Singapore—In a video interview, Anil Balchandani, the lawyer of acquitted domestic helper Parti Liyani, talked about the uphill battle he faced in mounting her defence.
The video, taken on August 23, was uploaded on September 9 (Wednesday) on YouTube by Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home), a Non-Government Organization that advocates for migrant workers in Singapore.
Ms Parti worked for Mr Liew Mun Leong and his family from 2007 until 2016. Mr Liew was, until Thursday (September 10), the Chairman of the Changi Airport Group (CAG). On March 20, 2019, District Judge Olivia Low found Ms Parti guilty of four counts of theft. She was sentenced to 26 months in jail for allegedly stealing more than S$34,000 worth of goods from the Liew family.
Ms Parti, 46, appealed against conviction and was successfully represented by Mr Anil Balchandani of Red Lion Circle Advocates and Solicitors. He had submitted that she had been framed by her employers in order to prevent her from filing a complaint of illegal deployment.
Last Friday (September 4) High Court Judge Chan Seng Onn, in his ruling to acquit Ms Parti, pointed out the problematic nature in which the case was investigated.
Mr Balchandani, whom HOME approached for a pro-bono defence of Ms Parti, clearly outlined the hardships in the helper’s case, calling the trial, which lasted 10 months, a “very, very difficult” one.
This was because of the “the sheer number of items that we had to deal with” adding that Ms Parti and her defence team had to contend with “a very tenacious set of prosecutors”, as well as “a very prominent family”.
Additionally, he said that Ms Parti did not have a “robust defence,” in terms of photographic evidence to prove that the items she had been accused of stealing were, in fact, hers.
“One of the downsides of our case was that Parti… never really took a lot of photographs of herself, to identify, look… I had these items, I bought these items, I shared these photographs with whoever it was.”
But he was grateful that the defence had been allowed to present before the appellate court the said items, so that it would be obvious that these were neither new nor in the best condition, such as the outdated jewellery or old DVD player.
Had the court only allowed photographs, this would not have been so obvious, he said.
“Each item had to be explained. The prosecution had its own side to the story, and we had to basically convince a judge that, look, why would someone steal junk?”
The lawyer expressed admiration for Ms Parti’s determination to see her name cleared, when so many others in a similar situation would have chosen to simply plead guilty. If she had done so, said Mr Balchandani, she would have been back home in Indonesia by now, instead of being stuck in Singapore, unable to work for nearly four years.
He said of Ms Patti, ”She could have restarted her life, continued working in another country and just thought about what happened in October 2016 (as just a bad dream).”
As for the organization that gave her aid, the lawyer said they also deserved praise.
“The bulk of the work is really done by a lot of people from Home and the other NGOs that step forward… the back-breaking activity (of) meeting with (those they are helping) every week, every month, giving them that hope that something good can happen.” —/TISG
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