The controversial Parti Liyani case has been Singapore’s law scandal of the year. After all, news of an Indonesian maid being fully acquitted after being charged with multiple accounts of theft by her rich boss (Changi Airport Group Chairman Liew Mun Leong) isn’t something one hears every day.
Besides being a story ending in favour of one who may be considered the underdog in such a scenario, the acquittal of Ms Liyani has also served as a catalyst for change in Singapore’s justice system.
The WP’s recent Parliamentary motion on “Justice for All” showcased key WP members who each delivered a speech on the matter. Party Chair Sylvia Lim started, highlighting that there is “room for improvement in any system.”
MP He Ting Ru delivered possible avenues through which the nation can further bring down the barriers that still separate people from access to justice, citing the Parti Liyani case.
Leader of the Opposition (LO) Pritam Singh shed light on the conflicts of interest with regards to the role of Singapore’s Attorney General (AG). Mr Singh exposed the “flaws” inherent to the position.
MP Dennis Tan called on the government to level up the criteria for selecting the nation’s judges as well as their training.
Last but not the least was Mr Perera, who pushed for the establishment of an Ombudsman. “Parti Liyani’s case has raised the question of wider access to the criminal justice system and avenues of redress on the part of those with lesser means,” he said.
“An Ombudsman would provide access to an independent public office with the remit and resources to investigate potential wrong-doing, errors, lapses or weaknesses in the conduct of public officials. The office of the Ombudsman would be open to Singaporeans of all backgrounds and income profiles.”
Mr Perera argued that an Ombudsman would conduct investigations apart from whatever public sector agency is being probed. He also advanced that the establishment of such a role would improve public sector services as it would serve in uncovering policy gaps as well as any possible institutional failures.
Furthermore, Mr Perera argued that an Ombudsman would promote transparency with the public, which in turn would foster a sense of trust in the Singaporean government.
Mr Perera went further to state that an Ombudsman would conduct investigations objectively, recommend succeeding actions to the concerned sector, and publish the findings of the investigation.
Furthermore, Mr Perera cited that about 30% of OECD governments, in an effort to foster a greater sense of openness in the state, have established such independent institutions. Two states cited were Hong Kong and Australia.
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