Leader of the Reform Party, Kenneth Jeyaretnam (Jeyaretnam) has written a damning indictment of Minister for Law and Home Affairs, K Shanmugam’s (Shanmugam) Parliamentary speech on the Parti Liyani (Parti) case. Among other things, Jeyaretnam said :
“Despite naïve hopes expressed by many Singaporeans that the flaws exposed by the Parti Liyani case should lead to reform of the criminal justice system, Shanmugam not only whitewashed the whole system but also undermined the independence of the judiciary……He cast doubt on the High Court’s decision to overturn Parti Liyani’s appeal and smeared her as someone who had stolen from her employers but had been lucky to get away with it.”
Shanmugam’s true intentions behind his parliamentary speech are best left to him to clarify but in saying that the police and the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) were not wrong to charge Parti in the first instance, he is implying that Parti was guilty. This not only undermines the High Court, but it also smears the good name of Parti after she has fought so hard to clear it against all odds.
Remember, Parti lost out on an opportunity to work for four years! She would not even have been able to sustain herself but for the help of the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME). Why would any lawyer, much less one as skilled as Anil Balchandani take on her case pro bono if there was an ounce of belief that she was guilty? Why would anyone bother wasting their time in this David vs Goliath battle if there was even a pinch of doubt on her innocence?
Shanmugam’s statements, therefore, seem like an attempt to defend the AGC and the police no matter what and that is what comes across as disingenuous and disappointing.
Worst still, Shanmugam also casts doubt on the veracity of Parti’s subsequent complaints by saying that she did not draft the complaints. Does this not undermine her even further? She is the victim of a miscarriage of justice. In view of that and the fact that her life was in limbo for four years, she totally deserves the damages that she is claiming. While she may have made the complaints on the advice of her legal team, the decision to make that complaint is no less hers. After all, don’t the police consistently take advice from the AGC as the Government’s lawyers too? Does this mean that all decisions made by the police on the advice of the AGC are not the police’s decision?
What Shanmugam has done (unwittingly or otherwise) is to lend credence to the belief that the rich and powerful bully the little people. As it stands, Liew Mun Leong is seen as the influential and well-connected bully who fabricated evidence in order to prevent his foreign domestic worker (FDW) from complaining about her illegal deployment. Now we have the mighty Minister creating a narrative to disempower the actions of an FDW as if she has no compos mentis! And all this is based on internal investigations that are held behind closed doors that are not verifiable by the public!
The Parti case has thrown up so many public interest issues that cause disquiet – misuse of power, police negligence, AGC negligence, unconscious bias in public services across multiple state agencies, just to name a few. And yet, there was no committee of inquiry? Just a ministerial statement backed by nothing but piecemeal verbal revelations from internal non-verifiable investigations?
Shanmugam may have wanted to clarify but what he may have created is a travesty!