In Light of His Maid’s Acquittal, Liew Mun Leong Must Be Sacked from Surbana and Changi AIrport Group and Prosecuted to the Fullest Extent of the Law.
Yesterday Justice Chan Seng Onn overturned Mr Liew’s maid’s, Ms Parti Liyani’s, conviction for theft and found that there was “an improper motive” on the part of Mr Liew and his son to prevent her from complaining to the authorities. Liew Mun Leong is the Chairman of Changi Airport Group and also of Surbana Jurong, the Temasek Group company where Josephine Teo’s husband worked until he left “for personal reasons” only a few days ago.
Mr Liew’s biography on the Surbana website, describes the typical and lucrative career path of a PAP apparatchik:
Mr Liew has spent 22 years in the public service developing Singapore’s Changi Airport, military airports and establishments. He was involved with the construction of Changi Airport Phase I and II from day one in 1975. He was also the CEO of two government statutory bodies, the Singapore Institute of Standards and Industrial Research (SISIR) and concurrently the National Science and Technology Board (NSTB), the forerunner of A*STAR. He was the Registrar of the Professional Engineers Board, granting engineers’ licenses to practise in Singapore and regulating engineering practices in Singapore. He has also served the Executive Board of International Organization for Standardization (ISO) for which he was later elected and served as its President for one term.
In the private sector, he has another 24 years of experience leading 10 public listed companies in four countries. In 2000, he was appointed as the founding CEO of CapitaLand Limited, a public listed real estate company, which has become the largest real estate group (by market capitalization) in South East Asia, operating in over 20 countries with more than 12,000 staff. He is a Senior International Business Advisor appointed by Temasek to advise the Group on long term real estate investments in New York, London and Tokyo. Currently he also sits on the boards of Singapore Exchange, NUS Business School, Human Capital Leadership Institute, Chinese Development Assistance Council and the Singapore China Foundation. He also chairs Dymon Asia Real Estate Limited, a private equity fund investing in real estate in several key Asian cities and Temasek Foundation Nurtures CLG Ltd.
In 2013, Mr Liew was appointed as Provost’s Chair Professor (Practice) (pro bono) in NUS Business School and Faculty of Engineering.
His biography says he has 24 years of experience in the “private sector.” This is a somewhat surprising definition of private sector since it appears to have been mostly with CapitaLand, a Temasek spin-off and subsidiary. In 2007 he received a bonus of $21 million when CapitaLand made a record profit of $2.76 billion which is not bad for someone who went straight from the Civil Service to heading a GLC and rather better than the “peanuts” of a paltry one to two million dollars that one receives as a senior civil servant. Even $21 million, about 400 to 500 times the median income at that time, was and is undoubtedly paltry compared to what his boss, the PM’s wife, received and continues to receive as the head of Temasek, though she is less eager to let Singaporeans know what she earns. If you take the proportion of the profits of CapitaLand that Mr Liew received and assume that Ho Ching gets the same percentage (about 1% or slightly under) then Ho Ching’s remuneratrion must be around $100-150 million per year, suggesting that the Taiwanese news network was quite accurate in their assessment.
For those unfamiliar with the details of the case, Mr Liew, while abroad, decided to sack his maid,who had worked for him for nine years, in October 2016 and she was given two hours to pack before being sent back to Indonesia. After being terminated Ms Liyani apparently threatened to lodge a complaint with MOM about being forced to clean the home and office of his son Karl, which is illegal under MOM rules for Foreign Domestic Workers. She also asked the family to ship her belongings, which were in three “jumbo” boxes, back to Indonesia after she had gone. The next day the family opened the boxes and claimed that many of the items allegedly belonged to members of the household. On October 30th Mr Liew returned to Singapore and together with his son made a police report. The police then took till December 3rd to visit the alleged crime scene, a day after they arrested Ms Liyani on her return to Singapore from Indonesia.
Despite the obvious concerns about the veracity of the evidence, since the Liews could have put anything into the boxes after the maid left and then filmed themselves removing them from the box, Ms Liyani was convicted of four counts of theft and sentenced to 26 months in jail by District Judge Olivia Lum. Fortunately she had a probono lawyer and was backed by migrant worker NGO HOME.
She has now succeeded in her appeal after Justice Chan gave her the benefit of the doubt. What is remarkable is that the district judge convicted her despite the obvious flaws in the prosecution case and her contention that their police report was an attempt to stop her making a complaint. The Attorney General’s Office and the police, who are often extremely reluctant to prosecute even straightforward cases when ordinary individuals are the victims, seems to have bent over backwards to help the Liews.
The sheer scale of Mr Liew’s arrogance in thinking that he could so casually ruin a “little” person’s life and have her thrown into jail beggars belief. Also that they would feel the need to behave like psychopaths in a compulsive desire to win at all costs against someone with an infinitesimal fraction of their wealth and life chances. However it is not out of keeping with the PAP Government’s philosophy which is to win at all costs even if it means locking their opponents up, bankrupting them with defamation suits or just ensuring that they are unable to work in Singapore. And why would they not when the ability to divert such enormous sums into their own pockets in a legal manner is at stake?
Like all the Government ministers and their spouses and cronies who ensure that they and they alone can suck at the teat of state largesse,while stridently attacking welfare for others, Mr Liew has been quick to espouse the usual humbug we can expect from these people, saying in this interview in 2019 that “wealth means nothing to him” and projecting a fake modesty. This is no different from Government ministers like Tharman and Heng who always make noises about fostering “inclusive” growth as they trouser their admittedly much more modest two million dollar pay cheques.
It is clear that Mr Liew is not a fit and proper person to be Chair of Changi Airport Group or of Surbana Jurong. I hope that the non-executive directors of both these companies will remove him rapidly. Mr Liew and his son should also be prosecuted, both for the offence of deploying their maid illegally and for the far more serious crime of perverting the course of justice. They should also be forced to pay compensation to their maid commensurate with their enormous wealth. I will be watching closely. I hope other Singaporeans will too.