The authorities take the judge’s comments very seriously, and will deal with what went wrong in the process of investigations, said the Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam on Tuesday (8 September), following the acquittal of Parti Liyani, the former Indonesian domestic worker of Changi Airport Group Chairman Liew Mun Leong for four charges of theft.
When asked to give his views on the case during the sidelines of a grassroots event, Mr Shanmugam noted that “something has gone wrong in the chain of events” which the authorities “have to look at that, and deal with what went wrong”.
He went on to warn the public against prejudging on which part of the process errors had been made, and that they should wait for the outcome of reviews that are now being carried out by the authorities.
“In the process, we should not be defensive. It should not be a witch hunt. It’s good to be a fair process. We have to find out what happened, why it happened and then deal with it. And be accountable. That’s the best way to build trust in public, in the system. To come out in public and say what steps we have taken once the reviews are done,” the Minister said.
Expressing his thoughts on the case’s outcome, Mr Shanmugam noted that it is good to see that justice has been served, based on the High Court’s judgment.
However, he highlighted that the justice system is fair and impartial to all, adding that the status and position of the parties involved in the case does not matter.
“(Ms Parti) was charged in a criminal case based on a complaint by the business person. The judge’s judgment goes through the facts very carefully. It sets out what the break in the chain of evidence is and in that way, it is good to see that justice is both blind and that justice has been delivered.”
The Law Minister also commended Ms Parti’s laywer, Mr Anil Balchandani for his job well done.
Although Mr Shanmugam did not read the lawyer’s submissions, but he was told that Mr Balchandani had spotted many inconsistencies in the evidence and pointed out why his client should not be convicted.
“He did a thorough and good job of it. That’s a lawyer’s job. To be thorough, to be clear, to put forward everything fairly to the court. Based on what I’ve heard, I think he ought to be commended. He’s done a good job.”
Background of the case
On Friday (4 September), the High Court dismissed the convictions of Ms Parti for the four theft charges brought against her by the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC), four years after she was first arrested by the Singapore Police at the Changi Airport.
Ms Parti was the ex-domestic helper of Mr Liew and his family, and had worked for them for eight years. She was arrested in December 2016 after returning to Singapore as there was a warrant out for her arrest after Mr Liew accused her to have stolen items from him and his family members.
After a series of investigations and court hearings, Ms Parti was sentenced 26 months of imprisonment by District Judge Olivia Low on 25 March 2019. The sentence was reduced to this amount as the District Judge removed certain items from the charges and reduce the value of the alleged stolen items due to the efforts by her lawyer, Mr Balchandani from Red Lion Circle law firm.
Ms Parti then filed an appeal against the conviction and Justice Chan Seng Onn who heard the appeal, overturned the convictions from the lower court as he finds them unsafe.
On Sunday (6 September), the AGC, the police and the Ministry of Manpower said that they are looking into the case, with the findings by Justice Chan in regards to the police investigations.
Following the acquittal of four theft charges, Ms Parti on Tuesday (7 September) was also cleared of the fifth charge, for fraudulent possession of property at the State Courts, after prosecutors applied for the charge to be withdrawn.
Netizens reaction on Law Minister’s remark
Penning their thought on social media, many netizens were not convinced with Mr Shanmugam’s remark in which he said justice has been delivered in the case of Ms Parti.
The netizens commented that justice will only be served when those who abused the law were investigated and punished for their “dastardly acts”.
Some netizens questioned whether Mr Liew’s family will be charged for “giving false statement and framing the maid for theft”.
“Let them go scot free will drive the wrong message that it is fine to accuse someone wrongly,” a netizen wrote.
A couple of netizens also urged the Law Minister to look into the case properly and call out the poor behaviour of those who take advantage and make malicious lies.
Other than investigations, the netizens also opined that an independent review and clarification of the authorities are needed to restore the public’s trust and confidence in Singapore’s justice system, otherwise it will becomes an “ownself check ownself” situation.
As compare with Ms Parti’s pro bono lawyer who did a good job, a handful of netizens also criticised the judicial authorities who were highly-paid, but still overlook some doubt and convicted Ms Parti.
“They need to reform something, an innocent person should never have years of their life ruined by frivolous lawsuits,” a netizen wrote.