Public Figures React To Ex-Helper’s Acquittal, Say We Should Protect Our Workers Better

When news of Indonesian ex-domestic helper Parti Liyani’s acquittal for stealing broke, many Singaporeans became absorbed by the judgement of the judge who acquitted her.

Among other things, Justice Chan Seng Onn said that there was an “improper motive” by members of her former employer’s family for mounting the allegations against her.

Her former employer, Changi Airport Group chairman Liew Mun Leong, had accused her of stealing items worth $34,000 from his home.

Changi Airport Group chairman Liew Mun Leong and his ex-domestic helper Parti Liyani.
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Many issues taken with case

In the judgement, it was noted that the defence alleged that Mr Liew’s family falsely alleged that Ms Parti was a thief, so she wouldn’t be able to file a formal report about her illegal deployment to work at her employer’s son’s office and home.

Justice Chan also found Mr Liew’s son Karl to lack credibility as a witness.

Besides the Liew family, the judge also took issue with the police’s handling of the case, noting that there was a break in the chain of custody of evidence and 2 statements were taken from Ms Parti without an interpreter.

The riveting saga has led a few public figures to comment on the case.

Jade Rasif urges for more protection for workers

Singaporean YouTuber and DJ Jade Rasif outlined many of the case points to note in a Facebook post on Sunday (6 Sep).

Calling it “disgusting” that Ms Parti was convicted the 1st time round, she urged for more protection to be given to our workers.

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In her post, Ms Rasif pointed out many of the inconsistencies in members of the Liew family’s testimonies over the allegedly stolen items.

For example, while Mr Karl Liew said an allegedly stolen bedsheet was bought by him from Habitat in the United Kingdom, it had an Ikea label on it.

Ms Rasif also referred to Ms Parti’s testimony, which was recorded by a non-Bahasa Indonesia speaker.

Saying the fact that Ms Parti was convicted originally is heartbreaking, she added that if the ex-helper didn’t get pro-bono help from a lawyer and wasn’t strong enough, it’s unimaginable what would have happened.

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Activist says many wrongly accused migrant workers don’t get justice

Migrant worker activist Kokila Annamalai said the case raised questions over the lack of due process for migrant workers.

In a Facebook post on Friday (4 Sep), she pointed out that the whole process of Ms Parti’s termination, arrest, questioning and conviction was questionable.

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With the acquittal and possible compensation, Ms Parti has received a good outcome after 4 years of tribulation, but Singapore has to think about why this happened, said Ms Kokila.

She brought up the plight of migrant workers who are accused of crimes they didn’t commit and have to fight a foreign system without access to money, help or the comfort of family.

Many of them go to jail as it’s easier than fighting the case, she said.

Changes have to be made so that more people don’t suffer what Ms Parti had to go through, she added.

No remorse from family, ex-ST editor says

Former Straits Times (ST) editor Alan John had harsh words for the Liew family.

In a Facebook post on Sunday (6 Sep), he started off saying, “Not a word of remore or regret.”

He was presumably referring to the Liew family.

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Mr John goes on to say that they put their former domestic helper “through 4 years of hell” over items that weren’t really that valuable.

He also said that she wasn’t remunerated well for her efforts, especially in cleaning Mr Karl Liew’s home and office.

He questioned whether the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) will take action or not — that was before the ministry said it had cautioned Mrs Liew and issued an advisory to Mr Karl Liew over the illegal deployment of their domestic helper.

Mr John also noted that ST had ran an article on Mr Liew just last year, detailing how he had risen up from humble beginnings.

He thus questioned the paper, which ran a full-page spread on the case: Why didn’t they interview Mr Liew now?

Ex-ST reporter questions positive coverage of the rich & powerful

Former ST reporter Goh Eng Yeow also echoed these sentiments in a Facebook post on Monday (7 Sep).

Quoting Mr John, he also questioned why ST didn’t ask Mr Liew about the acquittal of his former helper and the judge’s comments on his family.

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As a former reporter himself, he acknowledged that it’s difficult to write a negative story about rich and powerful people.

In fact, 10 years ago, he had written a blog that painted a not-so-positive picture of the Liews, and his editor was concerned about the “possible negative feedback” from the family.

The only reason why anybody dared publish the piece was because it was based on facts that were readily available to the public.

Mr Goh said this was an example of the self-censorship that goes on whenever a story about rich and powerful people is written.

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Perception that elites benefit unfairly may led to populism: Donald Low

Professor Donald Low, a former associate dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and top civil servant, also weighed in on the case, calling it “a nightmare for the establishment”.

In his Facebook post on Sunday (6 Sep), Prof Low called Mr Liew a “trusted member of the establishment”, and a potential fall from grace would be more disastrous than that of former National Kidney Foundation chief executive T.T. Durai.

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He cautioned over the rise of populist movements — which happen when people perceive that “elites” benefit unfairly and are protected by the system.

He also warned against using meritocracy to justify or legitimise the oppression or discrimination of those with less power, like Ms Parti.

If all Singapore has is governing by elites, and relatively little democratic accountability or systemic fairness, populist sentiments may rise, Prof Low added.

Pro bono lawyer offered a treat

Author and columnist Neil Humphreys, in a short Facebook post on Monday (6 Sep), echoed the praise heaped on lawyer Anil Balchadani, who helped Ms Parti with her case for free.

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Justice Chan specifically commended Mr Anil in his judgement for rendering his serivces.

Considering he was working pro bono, his work was excellent; he came up with total of 500 pages of detailed written submissions, his arguments were persuasive, he mounted his defence vigorously and with clarity, and he conducted analysis in great detail.

He did all this single-handedly and with ” much dedication”, the judge added.

 

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Mr Humphreys contrasted how Singaporeans are taught to revere money with Mr Anil, who did such good work for free.

Calling him a “Singaporean hero”, the author also offered to treat the lawyer to a meal if they ever met.

Ms Parti (6th from right) and Mr Anil (5th from right) with supporters.
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Case throws up questions on a range of issues

Ms Parti’s case is definitely attracting much attention from the media and Singaporeans alike, who seem to have strong views.

It’s no wonder, as the case throws up questions on a range of issues, including elitism, fairness and media reporting.

The Attorney-General’s Chambers has already indicated that it will look into the case to see if further action should be taken, so we’ll await more news on this absorbing saga.

Featured image adapted from Facebook.