Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (Lee) has addressed the Parti Liyani (Parti) case in a Facebook post. Among other things, he said:
“Building a democratic society based on justice and equality is a fundamental goal of our nation. To do this, we need proper and fair enforcement of our laws.”
He also said that if there were indeed any shortcomings found in the criminal justice system of Singapore, such shortcomings must be remedied.
While Lee’s sentiments are heartening, what he has failed to address is how such shortcomings are to be remedied in the absence of a public committee of inquiry (COI).
In this context, can we really unearth the shortcomings and deal with them?
Even if the intentions are positive, we cannot underplay the possibility of unconscious bias and the danger of internal investigations is that the investigators may unwittingly replicate such unconscious biases.
If so, how can the “fundamental goals” of equality and justice as highlighted by Lee be achieved?
Lee further affirmed Shanmugam’s ministerial statement and said that “both sides of the House agreed that it had been treated as a routine case by the police and the AGC (Attorney-General’s Chambers) and that there was no attempt by any party to influence its outcome.”
However, we go back to the perennial question of how the House had arrived at that conclusion? Without suggesting that the Liew family had badgered the police or the AGC, it nevertheless remains a fact that Liew Mun Leong is a well connected and influential man in Singapore, one that can count Lee’s wife, Ho Ching, as a personal contact. Were the police and the AGC aware of this fact?
And if so, were they subconsciously affected by that knowledge? Without the benefit of a public COI, we will never know and a chance is missed to create and reinforce a system that is truly immune to class, race and sex.
Lee said: “We will continually strive to protect and improve our justice system, so that people can be assured that it is clean, just and works equally for all.”
Will it really work equally for all if unconscious bias remains a possibility?
Why not take this chance to convene a COI so that we can have an open and honest discussion about these issues?