SINGAPORE - A parliamentary rule prohibiting the discussion of matters before the courts was temporarily lifted on Wednesday (Nov 4) in order for debate on the case involving former maid Parti Liyani to take place.
This should not be regarded as a general precedent, but something that is necessary in the present circumstances, said Leader of the House Indranee Rajah in explaining the decision.
Doing so is necessary to allow Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam to give a full account of the matter to Parliament, and for MPs to not be restricted in their ability to seek clarifications or to discuss or debate the case, she added.
The House is hearing a ministerial statement by Mr Shanmugam on Ms Parti's case, followed by a motion raised by Workers' Party MPs Sylvia Lim (Aljunied GRC) and He Ting Ru (Sengkang GRC) relating to Singapore's justice system.
In September, Ms Parti was acquitted on appeal by the High Court of stealing from the family of prominent businessman Liew Mun Leong.
She is now seeking compensation from the Attorney-General's Chambers under a provision that caps the sum at $10,000.
She has also applied for an inquiry into the conduct of the two prosecutors in her case, which Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon has granted.
However, Standing Order 50 (2) stipulates that Parliament should not make reference to any matters which are sub judice and could therefore unduly influence court proceedings. The only exception is by means of or in the course of consideration of a Bill, when reference to these matters may be made, but only in such a way as will not in the opinion of the Speaker or Chairman prejudice the interests of parties thereto.
"The sub judice rule is one that we normally adhere to for good reason," Ms Indranee said. "However, here we will be discussing the issues because there is a clear public interest for the questions raised about our criminal justice system to be addressed sooner rather than later.
"It is not clear when the existing proceedings will conclude, and it is not satisfactory to defer the parliamentary discussion of the case for months, or indefinitely. This should not be regarded as a general precedent, but something that is necessary for the present circumstances."
She urged MPs to exercise judgment when making their speeches and asking for clarifications, and to be prepared to substantiate any factual points they make.