Making reference to the heated debate on the court case involving ex-maid Parti Liyani, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said that any shortcomings in the criminal justice system must be remedied if any are found.
Ms Parti was acquitted on appeal last month of theft charges brought on by her former employer, retired Changi Airport Group chairman Liew Mun Leong. The case was hotly debated in Parliament last Wednesday (4 Nov).
Law Minister K Shanmugam delivered a Ministerial Statement setting out the facts of the case. Workers’ Party chairman Sylvia Lim subsequently tabled a motion calling on justice for all and called on Parliament to affirm that “fairness, access and independence are cornerstones of Singapore’s justice system”.
She also urged the Government to “recognise and remedy its shortcomings” to enhance the justice system for all and facilitate a review of the system, through her parliamentary motion.
Ms Lim’s call to action was reframed into a positive acknowledgment of the Government’s efforts by People’s Action Party MP Murali Pillai, who suggested amendments to the wording of the motion. Mr Murali removed the call for a review of the system and asked the House to affirm the “Government’s continuous efforts” to build a fair and just society.
He also amended Ms Lim’s call for the Government to remedy “its shortcomings” and changed the wording to ask the House to affirm that the Government remedies “any shortcomings”. Observers felt that this amendment suggests that there are no shortcomings in the justice system presently and that shortcomings have yet to arise.
Ms Lim refused to accept the amendments and all 10 WP MPs voted against the amended motion, which was ultimately passed by the majority PAP MPs. WP chief and Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh said after the vote that the WP MPs wished to have their dissent to the amendments recorded.
A week after the intense debate in the House, PM Lee has touched on the case once again. Echoing Mr Murali’s amendments, the head of government said that any shortcomings that are found in the justice system must be remedied.
In a Facebook post published on Tuesday (10 Nov), Mr Lee said: “Building a democratic society based on justice and equality is a fundamental goal of our nation. To do this, we need proper and fair enforcement of our laws.”
Highlighting that both sides of the House have agreed that the case had been treated as a routine case by the Police and the AGC, and that there was no attempt by any party to influence its outcome.
Noting that the public interest in the case is understandable, PM Lee said: “This case has generated much attention and concern from Singaporeans, and understandably so.
“If we find shortcomings in our criminal justice system, then we must remedy them. We will continually strive to protect and improve our justice system, so that people can be assured that it is clean, just and works equally for all.”