The Minister for Home Affairs and Law, K Shanmugam, addressed the parliament today on several questions raised by Members of Parliament about the Government’s approach to revealing the names of people under police investigation.
The questions from the MPs were about the disclosure by Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean, in response to a question by MP Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim (PAP-Chua Chu Kang) on 2 March, of the police investigations against Mr Lee Hsien Yang (LHY) and Mrs Lee Suet Fern (LSF) for potential offences of giving false evidence in judicial proceedings.
Specifically, Mr Leong’s question notes that LHY and LSF were publicly named and disclosed during their investigation with the Singapore Police Force for giving false evidence in judicial proceedings. In contrast, the names of six former management staff of Keppel Offshore & Marine Limited (KOM) were not made public during their investigation with the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB).
Trying to explain the rationale behind the disclosure, Mr Shamugam referred to the parliamentary question filed by Mr Zhulkarnain about some public statements which had been made relating to Oxley and the judgments of the disciplinary Tribunal and the court of three judges.
“Members can look up the question and answer. The question required discussing the accuracy of those public statements in the context of the judgments of the disciplinary tribunal and the court of three judges”
He further added that it was necessary to deal with the honesty of Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Mrs Lee Suet Fern, as well as the ongoing police investigations that arose from the findings of the tribunal and the court of three judges.
“In that context, it was relevant and necessary to disclose this information in order to provide an accurate and complete answer. It was also accurate to mention that Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Mrs Lee Suet Fern had not cooperated with the police investigations, despite saying that they would,” said Mr Shanmugam.
“The reasons for disclosing that Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Mrs Lee Suet Fern were under investigation are broadly similar to the reasons why it was disclosed that Mr Karl Liew, who was being investigated for perjury, was under investigation. However, in the case of Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Mrs Lee Suet Fern, they have additionally absconded from the jurisdiction.”
So while Mr Shanmugam’s explanation makes some sense, it would only apply if the MP’s question had been addressed to him, like in the case of Mr Karl Liew, which he had cited as one of his examples for when individuals involved in investigations would be named.
Let us remind ourselves that the question by Mr Zhulkarnain about the e-book published half a year ago was addressed to Mr Teo, who is also the Coordinating Minister for National Security. Mr Teo had been the chairman of the committee tasked with relooking at the demolition clause of 38 Oxley Road in the will of the late Lee Kuan Yew.
Mr Shanmugam’s explanation does not clarify how Mr Teo, whose portfolio has nothing to do with law enforcement, learned of the ongoing investigations against LHY and LSF.
Why would Mr Teo think there is an ongoing investigation against LHY and LSF since the alleged offence, which would have been committed in 2019 and 2020 during the hearings, and that there had not been any actions by the Attorney-General’s Chambers and Police for the past three years?
Did Mr Teo, after receiving the question from Mr Zhulkarnain, seek clarification from the Ministers about updates on any investigation being launched against the two?
Did the Minister of Home Affairs and Law volunteer the information to Mr Teo after learning that Mr Zhulkarnain had filed such a question?
Or was the parliamentary question by Mr Zhulkarnain planted by the leadership of the People’s Action Party to allow the media to report on the investigations against LHY and LSF?
Minister’s use of the word, “abscond”
Furthermore, Mr Shamugam’s allegation of the two absconding from investigations—as a Minister—is troubling if not disturbing.
Under Section 21 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC), the Police can issue a written order requiring anyone within the limits of Singapore to turn up for investigations. If that person fails to attend as required, the police officer may report the matter to a Magistrate who may then issue a warrant ordering the person to attend an interview.
The term, “abscond” is clearly defined under Singapore law, Section 172 of the Penal Code, as “Absconding to avoid arrest on warrant or service of summons, etc., proceeding from a public servant.”
172. Whoever absconds in order to avoid being arrested on a warrant, or to avoid being served with a summons, a notice, or an order proceeding from any public servant, legally competent, as such public servant, to issue such warrant, summons, notice or order, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one month, or with fine which may extend to $1,500, or with both; or, if the summons, notice or order is to attend in person or by agent, or to produce a document or an electronic record before a court of justice, with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 6 months, or with fine which may extend to $5,000, or with both.
However, the Minister clarified in Parliament that the two had not been issued any order under the CPC to attend any investigations.
So what offence is there to begin with?
If there was no offence in the two leaving Singapore since they were not compelled to turn up for an interview and no warrant had been issued, why is the Minister for Home Affairs and Law suggesting that an offence has been committed?
Is Mr Shanmugam suggesting now that the two will be immediately arrested upon their return to Singapore since he alleged that the two had ‘absconded’ from police investigation?
Would Mr Shanmugam repeat the allegations he made outside of Parliament, now that he is no longer protected from defamation suits under Parliamentary Privileges?