Recusing Himself Does Not Let the AG Off the Hook. Like With Josephine Teo, There Needs To Be an Independent Investigation of His Involvement in the Decision to Prosecute Mr Liew’s Maid
The revelations are coming thick and fast in the case of Mr Liew’s abused maid. Yesterday I wrote about the curious coincidence of Josephine Teo’s husband resigning as CEO International of Surbana Jurong just days before Justice Chan’s judgement was made public. Today the AG, Lucien Wong, formerly Lee Hsien Loong’s personal lawyer, has decided to recuse himself from any decision as to what further action to take, presumably as to whether to prosecute Mr Liew and his son for perverting the course of justice for making a false police report. Instead he has handed the decision over to his deputy, Hri Kumar*.
The reason given for Wong’s recusal is that “several years prior to his appointment as Attorney-General, Mr Wong sat on the board of directors of CapitaLand while Mr Liew was president and chief executive officer of the company.”
This is not sufficient. Just as in the case of Josephine Teo’s husband Lucien Wong needs to answer questions about his handling of the case against Mr Liew Mun Long’s maid, Ms Parti Liyani. He was appointed AG in January 2017 so it would have ultimately been his decision as to whether to prosecute Ms Liyani after she was arrested and quest upon her return to Singapore in December 2016.
In particular why was so much time and money expended by the State in prosecuting a vulnerable FDW when in many similar cases the AG declines to prosecute? She was arrested in December 2016 yet only charged in August 2017. The trial only started in April 2018 and was adjourned several times with the verdict only being handed down in April 2019. It took place over 22 days and must have cost the State hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars in terms of police and prosecution time. Apart from the charge of theft from the Liews, the AG brought an additional charge against Ms Liyani for failing to explain satisfactorily the articles in her possession when she was arrested. This looks like pure harassment and has now been dropped after the outcry following Ms Liyani’s acquittal.
In addition Tan Yanying, the DPP in the district court case where Ms Liyani was convicted, had a connection to Liew Mun Leong through her father, Tan Yong Soon, since both were faculty colleagues at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and would have known one another and worked together when Tan was CEO of the Urban Redevelopment Authority and Liew was CEO of CapitaLand. In most countries with rule of law and conflict of interest rules this would have been enough for the DPP not to be assigned to this case. But just as with Lucien Wong, conflict of interest rules seem to have been disregarded.
Just as PAP Ministers and political appointees appear to have bent over backwards to assist one of their own in neutralising any threat from a poor and vulnerable woman, so the elite have rallied around Mr Liew since Justice Chan’s damning judgement. Both Ho Ching and the CEO of Temasek International, Dilhan Pillay Sandrasegara rallied to his defence, praising his contributions to both public service and the “private” sector (the euphemism used by the Government and Temasek to pretend that state-owned companies are independent entities not accountable to Singaporeans). Sandrasegara was even working on undermining Justice Chan’s judgement by saying that “I think we should hear from Mr Liew on his side of the issue, and not come quick to judgment until we’ve heard all sides of things.” And Shanmugam, Minister for Law, insisted that any review of the case should not be a “defensive” process or a “witch hunt.”
Liew did not provide his services for free like some public-spirited saint or social worker. He grew exceedingly rich on his public “service”, earning $20 million in just one year and is no doubt worth well over a hundred million dollars. He is still employed as Senior International Business Adviser to Temasek, no doubt picking up the odd one or two million dollars in useful pocket money, in addition to whatever his earnings are as Chairman of Changi Airport Group and Surbana. Not bad for an ex-civil servant with a degree in civil engineering. Liew no doubt hopes to emulate his mentor, Lee Kuan Yew, and continue to collect millions from taxpayers into his eighties. And since when has getting very wealthy working for the Government been an excuse for letting people off for criminal offences, bullying, harassment and abuse of power? In their insensitive comments the PAP elite demonstrate once again how out of touch and entitled these self-appointed natural aristocrats are.
In my last blog I saId any connection between Josephine Teo and MOM’s decision not to prosecute the Liews (and to leave Mr Liew out of the caution it issued when he was the employer) and her husband’s employment under Mr Liew at Surbana needed to be investigated. Despite the Attorney General’s Office’s denial that Lucien Wong was involved, .there needs to be a similar independent investigation of the AG’s role in pursuing a case that should never have been brought in the first place. If there is any evidence of improper influence, favours called in or even corruption (particularly in the case of Josephine Teo) then the individuals must be dismissed from office and prosecuted if possible.
For too long Singaporeans have allowed a few connected individuals to abuse power, enrich themselves excessively and crush all who threaten to expose them through the use of judicial and extra-judicial means. Singaporeans have allowed that to happen because they have been brainwashed into believing the humbug that it is necessary for Singapore’s prosperity and also because they think it will not happen to them. What has been done to a poor Indonesian maid will be done to any of you if you get in the way of these entitled individuals and their right to enrich themselves and their families.
*Hri Kumar was the PAP MP who in 2014 at a forum on CPF could not answer my questions about the “three cups” game that Tharman and Heng perform with the Budget, moving money around from one silo to another until it mysteriously disappears with the pretence that it has been spent (see here and here as well). He lost his cool and doxxed an old woman who stood up to complain about being unable to access her CPF. Whether or not because of his unconvincing performance, he stood down as an MP at the next election in 2015 and subsequently was appointed Deputy AG.