In mid September, Minister for Law and Home Affairs, K Shanmuggam, publicly announced that he would be delivering a ministerial speech in Parliament in October in relation to the failings of the Parti Liyani case. However, a few weeks after making that undertaking, Shanmuggam appeared to change his mind and postponed his address to November.

The reason cited for this postponement is ostensibly to allow for the internal and behind closed doors reviews by the various agencies to be concluded. Yet, given that a number of members of parliament (MP) have filed questions on this issue in the October Parliamentary sitting, it is clear that the MPs have gauged that their constituents are keenly interested in this issue and are doing their duty by their constituents to get updates.

By postponing his speech, has Shanumuggam misread public sentiment and let MPs down?

After all, there is no reason why he cannot give two speeches – one in October and one in November? Why can’t he provide an update now with a follow up in November?

Looking at the questions asked and the responses that have been provided on behalf of Shanmuggam, it sounds an awful lot like a “fob off”.

Many MPs have requested an update and all that was said by way of answer was that the reviews were still underway and that answers will come in November. However, this is not answering the question! The MPs have asked for an update! They have not asked for a conclusion!

Some of the questions asked also pertain to historic information that can easily be answered. For example, Tan Wu Meng asked  the following questions:

(a) what percentage of cases of theft as an employee has a foreign domestic worker been the accused;
(b) what proportion of the above has (i) been charged in court (ii) proceeded to trial (iii) been convicted and (iv) been acquitted respectively; and
(c) what proportion of each subgroup above has had legal representation?

These questions are data based questions that are not directly related to the Parti Liyani review. Why can’t the Minister answer these questions?

Another example would be the questions asked by Lim Biow Chuan. Lim asked how many State Court judges have previously worked as prosecutors in the Attorney-General’s Chambers and whether the Ministry would review the policy of separation of duties.

Again, why can’t these questions be answered? One is historic data while the other deals with what the scope of the current review encompasses. Surely the Ministry should at least be able to tell us whether or not Lim’s question forms the scope of the current review?

These closed doors reviews may not be very constructive if we don’t even know what the scope of the review is. Can the conclusion of a review where no one knows the scope of be considered conclusive on the issue? Can it even be considered fit for purpose where accountability and transparency to the public is concerned?

By keeping everything under a cloak of secrecy could create the impression that authorities are trying to create a narrative that puts them in a good light.


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