While the authorities have not yet issued an official finding on the Parti Liyani case, it is become scarily possible that Parti’s case is not the only one where the Singapore Police Force (SPF) and the lower courts may have gotten things wrong.
While readers are all probably familiar with the potential failings on the part of the SPF, the Attorney’s General’s Chambers (AGC) and the lower courts in Parti’s case, attention must be drawn to a few other cases with eerie similarities.
First up, we have the case of of Malaysian inmate Gobi Avedian (Gobi) who was previously sentenced to death for drug trafficking. In setting aside Gobi’s capital charge, the Court of Appeal held that the prosecution did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Gobi had a clear, grounded and targeted suspicion that what he was told or led to believe about the nature of the drugs was untrue after noting that the prosecutors ran a different case in the trial and appeal stage. This would mean that Gobi would be dead without the efforts of Mr M Ravi, his lawyer, who launched an appeal after all avenues — which includes the President’s clemency — had been exhausted.
Next, we have the case of Portela Vilma Jimenez (Jimenez), a Filipina foreign domestic worker (FDW) who was charged with making allegedly unauthorised withdrawals from her then-employer Yong Choong Hiong’s (Yong) bank account eight times over a period of two months in 2017. For this, Jimenez was sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment by District Judge Jasvender Kaur (Kaur) earlier this year. It would appear that Kaur had seemingly believed Jimenez’s guilt from the very outset, going so far as to convict Jimenez on grounds that were not even posited by the prosecution!
For example, while the prosecution did not explain how Jimenez had managed to get the ATM cards from Yong to make the withdrawals (Yong had claimed that the cards were always with him), Kaur had posited that Jimenez had removed the ATM cards from the wallet in the drawer before Yong woke up and returned the cards to the wallet when he was asleep.
Like Parti’s case, Jimenez has been exonerated by the High Court with Justice Chua Lee Ming acquitting Jimenez immediately after a 20-minute break during the appeal hearing, concluding that a reasonable doubt had been raised on the charges against her based on several issues.
However, just like Parti, Jimenez’s life was in limbo and she was unable to work for years. Without the help of the Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (HOME) and pro bono lawyers, Jimenez would never have been exonerated.
In each of Gobi and Parti’s case, the AGC seem prepared to prosecute despite inadequate evidence. In Jimenez case, we have a judge willing to essentially “fill in the gaps” for the prosecution and Parti’s case, a judge who was inclined to accept questionable testimonies from an affluent family which were subsequently struck out by a High Court judge hearing the appeal.
At this juncture, we have to ask ourselves whether we are systematically biased against foreign blue collar workers?