Joining the chorus of criticism against the authorities after ex-domestic helper Parti Liyani was acquitted in a high-profile theft case, medical doctor Siew Tuck Wah asserted that – until further action is taken – the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has failed Ms Parti and “utterly disgraced Singapore in the eyes of the world.”
Ms Parti, an Indonesian, was employed by Changi Airport Group chairman Liew Mun Leong in 2007 and served his family for nearly a decade, until 2016. In addition to working in her employer’s home, Ms Parti was sent to work at Mr Leong’s son’s home and office on “multiple occasions,” in contravention of MOM rules.
On 28 October 2016, the Liew family decided to sack Ms Parti and gave her two hours to pack her items and leave. Ms Parti allegedly said that she would lodge a complaint with MOM about being deployed to work at Mr Liew’s son’s home and office.
The Liews said that they checked Ms Parti’s boxes out of concern that it could contain illegal items and allegedly found items that belonged to them. On 30 Oct, the family filed a police report against Ms Parti.
Curiously, the investigating officer allowed the family to use the items allegedly found in Ms Parti’s boxes as long as they did not discard the items. The officer said that he did not seize the items as he did not wish to “re-victimise” the family.
Ms Parti returned to Singapore on 2 Dec, seeking employment, but was arrested at Changi Airport. On 3 Dec, the investigating officer went to the Liews’ house to take photos of the items – which would only end up in police custody nearly a year and a half later, on 18 April 2018.
Ms Parti was interviewed by the police, with no interpreter present. Instead, a Malay officer translated the investigating officer’s questions from English to Bahasa Melayu even though Ms Parti spoke Bahasa Indonesia, another language altogether.
The migrant worker was charged in court in August 2017 and claimed trial in April 2018. Ms Parti was convicted of four counts of theft last March and was sentenced to two years and two months’ jail, last year.
On 4 Sept 2020, the High Court overturned the convictions and acquitted Ms Parti of all charges. In his ruling, Justice Chan Seng Onn asserted that the prosecution had failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt and called the convictions against Ms Parti “unsafe” given the presence of an “improper motive”.
The Attorney-General’s Chambers is now conducting a review of the case to assess whether further action needs to be taken.
On 6 Sept, two days after the ruling, MOM released a statement and said that it investigated Ms Parti’s illegal deployment and issued a caution to Mrs Liew and an advisory to her son. The ministry added that it is consulting with the AGC on whether it needs to take further action, in light of the High Court judgment.
Dr Siew Tuck Wah, a medical doctor, was among those who were left outraged by MOM’s statement. Linking to the statement, Dr Siew wrote on Facebook:
“Let’s get this clear. The Liews made Ms Parti work in another premise illegally without paying her fairly. Then when she threatened to complain, they fired her, sent her home immediately within 2hours, then called the police on her and spun a whole lie about her stealing their things. All these were done so that she cannot lodge a complaint.”
Asking whether these actions warrant just a caution and an advisory, the aesthetics doctor who is also the founder of SOSD asked: “Singapore Ministry of Manpower, are you saying these actions ONLY warrant a caution and advisory? – “eh. Liews please don’t do this again. It’s is wrong la. Here’s something for you to read.”
“Are you even listening to yourself, on how absurd this punishment to the Liews, or lack thereof is?! To put things into context, if a company makes an employee work extra hours, they must be paid accordingly or the company gets brought to task. Why is this situation treated differently?”
Calling what happened to Ms Parti a “form of slavery,” Dr Siew questioned why the mental torture the Liews inflicted upon their former helper was “swept under the carpet”: “Why are all their actions, especially the inflicting of mental abuse on Ms Parti swept under the carpet? The only part addressed is the extra work she had to do.
“How can you, as a Ministry, allow this form or slavery to happen? Ms Parti is a human being, and a guest in our country, not an piece of old furniture the Liews own and are free to discard and abuse at their own will.”
Calling on the ministry to make rectifications, he asserted strongly: “Until further action is taken, you have failed Ms Parti, MOM. Until further action is taken, you have utterly disgraced Singapore in the eyes of the world.”
Let's get this clear. The Liews made Ms Parti work in another premise illegally without paying her fairly. Then when she…