Ex-student union leader Tan Wah Piow asks for case review after Phey Yew Kok's conviction

Former student union leader and fugitive Tan Wah Piow has written to Attorney-General V. K. Rajah, asking for his criminal conviction for rioting in 1975 to be overturned in the light of the recent conviction of former labour leader Phey Yew Kok.

Tan said Phey's conviction calls into question his credibility as the Government's key prosecution witness in that rioting case.

Phey, 81, was sentenced to five years' jail on Jan 22 for criminal breach of trust, after being on the run for more than 30 years.

In Tan's letter, which was seen by The Sunday Times and which was posted on several socio-political websites, he reiterated his defence from 41 years ago that the riot was "staged by trade union officials at the instigation of Phey".

Tan is now living in Britain. He fled Singapore in 1976 after failing to report for national service enlistment and was stripped of his Singapore citizenship in 1987.

In 1975, he and two others, Ng Wah Leng and Yap Kim Hong, were found guilty of unlawful assembly, criminal trespass and rioting at the Pioneer Industries Employees' Union (PIEU), where Phey was then general secretary.

Tan was sentenced to a year in prison.

In his letter, he cited how, in sentencing Phey this month, presiding judge Jennifer Marie said the former union leader had, "like a serial criminal, systematically and with deliberation" committed his offences such as embezzlement, and "had no qualms in trying to evade detection and had the temerity to instigate his staff to fabricate false evidence".

"This revelation impinges on the credibility of Phey Yew Kok as a prosecution witness," Tan added.

"The trial judge, T. S. Sinnathuray, arrived at a guilty verdict based on the evidence of someone we now know to be a crook and a thief, and who had the capacity to exert his criminal influence over his staff," Tan also said.

A spokesman for the Attorney- General's Chambers confirmed it had received the letter.

Lawyers contacted told The Sunday Times that Tan could apply directly to the High Court to review his conviction, and there is no time limit.

Criminal lawyer Sunil Sudheesan added that Phey's conviction does not make him an unreliable witness unless it pertains to Tan's case.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 31, 2016, with the headline 'Tan Wah Piow asks for case review after Phey's conviction'. Print Edition | Subscribe