Ever since the Parti Liyani (Parti) case broke, it has captured the imagination of the public. However, even as public interest reached fever pitch, the authorities have given the impression (whether unwittingly or otherwise) that they wanted to stage manage how the matter was handled every step of the way.
Not only has this “stage managing” created room for speculation, it could also affect the credibility of the various agencies – in particular, if the public are of the opinion that the various agencies did make mistakes they were trying to hide from the public.
The Protagonist was a foreign domestic worker (FDW) for a well connected family accused of stealing. While she was initially found guilty, the High Court exonerated her and stated that the prosecution did not discharge the requisite burden of proof. In addition, there were revelations that the police had appeared to have handled the investigation and evidence unprofessionally. In some quarters, their conduct could even have been construed as negligent.
Given that the matter involved multiple state agencies ranging from the Ministry of Manpower, the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) and the Singapore Police Force (SPF), there were calls fairly early on for a Committee of Inquiry (COI) to be convened. For reasons unknown, authorities did not address these calls for a COI and instead began closed door investigations where the public have been kept in the dark as to the scope.
The Worker’s Party (WP) had also put in a request for a Full Motion in the Parliamentary sittings in October to discuss the matter. Unfortunately however, another Full Motion was selected and that opportunity was lost.
The Minister for Law and Home Affairs, K Shanmugam (Shanmugam) had initially said he wanted to address the matter in October. However to the public’s disappointment, he postponed his address to November on the basis that he wanted to wait for the closed door internal investigations to be concluded. Given that the matter concerned a potential miscarriage of justice and the possible failings of multiple publicly funded agencies, one would have thought that the matter was one of great urgency – yet however, K Shanmugam chose to demur.
Had he delayed a speech in order to convene a COI, this would have been understandable. The COI would have been open to public scrutiny. What transpired however is internal investigations which are unverifiable by the public. What then prevents the public from coming to the conclusion that the delay was a tactic to buy time so as to shape a narrative?
It is human to err. If indeed there have been errors made, why not just get to the bottom of it and apologise? This would create credibility far more then a seeming whitewash?
To add insult to injury, the Peoples’ Action Party (PAP) amended the WP’s November Full Motion in a way that is not only unnecessary but misleading.
The original motion filed by the WP is as follows:
That this house affirms that fairness, access and independence are cornerstones of Singapore’s justice system and calls on the government to recognise and remedy its shortcomings in order to enhance justice for all regardless of means and social status including facilitating a review of the justice system
The amendment, on the other hand, says:
That this house recognises that fairness, access and independence are cornerstones of Singapore’s justice system and affirms the government’s continuous efforts since independence to build a fair and just society and remedy any shortcomings in order to enhance justice for all regardless of race, language, religion, economic means or social status.
*Changes are illustrated in bold*
The changes give the impression that the Government has always made efforts to ensure that fairness and equality prevails. However, if it is indeed the case that it has, why is it so defensive? The WP’s original wording had never said that the Government did not make enough effort in the first place.
Besides, if the Government is indeed committed to continuous efforts to ensure fairness etc, why not just call a COI and silence critics once and for all?
By attempting to frame the matter from start to finish in a way that paints authorities in a good light, causes suspicion and speculation. It also erodes trust in the process. If there is nothing to hide, why the delays? Why the need for the investigations to be internal and under a shroud of secrecy? Why the need to amend the Full Motion? Are authorities aware of mistakes that could make them look bad? Is that they are seemingly trying so hard to stress how “above board” everything is despite everything being so cloak and dagger?