2015 Singapore General Election. He is a Member of Parliament for Nee Soon GRC.[5] He was subsequently appointed as Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law in the Fourth Lee Hsien Loong Cabinet.[6]

Policy Approach[]


Shanmugam has spoken about tempering the law with compassion.[7] Since 2008, he has introduced several legal reforms with the aim of a Singapore "with greater communitarian spirit and which looks after those who can't look after themselves."[8] During his term, legislations were changed to provide Judges with greater sentencing discretion on ordering either life imprisonment or death penalty, except where a killing is intentional or towards drug manufacturers.[9]

He has publicly shared the fundamental principles of Singapore's criminal justice system:[10]

  • Laws and criminal processes must protect society and uphold law and order;
  • Due process and the rule of law must be observed, and sentences must be commensurate with the culpability of the offender and the seriousness of the offence,
  • Law enforcement agencies must be empowered to discharge their duties; law enforcement should not be seen as a 'catch me if you can', or jumping through a series of technical hurdles,
  • Where possible, offenders must be given the opportunity to be rehabilitated and reintegrated into society.


Shanmugam has taken a strong position on drugs, especially in his speech at a 2016 UN General Assembly in New York. He notes the country's policies have created a safe and secure environment: "We are not very impressed with rhetoric alone. Good speeches are one thing. Enjoying safety and security, to the level I have identified...that is different."

He highlighted that the approach "doesn't have to mean no compassion or consideration for the drug abuser...It is possible to be tough [on traffickers, prevention and drug abusers] and at the same time, help abusers psychologically, medically, economically, without having to feed them with drugs.[11][12]

He added: "I say to anyone with a different view - come forward. I am prepared to compare our experience with any city that you choose. Show us a model that works better, that delivers a better outcome for citizens, and we will consider changing. If that cannot be done, then don't ask us to change."[13]

Animal Rights[]

Shanmugam is a known animal welfare advocate and has been instrumental in changes to legislation against animal abusers.[14] He has been active in calling on organisations to support local animal welfare groups.[15]

Views on the Malay-Muslim Community[]

Shanmugam has been active in the Malay-Muslim community and has spoken up for the community several times. In 2003, he made a Parliamentary speech to suggest action on enabling people of minority races to be in top posts.[16] In 2009, he re-visited the issue and reiterated his views that it is "leavening the process of meritocracy" to create "icons of success who can be beacons of hope for the rest of the community" pointing out that the local Malay community had made tremendous progress.[17]

Personal life[]

A Tamil Indian, Shanmugam has been married to psychologist Dr Seetha Shanmugam[18] since 2008.

He is also a Patron to the Bone Marrow Donor Programme.[19]

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See also[]


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  3. Law Minister Jayakumar says K Shanmugam will be asset to cabinet,, 29 March 2008
  4. PM Lee announces sweeping changes to Cabinet,, 18 May 2011
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  18. [1]
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