NCMP Leong Mun Wai Speech in Parliament on 4th Nov 2020

Video for Mr Leong Mun Wai’s speech.
Credit: CNA

Leong Mun Wai’s Speech on 4 Nov 2020 in support of Ms Sylvia Lim’s Motion on Criminal Justice in relation to the Parti Liyani case

1.       Mr Speaker, I rise in support of the motion.  I would also like to call specifically for an open and independent inquiry into the Parti Liyani case.

2.       As the members of this House would have noticed, the Parti Liyani case has hogged the headlines in our media when the news of her acquittal broke out two months ago, has raised serious questions over our criminal justice system and shaken public trust in our institutions. It has also raised broader questions about the kind of society that we want Singapore to be.

3.       While the news on the case has quietened down slightly after the Minister for Home Affairs and Law admitted that something has “gone wrong in the chain of events” and promised to allow for more discussion in this Parliament after the completion of the internal reviews by the MHA and AGC, there is a pent-up expectations among the Singaporeans for more clarity on the Government’s stance on the case sooner.

An Open Independent Review

4.       Mr Speaker, the Progress Singapore Party’s stance is very clear.  We think that the wide implications of the lapses in the criminal justice system in the Parti Liyani case warrant an open and independent inquiry.

5.       I do not think it is unfair to say that there were lapses in all three major institutions of our criminal justice system – the police, the prosecution and the state courts.   

6.       We were extremely fortunate that Ms Liyani’s counsel Mr Balchandani had an unwavering conviction to ensure that justice was done, and the High Court, caught those errors and reversed them, thus preventing a miscarriage of justice.

7.       While it is of absolute importance that both the MHA and AGC conduct their own internal investigations, it is frankly not enough.    

8.       There are three main points of concern with merely conducting an internal review.  Firstly, it is not unreasonable to say that most would want to paint the best picture of the situation when it is your organisation on the line.  Are they independent enough to be completely objective in their review?  

9.       Secondly, systemic issues are not going to be caught by piecemeal internal investigations since they are conducting micro and not macro investigations.  An independent inquiry would be able to examine the entire criminal justice process across all the three major institutions to ensure that systemic problems, where identified, are acknowledged by the various institutions and considered for improvement to the system.

10.     I would like to draw the House’s attention to the Committee of Inquiry (COI) into the MRT breakdowns of 2011. In the wake of the two consecutive breakdowns in December 2011, then Minister for Transport Lui Tuck Yew convened the COI which ran in parallel to SMRT and LTA’s own internal investigations as concerns were raised about possible systemic shortcomings.  

11.     I quote the former Minister: “LTA and SMRT have also started their own separate internal investigations. This is to be expected. Both parties clearly have the duty and responsibility to find out what went wrong, especially for those areas that they are accountable for… The COI on the other hand is an independent party appointed by the MOT and will also look into the larger systems issues beyond that which SMRT and LTA will cover in their respective probes”.

12.     Compared to the MRT case, the systemic failure in the Parti Liyani case needed even more coordination in order to be addressed because it is not restricted to one ministry but also involved the AGC and the state courts. 

13.    Thirdly, It is appropriate to reiterate that justice must not only be done, but it must also be seen to be done. An internal review by the relevant agencies alone, is unlikely to assuage these doubts amongst our citizens, nor that justice was seen to be done.

14.     Singaporeans like to know why a simple theft case involving an underprivileged in our society has taken four long years to see the light of the day.   The time and resources required in our criminal justice process means that the odds are stacked heavily against the underprivileged in our society.   How can we improve the access to justice for these people?

15.     Although the legal process is based on evidence, Singaporeans are looking for answers as to why there was little compassion shown to the underprivileged in our society.   Especially in this case, both parties were on opposite ends of society, one party living in the highest echelons of society and the other the complete opposite.  

16.     In his appeal judgement, Justice Chan Seng Onn has also raised some questions about the plaintiffs’ motive in filing their police report.   So it is not just the lack of compassion but there is also a perception of favouritism among some segments of Singaporeans, where the rich and powerful were able to utilise the power of the State to their benefit.  

17.     This has to to addressed seriously.   As Han Fook Kwang (Senior Fellow at RSIS & Editor-at-Large at ST) puts it, “People can accept huge differences in wealth, say, between a business tycoon and his servant.  This is the reality of a capitalist society like Singapore.  But they will revolt if, on top of this wealth gap, there is a privilege and entitlement divide that separates the elites from the masses.”

18.     Convening an independent inquiry with hearings that are open to the public, or livestreamed, would go a long way to show our citizens that justice is being done.

19.     Mr Speaker, I shall speak in Chinese next.

20.     新加坡前进党呼吁政府尽快设立莉雅妮案的独立调查委员会,进一步调查我国刑事司法制度,是否存在系统性问题。刑事司法各机构的个别内部调查,不足以挽回人民对司法公正的信心。

21.     新加坡人不理解为何一宗看似简单,和涉及社会弱势群体的盗窃案,竟然花了四年多,这么长的时间才能洗脱冤情。需要这么多的资源才能进行诉讼,意味着我们的刑事司法制度对弱势群体是很不公平的。我们必须给弱势群体提供更公平的机会?

22.    尽管法律是依据程序和证据的,新加坡人还是很难理解为何我们的刑事司法制度对弱势群体几乎完全没有同情心。特别是在莉雅妮案里,双方是处于社会的两极端,一方是生活在社会的最高阶层,而另一方则是在社会的低阶层。

23.   高庭法官陈成安在判决书中对原告报案的动机,也特别提出了一些疑问。这让很多人怀疑我们的制度不仅缺乏同情心,而且富裕和有权势的人还有可能利用国家的力量为自己谋求福利。

24.   所以我们必须极力消除这种疑问。正如韩福光所说:“人民可以接受商业大亨和他的仆人之间巨大的财富差异。这是像新加坡这样的资本主义社会的现实。但是,如果在这个贫富差距之上,还存在一种特权的鸿沟,把精英阶层与群众区分开来,那民众将一定会起义反抗。”

25.   排除一切疑问的最好方法就是设立独立调查委员会,并对其调查过程进行现场直播。 这将大大地向我们的人民证明,我们的国家是会维护正义的。

26.     Mr Speaker, I support the motion.  Thank you.

For learn more about the Parti Liyani case, click here.

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