It was reported yesterday that Liew Mun Leong’s former maid, Parti Liyani, has taken to court to seek disciplinary proceedings against the 2 Deputy Public Prosecutors (DPP), Mr Tan Wee Hao and Ms Tan Yanying, who dealt with her trial (‘Parti Liyani seeks disciplinary proceedings against prosecutors who dealt with her case‘, 23 Sep).
The hearing was for an originating summons under Section 82A of the Legal Profession Act. Under the Act, the legal service officer could face penalties if he or she is found to be guilty of misconduct befitting their post as an advocate and solicitor. The penalties include censures, being struck off the roll, penalty of up to S$20,000, or any other order a disciplinary tribunal deems fit.
The High Court earlier (4 Sept) has dismissed the convictions of Ms Parti on four theft charges brought against her by the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC). Last year, she was sentenced by the district court judge Olivia Low to 26 months’ jail.
Ms Parti worked for ex-Changi Airport Group Chairman Liew Mun Leong and his family for eight years before she was arrested at Changi Airport in 2016 when she re-entered Singapore. She had no idea that Liew and his son had already filed a police report against her for theft. High Court judge, Justice Chan Seng Onn, who overturned the sentence for Ms Parti, ruled that the district court had failed to consider several points including the credibility of the testimony of Liew’s son, Karl Liew.
Justice Chan scolds DPPs for using “sleight-of-hand technique” in trial
One of the troubling issues found by Justice Chan was that the DPPs concealed evidence such as the fact that the DVD player which Parti was alleged to have stolen, was in fact, malfunctioning – It cannot play DVDs but at the district court hearing, the DPPs played from the memory hard drive of the DVD player, giving the impression that it was working perfectly.
Ms Parti denied stealing the DVD player, saying it was disposed of by the Liew family because it was “spoilt” and she kept it to bring home to Indonesia for repair. Justice Chan believed her, “As its name suggests, a DVD player’s main function is to play a DVD… a DVD player that is unable to play DVD can reasonably be described as ‘spoilt’.”
DPPs later admitted they knew the machine could not play DVDs, but did not disclose this during the trial at the district court when it was produced as evidence and shown to have worked in another way. In his judgement at the High Court, Justice Chan criticised the 2 DPPs for using a “sleight-of-hand technique… [that] was particularly prejudicial to the accused”.
TOC also reported how one of the two prosecutors, Ms Tan Yanying had objected to questions raised by Parti’s defence on the credibility of Karl Liew as a witness and the MOM complaint filed by Parti in 2017.
Ms Tan’s father a Brigadier General in SAF
As it turns out, Ms Tan has been featured in the media as far back as 11 years ago when she was only about 23 years old, fresh out from the university.
In fact, her father, Tan Yong Soon, then the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources contributed an article to the Straits Times mentioning her in his story (‘Cooking up the holiday spirit‘, 6 Jan 2009).
Ms Tan’s father was actually a Brigadier-General (BG) at the SAF. In 1974, he was awarded an SAF scholarship and served in the SAF for some 20 years. He was promoted from Colonel to BG in 1993. He became the Principal Private Secretary to PM Goh (1995-1996); Deputy Secretary (Policy) for Finance (2000-2001); CEO of URA (2001-2003); Permanent Secretary for the Environment and Water Resources (2004-2009) and National Development. He was also awarded the Public Administration Medal (Gold) (Military) in 1994 and another Public Administration Medal (Gold) in 2006.
Ms Tan’s father retired from the Singapore Civil Service in 2012. Currently, he is a professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP). Incidentally, Liew Mun Leong, Ms Parti ex-boss, was also the provost’s chair and professor at LKYSPP at the time of the investigation into Ms Parti’s alleged theft case. In other words, Ms Tan’s father and Liew were colleagues at LKYSPP.
Ms Tan joined father in Paris
In any case, in the article published 11 years ago, Ms Tan’s father wrote how he brought his whole family to learn French cooking for 5 full weeks at the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris.
“Taking five weeks’ leave from work is not as difficult as one thinks. Most times, when you are at the top, you think you are indispensable. But if you are a good leader who has built up a good team, it is possible to go away for five weeks or even longer,” Ms Tan’s father wrote.
“My daughter Yanying, 23, would join us in Paris in our last week, since she could not take such long leave because she had just started working.”
The elder Tan said that the cooking course can make one uncomfortable. “Sore body, cuts and burns,” he said. “At the end of my first week, my body was sore, not counting the burns and occasional cuts on my hand… The restaurant kitchen is a very stressful place.”
On weekends, when there were no classes, he would bring his family to French restaurants to sample the fare. “After all, we were in Paris to learn about food,” he said. One of the French restaurants he particularly mentioned was the Michelin-star Le Cinq at the Four Seasons Hotel George V, where he and his family “sampled” exquisite French fare.
At the end of the course, the elder Tan revealed that his wife came in second while he came in fifth in their cooking class. He also later revealed that the 5-week course for his wife, son and himself at Le Cordon Bleu cost more than S$46,000. And this did not even include air fares, meals at restaurants and others.
Ms Tan’s father rapped by Teo Chee Hean
Not long after the Tan family’s expensive French cooking trip was revealed to the public, there was a public outcry with some accusing him of extravagance given that Singapore was in a recession at the time (‘Bureaucrat’s cooking trip sparks outcry‘, 14 Jan 2009).
With the public baying for blood, on 19 Jan 2009, Nominated MP Siew Kum Hong decided to ask the government in Parliament for its response to the matter.
NMP Siew said, “A senior civil servant recently contributed an article in the Straits Times describing his family’s five-week holiday in Paris which would have cost more than the 2007 average per capita GDP in Singapore ($53,000).”
“It was the civil servant’s own money, he has the prerogative to spend it as he sees fit. But in these (recession) times, writing about it in the national newspaper was unnecessarily provocative and unimaginably insensitive,” NMP Siew added.
“So my question is whether the Public Service has guidelines in place to ensure that senior civil servants conduct themselves appropriately and sensitively, and were they followed in this case?”
Then DPM Teo Chee Hean replied, “What the civil servant in question, Mr Tan, does during his vacation leave is his private decision. However, I was disappointed with what he wrote in the Straits Times.”
“The article showed a lack of sensitivity and was ill-judged. It struck a discordant note during the current difficult economic circumstances when it is especially important to show solidarity and empathy for Singaporeans who are facing uncertainties and hardship,” Teo added.
“The Head of Civil Service has spoken to Mr Tan about this to make these points and asked Mr Tan to take note of the feedback and learn from this episode. The Head of Civil Service has followed up to write to Mr Tan to put the matter on the record.”
Civil Service head Peter Ho also rapped Ms Tan’s father, “It is part of the duty of civil servants to be sensitive to challenges faced by Singaporeans, especially in difficult times like these. The leadership of the Civil Service – the Permanent Secretaries – must exemplify this sensitivity.”
“Mr Tan’s comments were clearly ill-judged, and were quite inappropriate, particularly because of his leadership position,” Ho added.
Eleven years have passed. It looks like another member of the Tan family, this time Tan Yong Soon’s daughter, Tan Yanying, will be discussed in Parliament soon.
Workers’ Party chairman Sylvia Lim has filed questions as well as an adjournment motion on the Ms Parti’s case for Parliament to debate at its next sitting, which is scheduled to take place in Oct next month. Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said it would be good for Parliament to discuss the matter.
However, unlike her father, there is now a court case pending against DPP Tan Yanying and her colleague.