by Teo Soh Lung
Last week, Singaporeans witnessed how our Parliament was used to run down a defenceless Indonesian domestic worker, criticise her lawyer for an alleged technical oversight which resulted in the appeal judge reaching an erroneous conclusion on the motive of Liew Mun Leong when he lodged a police report. Unproven new evidence was revealed.
I suspect it was an attempt to vindicate the judgement of the trial judge and overturn the appeal judge’s decision as well as to clear the name of the Liew family. The Minister naturally denies all these.
One of the new unproven evidence came in the form of the employment agent’s words – that she heard Ms Liyani said she wanted to complain about the short notice for her termination of employment and not her illegal deployment to to work in another household.
The agent said she offered to assist Ms Liyani in lodging the complaint but she declined. The fact that this evidence has not been proven in a court of law did not bother the Minister.
It was not the first time that Minister Shanmugam had tarred the good name of people who have no opportunity to respond in the august chamber. It is also not the first time that the Minister had spoken before the conclusion of pending proceedings, in this case, disciplinary proceedings against public prosecutors and police officers.
Was this an attempt to influence the outcome of such proceedings?
Mr Shanmugam spoke for several hours. He said that disciplinary proceedings had been instituted and asked why NCMP Leong Mun Wai wanted a committee of inquiry and why Ms Liyani or HOME should file a police report. Incidentally the police report of Ms Liyani was made on 3 July, well before the judgment of the High Court was delivered.
The Minister claimed that all the matters in the judgements have been dealt with by those who conducted the inhouse investigation.
To questions raised by Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh on the police report lodged by Ms Liyani or HOME the Minister pretended that he had not read it “very carefully” and conveniently enumerated three issues out of four that were raised in the Ms Liyani’s police report.
The complaint which he conveniently omitted was the allegation that the police officer had vigorously shaken the damaged $25,000 Gerald Genta watch during the trial in order to make its hands move. The intention was to prove to the court that Ms Liyani was lying when she claimed that the watch was not working.
Luckily, her lawyer had observed that the police officer shaking the watch and had requested during re-examination, that the officer refrain from shaking the watch before passing it to the witness. The hands of the watch failed to move.
This evidence clearly showed that the prosecution was all out to employ dishonest means in order to gain a conviction. My question to the Minister is this: Was this incident mentioned in the inhouse investigation? If it was, was the incident part of the disciplinary proceedings that he said was in progress?
The untested new evidence was obviously intended to affirm that all is well within the judicial system and that there is no systemic failures. It was intended to cast Ms Liyani as a thief despite her acquittal by the High Court. It was intended to exonerate the Liews.
It is regrettable that the Government, instead of seizing the opportunity to examine its entire system of justice as exposed by the wrongful conviction of Ms Liyani, had chosen to shut its eyes to injustice and resume as per normal after promising disciplinary proceedings against a few officers and bringing a criminal charge for giving false information against Liew Jr.
It chose to believe that there is no systematic faults in the criminal justice system, no bias, no undue influence but just mistakes made by individual officers. Yes, the Minister did say that it is not too happy with the existing Criminal Legal Aid Scheme which is managed by the Law Society and that he is toying with the idea of a public defender’s office. And yes, it is worried about the shortage of manpower but still the system works and there is no need for an overhaul.
As a member of the public and one who sometimes gets into trouble with the law over non criminal matters, may I suggest that the Minister look into the possibility of decriminalising offences that do no harm to the public but creates some awareness about what is going wrong with our country.
Decriminalising public protests, unlawful assemblies, criminal defamation, and the likes will solve some manpower issues. Indeed, the feedback from officers who investigated my case for Cooling Off Day offences had told me that they very much prefer to investigate real crimes such as murders rather than petty irritations from civil society.
Yes, the more crimes created by Parliament, the less time the police officers will have for investigation of real crimes.
This was first published on Function 8’s Facebook page and reproduced with permission.