Singapore exile and lawyer, Tan Wah Piow has just replied to Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) on their response to his earlier request for the convictions in 1975 against him and another two individuals to be quashed in view of the conviction against former NTUC secretary-general and People’s Action Party Member of Parliament, Phey Yew Kok on 22 January.
In AGC’s reply to Tan on 31 May 2016, it wrote that the conviction upon the three can only be quashed through the Singapore court and that they did not appeal their conviction in 1975.
Tan in his reply, reiterated to AGC that the new evidence about Phey’s criminality is more than adequate in law to render the 1975 conviction upon him and the other two individuals unsafe.
Tan wrote, “once the facts of Phey Yew Kok’s nefarious activities in the 1973-79 period are known, it is no longer tenable for the Attorney-General to ignore the issue of the miscarriage of justice in my case. This is because it was the defence case that Phey Yew Kok was the architect of the frame-up.”
Tan, Ng Wah Leng and Yap Kim Hong were accused of being a member of an unlawful assembly, committing criminal trespass and the offence of rioting on or about 30 October 1974 at about 11 am at the office of the Singapore Pioneer Industries Employees’ Union (PIEU) and charged under Section 147 of the Penal Code.
The three accused were tried at the First District Court before Judge Mr T S Sinnathuray and finally convicted after a 47-day trial which started on the 10th December 1974.
Tan had consistently maintained that Phey had framed him and other unionists for the riots in the mid-1970s. Read here for full story – The Phey Yew Kok affair.
In his letter, Tan called upon Mr VK Rajah, the Attorney-General to do the right thing, “and especially one who professes to want to instill public confidence in the administration of justice, it is incumbent upon you to erase this blot.”
AGC notes that Tan’s points about Phey’s charges of fraud are entirely unrelated to his conviction on charges of rioting as Phey could not and did not give material evidence to the incident. It further referred to the judge had convicted him after hearing all the evidence and gave his reasons for doing so.
Below is the full letter sent by Tan Wah Piow to the Attorney-General
Thank you for the letter of the 31 May 2016.
The jurisdiction point I take issue with your assertion that ” have asked the Attorney-General to quash (my] your conviction. However, in Singapore this can only be done by the Court.” You are of course right on the jurisdiction point, but my letter of 28° January 2016 invited you “to take all necessary steps” to quash the convictions against each of the three defendants.
The step or steps you could take are as follows:
(a) The AG lodging a motion to the court to quash the convictions of the three defendants in the 1974-5 case on the basis that in the light of the 2016 conviction of Phey Yew Kok, the verdicts were no longer safe.
(b) If such a motion can only be lodged by a defendant under current law, the AG could recommend the government to amend the law to grant such rights to the AG.
(c) Alternatively, the AG could indicate to the defendants that if they were to submit an application to the court to quash the convictions, the AG would not oppose such an application.
(d) As a last resort, the AG could advise the Government to pass an Act of Parliament to quash the 1975 convictions.
The relevance of Judge Jennifer Marie’s remarks
You claim that Judge Jennifer Marie’s sentencing remarks on Phey Yew Kok were “entirely unrelated to your conviction on charges of rioting in 1975” .
I believe your proposition is wrong. Judge Marie’s remarks touched on the evil deeds and character of Phey Yew Kok during the 1973 to 1979 period. Although those remarks relate to the specific charges before her, they nevertheless impinge on the character and credibility of Phey Yew Kok at the time when he gave evidence as a prosecution witness in the 1974 “rioting” case.
The criminality of Phey Yew Kok was central to the defence case during the trial. I raised the issue of Phey’s criminality when I cross-examined him. That was disallowed by the Judge, and Phey was released as a witness. By his own volition, Phey returned to court the following morning to assert his “good character”. He told the court that he had no criminal record.
We now know, following his 2016 conviction that Phey was economical with the truth. In fact at the time when he asserted his good character at my trial in 1974, he was actually in the midst of a criminal enterprise to embezzle trade union funds.
It is therefore my submission that once the facts of Phey Yew Kok’s nefarious activities in the 1973-79 period are known, it is no longer tenable for the Attorney-General to ignore the issue of the miscarriage of justice in my case. This is because it was the defence case that Phey Yew Kok was the architect of the frame-up.
The relevance of Phey Yew Kok’s physically presence at the “riot” I further take issue with the following assertion in your letter: “Mr Phey was not present at the rioting incident on 305 October 1974. He could not and did not give evidence as to what happened during the incident.”
It is not in dispute that Phey was not present on the 30th October when his own trade union officials overturned the furniture, and smashed the glass panels of their own office to fabricate a ‘riot’. Phey Yew Kok’s absence at the scene does not undermine the defence case that he was responsible for the frame-up, and the “riot” was fabricated to advance his agenda. In conspiracy cases, the real mastermind is often absent from the scene of the crime.
The question of Judge T S Sinnathuray In your effort to avoid addressing the narrow issue which I had posed, namely the conviction was unsafe because of the new evidence about Phey Yew Kok, you relied on the records of the trial prepared by Judge T S Sinnathuray a depository of “truth” about the case.
I had scrupulously avoided raising the issue of Judge T S Sinnathuray’s handling of the trial because I believe that the new evidence about Phey Yew Kok’s criminality is more than adequate in law to render the 1975 conviction unsafe.
However, since you have chosen to use T S Sinnathuray’s records as a defence for your reluctance to act, I must draw your attention to what went on in, and outside the court beyond what you could glean from the judge’s “comprehensive written decision”.
I enclose herein Dr G Raman’s Foreword to the book Smokescreens and Mirrors. His recollection about the trial is invaluable as he was the defence lawyer for one of the defendants. G Raman is a well respected senior member of the Singapore Bar. It is clear from G Raman’s sharp observations that T S Sinnathuray handling of the trial is not beyond reproach.
I hope G Raman’s observations are of help to you. It should also assist you in appreciating why at the end of the trial I told the judge that I would not go around shopping for justice in Singapore.
The injustice in this case is of concern to me on a personal level. It eventually led to my exile. But it is also, in the words of G Raman, “a major landmark in Singapore’s legal history. It is a blot that cannot be erased.”
As the Attorney-General, and especially one who professes to want to instill public confidence in the administration of justice, it is incumbent upon you to erase this blot.
The stench of the injustice in this case has unfortunately landed on your desk. I hope you have the vision, courage and commitment to do the right thing.