Tan Wah Piow one of the three defendants convicted of rioting in 1975 following a 47-day trial, wrote a letter to the Attorney-General Chambers (AGC) to take all necessary steps to quash the convictions against him and two other accused in the case.
The defendants had, throughout the trial, and thereafter, maintained their innocence on the basis that the entire riot was staged by trade union officials at the instigation of Phey Yew Kok.
Phey was recently convicted of embezzlement of trade union funds and fabrication of evidence. In sentencing him, the judge had said:
“The facts reveal that Phey, like a serial criminal, systematically and with deliberation over a period of six years, perpetrated these offences. He had no qualms in trying to evade detection and had the temerity to instigate his staff to fabricate false evidence.”
“None of us were present at the so-called riot,” Mr Tan said in his letter.
Referring to the comments of the judge at Phey’s conviction, the former student activist, Tan, said, “this revelation impinges on the credibility of Phey Yew Kok as a prosecution witness in the 1974 trial:.
“This is because the trial judge, TS Sinnathuray, arrived at a guilty verdict based on the evidence of someone we now know to be a crook and a thief, and who had the capacity to exert his criminal influence over his staff,” he added.
If the judge of the case in 1974, Judge TS Sinnathuray, was aware that Phey Yew Kok had the propensity to influence trade union staff to pursue his criminal enterprise the outcome of the verdict would have been very different, Mr Tan believes.
In his letter, Mr Tan, ex-President of the University of Singapore Students’ Union, suggests that his colleagues and him from the University had exposed the lies of Phey and so had threatened his position as a trade union boss.
“It was the defence’s case that the “riot” was fabricated by Phey Yew Kok as part of his vendetta against me,” Mr Tan said. Adding, “Certainly, we were an existential threat to Phey’s criminal enterprise.”
“If Judge Sinnathuray was aware that this ‘star prosecution witness’ was someone who was “like a serial criminal”, and “had no qualms in trying to evade detection and had the temerity to instigate his staff to fabricate false evidence”, would he have disallowed my various attempts to introduce evidence which would be relevant in exposing Phey’s lies?” Mr Tan asks.
It was the Defence case that the plot to fabricate the evidence against the three defendants in the 1974 case was hatched by Phey Yew Kok following an encounter on the 23 October 1974, where he had threatened to “fix” Mr Tan.
Calling the 1974 trial one which is imprinted in the mindset of many Singaporeans as an example of gross injustice, especially those of his generation, Mr Tan asks the AGC to in the light of the new evidence, “take all necessary steps to quash the convictions against each of the three defendants”.
The AGC replied to Mr Tan in a letter dated 31 May 2016 and said that it took time to respond to his Jan 2016 letter because it related to an event which happened about 40 years ago, and so it took time to retrieve the files.
The AGC said that Mr Tan’s referral to the judge’s comments in convicting Phey recently is totally unrelated to his conviction on charges of rioting in 1975. The AGC said:
“Judge Sinnathuray (who was them Senior District Judge) presided over the 46 day trial which led to your conviction in 1975. He gave a comprehensive written decision. It was common ground that Mr Phey was not present at the rioting incident on 30th October 1974. He could not and did not give material evidence as to what happened during the incident. However, it is clear from the Court’s judgement that there were a number of other witness who were present during the rioting incident. They were extensively cross examined by the defendants, including yourself. The Judge convicted after hearing all the evidence and gave his reason for doing so.”
The AGC said that it is unable to quash Mr Tan’s conviction because in Singapore, that can only be done by the Court. The AGC said that Mr Tan could have appealed his conviction in 1975, but he did not.
Writing in his Facebook, Mr Tan said that the letter from AGC reached him in London, UK, today (10 June 2016), and that he was “disappointed, but not surprised”.
Mr Tan said that the AGC “has spurned the opportunity to extinguish the four-decade old stench of injustice in the infamous 1974-75 case which eventually led to my exile.”
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