The Ministry of Manpower (MOM)’s advisory to Changi Airport Group (CAG) chairman Liew Mun Leong’s son Karl Liew in 2018 was “nothing more than just a slap on the wrist”, says the Workers’ Party’s Azhar Latip.
Mr Azhar, who contested in Marine Parade Group Representation Constituency in the general election this year, said in a Facebook post on Monday (7 September) that Mr Liew’s former domestic worker Parti Liyani’s illegal deployment to Mr Karl’s residence and office was “clearly a direct violation of MOM’s regulations which would carry some form of penalties for the offenders”.
“What baffles me is the fact MOM deemed it sufficient to only issue an advisory to the family for these violations,” he said.
Mr Azhar pointed out that Mr Karl would have surely had “the means to employ a domestic helper of his own” as a person coming from a family of means.
“But instead they chose to exploit Ms Parti. I read some accounts that Ms Parti was paid only a measly sum for the additional work. This coming from a man who earns millions every year,” he said, referencing the senior Liew.
Mr Azhar also criticised apparent lapses on the part of the authorities involved in the case.
“It is not my intention to question the integrity of our justice system. But nevertheless serious questions must be asked about the initial investigation and trial which led to the guilt charge.
“How was it possible that the police and judge failed to realise the police report lodged by the family of the CAG chairman against Ms Parti was not made truthfully but rather with the intention to prevent Ms Parti from ever setting foot in MOM’s offices?
“Surely, at some point in time during the investigations, red flags should have been raised especially concerning the sudden termination of Ms Parti’s contract which gave her insufficient time to even pack her belongings, let alone time for her to lodge a complaint to MOM,” he argued.
Mr Azhar highlighted that if it was not for the efforts of non-government organisation Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (HOME) and Ms Parti’s defence counsel Anil Balchandani, Ms Parti would have been wrongfully imprisoned “for crimes she did not commit”.
“Absolute mad respect to HOME for giving Ms Parti a safe place to stay throughout her court case, and the lawyer, Mr Anil Balchandani, for taking up the case. I understand he took up the case on a pro bono basis, spending countless number of hours pouring through volumes of documents and made numerous submissions to the court,” he wrote.
Mr Azhar urged for compensation to be paid by the Liew family to Ms Parti and her family for the ordeal they went through as a result of the case.
“Ms Parti was not able to work throughout the entire duration of the case which has caused immense difficulties, financially and emotionally, not just to herself but also to her family back home in Indonesia,” he said.
Stating that he is looking forward to the Attorney-General’s Chambers’ next action on the matter, Mr Azhar said that it is imperative for any shortcomings in the justice system to be “addressed quickly and rectified”.
“Society depends on the justice system to ensure that the innocent gets the protection they deserve. For that to happen, the justice system needs to be robust and investigations have to be thorough,” he said.
Ms Parti was previously found guilty in the State Courts of stealing over S$34,000 worth of items belonging to Mr Liew and his family.
Justice Chan Seng Onn, in allowing Ms Parti’s appeal against her conviction and jail sentence of two years and two months last Friday, branded the Liew family as having “improper motives” against Ms Parti.
The “improper motives” revolved around Mr Liew and his son Karl Liew’s plans to lodge a police report against her to stop her from notifying MOM regarding the cleaning work she was made to do at Mr Karl’s home at 39 Chancery Lane and his office at Killiney Road.
Parti had “ample basis” to lodge complaint to MOM over illegal deployment”: Justice Chan Seng Onn
In his full judgement, spanning over a hundred pages, Justice Chan reasoned that “there was in fact ample basis for Parti to make a complaint to the MOM” based on the evidence shown by Parti regarding the “illegal cleaning work” she was asked to carry out at Mr Karl’s residence and at his office.
“Parti’s evidence is that she received $10 for two to three days of work, and the payment was not regular,” he said.
Justice Chan also drew attention to conflicts between the domestic worker and the Liew family involving Ms Parti’s refusal to clean the toilet in Mr Karl’s residence and her objection against making extra food for him.
“Further, when Karl told Parti that her employment was terminated, her immediate response to him was “I know why. You angry because I refused to clean up your toilet”,” the judge noted.
On top of Ms Parti making her unhappiness evident regarding being made to do the illegal cleaning work “probably without adequate compensation”, Justice Chan highlighted that such an arrangement “was illegal and an offence against the MOM regulations”.
Under MOM’s rules on hiring foreign domestic workers, a domestic worker is only permitted to work for her employer and at the residential address stated in her Work Permit.
The only exception listed on the MOM website is if it is necessary for the domestic worker to be placed at another address for the purpose of caring for the employer’s young children or elderly parents during day time.
The penalty for illegal deployment of a foreign domestic worker is a fine of up to S$10,000 and possibly a ban on hiring foreign domestic workers.
Justice Chan reasoned that Ms Parti’s express mention of her intentions to complain to MOM about her illegal deployment “would most likely have meant that Parti would immediately lose her job”.
Such a prospect, he noted, might have placed Ms Parti in “in a dilemma as to whether she should make such a complaint or even tell the Liew family that she intended to do so” if she continued to be asked to do work outside of Mr Liew’s home at 49 Chancery Lane.
The earlier disputes, however, may have served as “hints to the Liew family” that Ms Parti was not keen on doing work outside of Mr Liew’s home, said Justice Chan.
“In my judgment, there is reason to believe that the Liew family, upon realising her unhappiness, took the pre-emptive first step to terminate her employment suddenly without giving her sufficient time for her to pack, in the hope that Parti would not use the time to make a complaint to MOM,” he reasoned.
The police report lodged by the Liews after Ms Parti explicitly stated her desire to notify MOM of her illegal deployment after her sudden termination, Justice Chan observed, was a way to “ensure her return would be prevented”.
“Given the seriousness of the consequences that might follow from what Parti said she would do, I have reason to believe that the Liew family would be very concerned that Parti would carry out her threat to report the matter to MOM,” he said.
The Liew family’s decision to abruptly terminate Ms Parti’s employment, noted Justice Chan, was based on items that went missing “over the years” and not those were recently discovered to be missing around the time the termination took place.
“In my view, this is not believable and it is more likely that the fear of Parti’s complaint to MOM rendered her termination urgent, at least in the eyes of the Liew family,” he said.
Based on the above, said Justice Chan, the prosecution had “failed to dispel the reasonable doubt” mounted by the defence.
He stressed that the prosecution had failed to demonstrate that there was no improper motive by Mr Liew and Mr Karl in making the police report against Ms Parti “just two days” after she made an express threat to alert MOM about her illegal deployment.
Background of the case
Ms Parti was convicted in March last year of stealing items belonging to Mr Liew and his family — his son Karl Liew in particular — after her employment was terminated on 28 Oct 2016 and before being repatriated to Indonesia. Mr Liew had asked Mr Karl to oversee the termination and repatriation process as the former was abroad at the time.
During the District Court trial, Mr Liew had testified that he suspected Ms Parti of stealing for years when he discovered that certain items went missing at his Chancery Lane house.
Ms Parti’s termination was made purportedly after she had stolen a portable power bank gifted to him by a university in France that had invited him to give a guest lecture back in 2015.
Prior to being sent back to her home country, Ms Parti was given only two hours to pack her belongings despite having worked for the family for almost nine years.
Mr Liew subsequently reported the purported theft on 30 October the same year after returning to Singapore. Less than two months later, Ms Parti was arrested at Changi Airport on 2 December upon her return to Singapore.
District Judge Olivia Low sentenced Ms Parti to two years and two months of jail, following which Ms Parti made her appeal against the conviction and the jail sentence.