Progress Singapore Party leader Tan Cheng Bock called for an independent review yesterday of a criminal case involving former airport chairman Liew Mun Leong, state prosecutors, and a domestic helper accused of theft and later exonerated.
While Tan, 80, acknowledged that the authorities were reviewing the case deemed deeply flawed and ill-motivated by the judge who overturned it earlier this month, he questioned whether they could be objective in reviewing their own conduct.
“I have no doubt that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and [Attorney-General’s Chambers, or AGC] will produce their reports in due course. But the review should not be conducted in isolation or silos,” he wrote online yesterday. “After all, MHA and AGC are reviewing their own flaws. Are they independent enough to be 100% objective?”
The AGC, Manpower Ministry, and Home Affairs Ministry are reviewing the case after the high court overturned the conviction of Indonesian Party Liyani on four counts of theft brought by Liew. The judge said the Liew family had ulterior motives in bringing the case and faulted the mishandling of evidence. Since then, the role of Attorney-General Lucien Wong has come into question due to his business ties with Liew.
Tan said the government should convene an independent body to critically and thoroughly assess the version of events set forth by the ministry and chambers to determine what went wrong and how to prevent it from happening again.
In the fallout from the court’s ruling, 74-year-old Liew resigned from the Changi Airport Group and other high-status positions. He also stands by his accusations against the ex-maid, even after the high court said his motives were suspect because she had threatened to report him for labor violations.
For its part, the chambers has said that its top figure, Attorney-General Wong, would not be involved in the review.
The notion of an agency credibly investigating potential wrongdoing involving its boss didn’t sit well with Tan, whose team nearly overcame the ruling People’s Action Party in West Coast in the recent election. He said a review was necessary to prevent the lapses which occurred in the highly scrutinized case from happening again.
Tan said that the review should also find out whether the police officer, prosecutors, and district judge were fit to perform their tasks, and why the Liew family was able to keep the evidence for over a year, handing it over only before the trial began, Tan said.
“These are uncomfortable questions to answer. But answer them they must. … But this incident tells us that things can be better, and calling for an Independent Review Body is a step in the right direction,” he said. “Singaporeans are waiting for good answers. And they are watching.”
Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam acknowledged last week that “something has gone wrong in some part of the chain of events” in regard to the case. But he expressed confidence in the ability of the agencies he heads to mind their own houses, though he cautioned them against being “defensive.”
The minister also said the public should not “prejudge or speculate on which part of the process could have gone wrong” and avoid a “witch-hunt.”
“The process has got to be fair: Look at what happened, and why it happened, and then deal with it. We will then need to be accountable, on what steps we will take. That is the way to continue to maintain trust in the system,” he said.
The Progress Singapore Party is the only political opposition that has officially weighed in on the matter. All eyes are now on what newly appointed opposition leader Pritam Singh of the Workers’ Party has to say.
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