On Tuesday (8 September), the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) told the media in response to queries that it had issued a caution and advisory to the Liew family following complaints against them in regards to the domestic helper employed by them, Parti Liyani.
Specifically, MOM said, “In Ms Parti Liyani’s case, at the conclusion of our investigations, MOM consulted the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) as is the practice for similar cases, on the facts available.
“With AGC’s concurrence and, consistent with the actions taken in similar cases, in May 2018, MOM issued a caution against Mrs Liew and an advisory notice to Mr Karl Liew. There were no prior complaints lodged with MOM against any of the parties involved.”
MOM issues a caution when an illegal deployment is established to be infrequent or happened over a short period of time. An advisory notice, meanwhile, is issued when the illegal deployment is not conclusively substantiated.
Mrs Liew or Mdm Ng Lai Peng, is the wife of Changi Airport Group Chairman Liew Mun Leong, who employed Ms Parti. Karl Liew is their son.
According to them, the warnings given to the Liew family is consistent with actions taken for similar cases. The ministry also revealed that between 2017 to 2019, it has taken action against 155 employers each year on average for illegally deploying foreign domestic workers.
In the case of Ms Parti, the AGC had brought four charges of theft against Ms Parti in 2016 for which she was originally convicted and sentenced to 26 months in jail. However, following an appeal, Ms Parti was acquitted of all four charges this year as the judge presiding over the appeal found the convictions against her to be unsafe.
The judge also noted the existence of “improper motive” by members of the Liew family in mounting these allegations of theft against Ms Parti as she had earlier made known her intentions of filing a complaint with MOM over the fact that she was illegally deployed to clean Karl Liew’s home and office.
In the High Court judgement, Justice Chan Seng Onn noted:
“It is clear to me based on the evidence at the trial below that Parti was in fact made to do illegal cleaning work at Karl’s residence at 39 CL and at Karl’s office. Parti’s evidence is that she received $10 for two to three days of work, and the payment was not regular. In fact, there was a prior dispute between Parti and the Liew family over the cleaning of the toilet in 39 CL; when Mdm Ng requested Parti to do so, she refused. There was also another incident where Parti refused to cook extra food for Karl.”
He continued, “It is significant that at some time prior to her termination, Parti had expressed unhappiness for being made to do additional cleaning work at Karl’s home in 39 CL and at his office, probably without adequate compensation. It demonstrates Parti’s prior unhappiness in relation to such an arrangement, which was illegal and an offence against the MOM regulations.”
Now, this revelation by MOM that it had issued both an advisory notice and a caution to members of the Liew family over complaints of illegal deployment and had consulted the AGC shows that the AGC knew about these complaints and the relevant details when Ms Parti’s case was being heard in July 2018.
District Judge, prosecution blocked defence counsel from mentioning his client’s intention to lodge complaint to MOM
We noted in an earlier article that during the trial before District Judge Olivia Low, Ms Parti’s lawyer, Anil Balchandani of Red Lion Circle, was repeatedly prevented by the prosecution from raising issues of his client’s intention to alert MOM about her illegal deployment.
Both the judge and Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Yanying branded Mr Anil’s attempts to highlight the issue during his cross-examination of Mr Karl Liew —called as a witness by the prosecution—as “irrelevant”, with Judge Low stating that matters pertaining to the MOM investigations are of a civil nature.
Mr Anil, at one point, however, argued that DPP Tan protested his move to raise the issue out of fear of “what may come out of this”.
“This is relevant because it is very close to the events of October 2016, when Parti was asked to leave,” he submitted.
Judge Low, however, said that while she would “allow that line of questioning”, she did not believe “it should extend to MOM investigations” and that she would allow the prosecution to object should Mr Anil continue to raise the matter.
In the same hearing, which took place on 16 July 2018, Judge Low said: “Any MOM investigations which are not before me are not relevant, you see”.
When Mr Anil highlighted that the judge had disallowed him from asking questions on possible MOM investigations, Judge Low reiterated that there was no need for the defence counsel to delve into the MOM investigations, as “there will be no end to the Cross-Examination”.
Knowing what we know now, what exactly was the AGC trying to do in blocking the defence from raising the complaint filed by Ms Parti to the MOM during the trial?
Was it trying to actually uphold justice or was it merely attempting to secure a conviction of a now-deemed innocent domestic worker?