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Migrant workers' rights NGO calls for greater accountability

Migrant workers' rights NGO calls for greater accountability

Source: Straits Times
Article Date: 12 Nov 2020
Author: Rei Kurohi

It wants greater accountability in the conduct of investigation interviews for migrant workers accused of crimes and improved access to professional interpreters for migrant workers whose first language is not English among others.

The Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home), an organisation that advocates the rights of migrant workers, has come up with a series of recommendations in response to a parliamentary debate last week on a case involving Ms Parti Liyani, the former maid of Changi Airport Group past chairman Liew Mun Leong.

Among other things, it wants greater accountability in the conduct of investigation interviews through the expanded use of video recordings, and greater access to professional interpreters and lawyers for migrant workers accused of crimes. Home also said in its statement yesterday that it "welcomes the recent parliamentary debate of fairness and equity in Singapore's criminal justice system".

Last Wednesday, Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam delivered a ministerial statement on Ms Parti's case in Parliament, in which he said internal investigations by the police and the Attorney-General's Chambers show there was no undue influence on them by Mr Liew or anyone acting on the family's behalf. But the minister acknowledged that there were lapses in the investigation process.

Home said despite the Government's assurances, the notion that there are deep-rooted "systemic issues faced by disadvantaged accused, especially migrant workers" has been reinforced. It recommended that video recording in investigation interviews be expanded to more cases than the current practice of using them only for serious sex crimes. It also wants the recordings to be readily available to the accused.

Further, the interviews should be done when the accused is alert and can provide reliable information, rather than in the early hours, Home said. It also called for complaints against police officers to be assessed through an "independent mechanism" to boost public confidence in the police's accountability.

Home noted the practice now is for such complaints to go to the Internal Affairs Office of the police.

Another recommendation is improved access to professional interpreters for migrant workers whose first language is not English.

It said it sometimes receives complaints from these workers that their interpreters gave them unsolicited advice. Also, there are cases where they interviewed without any interpreter, Home added.

Migrant workers helping investigations should be allowed to seek employment, it said, noting that maids accused of offences are generally prohibited from doing so.

Home also called for the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme to be expanded, noting that many low-wage migrant workers have benefited from its services. It also hopes the proposed Public Defender's Office will be open to migrant workers.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

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