Progress Singapore Party chief Tan Cheng Bock on Sunday (13 September) called for the Government to convene an independent review body to “critically and holistically assess” the authorities’ responses to former domestic worker Parti Liyani’s case.
In a Facebook post today, Dr Tan said that the body needs to be set up to evaluate the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Attorney-General’s Chambers’ (AGC) version of events and “what went wrong”.
The review body should also then “make recommendations to prevent the same wrongs from re-occurring”, he said.
Stressing that “witch hunts” or scapegoating individuals “will do us no good”, Dr Tan stressed that solutions to the problem have to go beyond “blaming or removing personnel in question”.
“Proper accountability demands that we find the root causes for these lapses. Not just whether mistakes were caused by individual human errors.
“We must examine if there are underlying systemic faults – whether there are any failures in safety processes, protocols, checks and balances. If not, we risk repeating the same mistakes again,” he wrote.
Dr Tan outlined specific issues that a potential independent review body needs to address, including:
• Why did the Investigating Officer only attend to the case the day after Parti returned to Singapore?
• Why did the Police leave evidence with the Liews for 1.5 years?
• Why did the Police only take custody of the evidence on 18 April 2018, which was barely 6 days before the start of trial on 23 April 2018?
• Did this give AGC enough time to assess the quality of evidence before deciding to go for trial?
But more than that, the review also needs to ask:
• Whether the relevant policemen, Prosecutors and the District Judge received sufficient supervision, training and resources to discharge their tasks well?
• Was the case assigned to the right personnel with the correct skill-set and experience to do their job in the first place?
• What measures will the relevant agencies put in place to ensure that the same mistakes are not repeated again?
“These are uncomfortable questions to answer. But answer them they must,” said Dr Tan.
While Singapore’s police force, the AGC and the judiciary “have performed well in the past”, apparent lapses in Ms Parti’s case “tells us that things can be better”.
“Singaporeans are waiting for good answers. And they are watching,” he concluded.
Other alternative party figures have also called for the AGC to explain its decision to prosecute Ms Parti, given the kind of evidence that was presented.
Singapore People’s Party’s Khan Osman Sulaiman urged the AGC to “review its decision process to avoid such cases from happening again”.
People’s Voice Party chief Lim Tean called for the issues present in Ms Parti’s case to be debated in Parliament.
Section 3(1) of the Inquiries Act stipulates that the President has the authority to appoint one or more commissioners to conduct an inquiry into the conduct of any public servant, as well as the conduct or management of any department of the public service or local institution.
The provision also vests in the President the power to convene a commission for the purpose of reviewing a matter “for the public welfare or in the public interest”.
President Halimah Yacob, however, has yet to make a public statement on the case as at press time.
Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam on 8 September said that “something has gone wrong in the chain of events” which the authorities “have to look at that, and deal with what went wrong”.
“(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,” he said.
Background of the case
Ms Parti was convicted in March last year of stealing items belonging to former Changi Airport Group (CAG) chairman Liew Mun Leong and his family — his son Karl Liew in particular. Ms Parti’s employment was abruptly terminated on 28 Oct 2016.
Mr Liew had asked Mr Karl to oversee Ms Parti’s termination and repatriation process to Indonesia, as the former was abroad at the time.
Prior to being sent back to her home country, Ms Parti was given only three 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.
Ms Parti was charged with stealing items totalling S$50,000.
The amount, however, was reduced to S$34,000 when District Judge Olivia Low removed several items from the charge sheet and reduced the estimated value of certain items, such as knocking down the value of a damaged Gerald Genta watched from S$25,000 to S$10,000.
Judge Low sentenced Ms Parti to two years and two months of jail after removing items from and reducing value on the allegedly stolen items that Mr Anil had successfully disproved in the State Courts hearing.
The prosecution originally sought a three-year jail sentence.
Earlier this month on 4 September, Justice Chan Seng Onn of the High Court overturned the conviction and 26-month jail sentence passed down by Judge Low to Ms Parti last year in the State Courts, effectively clearing the Indonesian national of all charges made against her.
Justice Chan found that Mr Liew and Mr Karl’s actions demonstrated “improper motives” in terminating Ms Parti’s employment and making the police report against her.
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 the Ministry of Manpower about her illegal deployment to the latter’s residence and office.