Upholding rule of law and justice for all
The importance of the Parti Liyani case lay in the way in which the Parliamentary discussion invoked and clarified the very role of the rule of law.
The parliamentary debate on the Parti Liyani case last week went far beyond a single and apparently simple matter of alleged household theft. Its importance lay in the way in which the discussion invoked and clarified the very role of the rule of law here. Having the matter discussed in the House followed online and offline chatter, informed or not, over whether a well-placed individual was able to influence the way in which the case against his Indonesian domestic helper was investigated and considered for prosecution. The airing of views during a marathon debate provided an opportunity for those on both sides of the House to scrutinise and raise important, sometimes difficult questions about the system of justice here. Parliament ultimately endorsed the robustness of the system, but also recognised the importance of constantly improving it.
The Parti Liyani case has entered the annals of parliamentary history - and for the good of Singapore. That is because no judicial system can stand if justice is not imparted to all without regard for their social status, ethnicity, nationality, age, gender or sexual orientation. Justice must be blind for the truth to be seen. The case revolved on two critical points: whether there were human lapses in the handling of the case and whether that handling reflected inherent and structural deficiencies in the criminal justice system itself. Parliament heard that internal reviews by the police and the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) found lapses in some aspects of how the case was handled, but also confirmed there was no improper influence at any point. There was no sign that her former employer or anyone from his family lobbied or exerted pressure on the police, deputy public prosecutors or trial judge. As for lapses, however, disciplinary action is being taken against a police officer and his supervisor.
As important is that the AGC is acting on or will seriously consider investigating allegations of perjury or other serious offences should such findings arise in court-issued judgments or decisions in legal proceedings. Indeed, a man involved with the case has been charged with giving false information to a public servant and been accused of giving false evidence during a judicial proceeding. This again indicates the seriousness with which the authorities take their responsibility as impartial arbiters in the affairs of citizens.
That a guilty verdict was overturned on appeal reflected the notion that there is equality before the law. That would not have been the case had wealth, power and influence been able to skew the judicial process. The important thing now is to move forward: Take stock of learning points, ideas and suggestions and work to ensure that the system of justice and its attendant processes are continually improved to stay relevant with how society and the times evolve.
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