Former domestic worker Parti Liyani returned to Indonesia on Wednesday (27 January), four years after her harrowing legal ordeal that started when she was accused of thieving ex-Changi Airport Group chairman Liew Mun Leong’s belongings in 2016.
Ms Parti was accused of stealing items totalling S$50,000 from Mr Liew — her former employer — and his family members. Her case went to trial and she was found guilty by District Judge Olivia Low, who sentenced Ms Parti to 26 months of jail in March 2019.
In September last year, however, the High Court acquitted her of theft charges related to the said items.
Justice Chan Seng Onn in his decision noted that the prosecution had failed to demonstrate that there was no improper motive by the senior Liew and his son Karl in making the police report against Ms Parti “just two days” after she made an expressed threat to alert the MOM about her illegal deployment to the latter’s residence and office.
In a Facebook post on Wednesday (27 January), local academic and volunteer at the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME) Stephanie Chok revealed that throughout the four-year legal battle, Ms Parti was “not able to see her mother” and had “tried to shield her family from the bad news”.
“Four years on a Special Pass in Singapore and unable to work, four years living in a shelter, at each point waiting for an outcome that would drastically change her fate,” Dr Chok added.
Dr Chok was the case manager of HOME when she first took on Parti’s case in 2016. She resigned in 2019 but continued working on Ms Parti’s case as a volunteer.
Dr Chok said that while she is “relieved” that Ms Parti will finally be reunited with her family, the Indonesian national’s acquittal “is not the end of the journey for criminal justice reform”.
“But this, it is the beginning. If this case has opened the door to greater introspection and meaningful change, we need to jam that door right open and demand, scrutinize, petition, and protest.
“We need the space and freedom to speak truth to power, and we need persons in positions of power to be mindful, always, of how they are using/misusing their power,” Dr Chok stressed.
Parti’s items still in police custody despite High Court clearing her of all theft charges
Noting that Ms Parti’s return to Indonesia is not the end of the saga, Dr Chok highlighted that on top of the hearing for compensation to be paid to Ms Parti and the disciplinary tribunal hearing against the Deputy Public Prosecutors involved in her trial, there will also likely be a ‘disposal inquiry’.
“This morning, Parti Liyani flew home without her items from the four charge sheets returned to her.
“According to a police officer, this is because ‘other interested parties’ have laid claim to the items,” said Dr Chok, referring to items from the four charge sheets against Ms Parti such as a black dress, second-hand pots, a used knife and a pair of chopsticks.
“And so, there may need to be yet ANOTHER inquiry, in front of yet ANOTHER judge, to determine the fate of these items,” Dr Chok added, questioning if such an inquiry is not “a colossal waste of tax-payers’ money and state resources”, given Ms Parti’s acquittal.
During cross-examination at trial on 23 April 2018, Ms Parti’s defence counsel Anil Balchandani asked investigating officer ASP Tang Ru Long as to why he did not seize the items during that visit.
ASP Tang said that “seizing the items will result in the revictimising of the victims”.
The items from the three jumbo boxes were only taken into police custody by ASP Tang on 18 April 2018 — 16 months after Ms Parti’s arrest.
Previously in an interview with New Naratif last October, Dr Chok said that theft accusations can be “very easily weaponised” by employers against domestic workers or other migrant workers.
Dr Chok cited a case of a domestic worker who has not been paid of her salary for 10 years and ended up being housed at HOME.
The employer was infuriated that the worker had eaten the birds’ nest and called the police.
Before the worker was sent to the police station, the employer instructed her to sign a document saying that she has stolen the birds’ nest.
Subsequently, the worker was given a warning letter for eating the birds’ nest.
“So the employer was just safekeeping her salary for 10 years. Safekeeping? Maybe we should save MPs’ [Members of Parliament] salary for 10 years,” she quipped.
Dr Chok explained that domestic workers will not be allowed to work once they are issued warning letters, adding that theft accusation has “real practical consequences” to domestic workers as it jeopardises their employments.
“For that period of time, the domestic workers just stuck in the shelter without any ability to earn a living. No employment agencies would want to place them because they’re being investigated for theft … This really ruins their chances for getting employment,” she said.