Jolovan Wham shares thoughts on Karl Liew case: Incarceration is not the answer to achieve justice

Jolovan Wham shares thoughts on Karl Liew case: Incarceration is not the answer to achieve justice

by Jolovan Wham

I have no desire to see Karl Liew go to prison, even though I have seen how his actions and those of his family almost destroy the life of a domestic worker. The Singapore prison is also not a place where rehabilitation can take place, as it is designed to crush your spirit and break you down.

I have witnessed the pain that many workers experience when they get entangled with our justice system: translators and officers who pressure them to confess to crimes they did not commit for the sake of expediency; the long waits for an investigation to conclude and not being able to work, while your family waits in anxiety for your remittances. Unsure about their rights and intimidated by a system that works against them, too many workers give up and plead guilty.

Having spoken to ex-prisoners, I don’t see how incarcerating anyone in our prison achieves justice, except to add to the shame of what the perpetrator has done. Don’t get me wrong: the Liew family should be ashamed of trying to frame her, and there has to be public accountability.

But what Parti Liyani said in her statement to the media was significant: till this day, the family who accused her of stealing the items never apologised to her. Apart from the David vs Goliath drama that got widespread media coverage, the wrongs committed by the family were not addressed.

Real accountability takes place when the family acknowledges the trauma their actions caused the victims, and take steps to compensate and help her in her recovery from the suffering and distress they have inflicted on her.

This case has exposed so much of the flaws of our system: prosecutors who are not really interested in justice but ‘winning’ at all costs in court, even when the evidence is flimsy.

Law enforcement officers who are more ready to believe that the poor and working class are thieves simply because the rich and powerful say so. The lack of social and economic support when those without the means are accused of a crime.

I still think it is a miracle that Parti Liyani won. But the systemic changes we need for reform and transformation have barely begun.

This was first published on Jolovan Wham’s Facebook page and reproduced with permission. Wham is a Singaporean activist and has served time in the Singapore prison for offences under the Public Order Act and the Vandalism Act.

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