Singapore—Workers’ Party (WP) chair Sylvia Lim said in Parliament on Wednesday (Nov 4) that the party cannot accept the proposed amendments to the motion it filed regarding the criminal justice system.
Ms Lim said that the WP is not “not motivated by a desire for heads to roll” in the recent Parti Liyani case wherein an Indonesian domestic helper’s conviction for theft was overturned but sees this as an “opportunity to review the justice system with an open mind.”
She added, “What we hope to achieve is a strengthening of the system so it is built to last for the future.
We cannot accept the amendments proposed because they imply that there are no shortcomings in the system, and that there will be no review of the system.”
The WP’s original motion was worded this way: “That this House affirms that fairness, access, and independence are cornerstones of Singapore’s justice system, and calls on the Government to recognise and remedy its shortcomings in order to enhance justice for all, regardless of means or social status, including facilitating a review of the justice system.”
The motion was amended to read, “This House recognises that fairness, access, and independence are cornerstones of Singapore’s justice system and affirms the Government’s continuous efforts since independence to build a fair and just society, and remedy any shortcoming in order to enhance justice for all, regardless of race, language, religion, economic means or social status.”
The amended motion was passed in Parliament at around 11:00 on Wednesday night, with the Members of Parliament from the WP and the Non-Constituency Members of Parliament (NCMP) from Progress Singapore Party (PSP) opposing the amended motion.
The chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Home Affairs and Law, Murali Pillai, who introduced the amendments said that there is “broad agreement” about the significance of fairness, access, and independence to the justice system, as well as a recognition that there are constant endeavors to improve it.
But regarding the last part of the original motion, which concerned facilitating a review of the justice system, Mr Murali explained that the motion should be left in “broad terms” for the Government to address shortcomings and take further necessary action in Parliament.
Mr Murali said, “At the end of the day, the buck stops with this House. It is this House that has to make the political decisions to pass legislation to move amendments to the Constitution in relation to the justice system.
So the buck must stop here and this motion reflects that reality.”
Ms Lim had said that numerous people had come forward since the WP had filed the motion, “sharing experiences of being crime victims or suspects, or having family members being subjected to such experiences.” She added that the public had raised many questions about the justice system.
“Even if the Government and the ruling party are not convinced that the system has shortcomings, the fact that the public is asking such questions should not be ignored,” the WP chair added.
PSP NCMP Leong Mun Wai supported the WP’s motion in Parliament, and, in a statement on Thursday (Nov 5), wrote, “PSP joined the WP in rejecting the Amended Motion moved by the Government because it does not reflect our party’s desire to have an independent and deeper review of our justice system for the betterment of all Singaporeans, especially the disadvantaged ones.”