Parliament: New facts cast different light on 'improper motive' inference in Parti Liyani case, says Shanmugam

(From left) Karl Liew, Mr Liew Mun Leong and his wife, Madam Ng Lai Peng. PHOTOS: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Former Changi Airport Group chairman Liew Mun Leong and his wife had thought about firing Ms Parti Liyani by late 2015, and Madam Ng Lai Peng had repeatedly visited the maid agency to review bio-data of new domestic helpers.

Ms Parti was fired on Oct 28, 2016, because her replacement became available then.

Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam revealed this in Parliament on Wednesday (Nov 4) to show that Ms Parti's dismissal was not "sudden", contrary to what High Court judge Chan Seng Onn believed.

In his ministerial statement, Mr Shanmugam said new evidence that emerged after Justice Chan's decision to acquit Ms Parti of theft, was "quite different" from the inferences that the judge had made.

Mr Shanmugam emphasised that the fresh evidence is untested in court, but said he was duty bound to go through the facts, which arose out of further investigations into the Liews' conduct.

In his judgment on Sept 4, Justice Chan found that there was reason to believe that Mr Liew and his son Karl had an improper motive for making the police report.

Justice Chan concluded that the Liews pre-emptively dismissed her on Oct 28, 2016, because they knew she was unhappy about being illegally deployed to work at Mr Karl Liew's home and his office.

The judge concluded that, when she told members of the family - after being fired - that she wanted to complain to the Manpower Ministry, the Liews then filed the police report to stop her from returning to Singapore to lodge the complaint.

Justice Chan's conclusion on the Liews' motive rested on three planks - that Ms Parti's dismissal was "sudden", that she told two members of the family while packing that she wanted to complain to the Manpower Ministry, and that the police report was lodged to prevent her from returning to Singapore to file a complaint.

But Mr Shanmugam said Ms Parti's dismissal was not sudden.

He said Mr Liew had been thinking of firing her for some time after suspecting her of theft, but Madam Ng did not make a firm decision after looking for potential replacements in late 2015.

After a specially designed power bank from France he received in May 2016 went missing, Mr Liew decided to fire her and in September 2016, Madam Ng chose a replacement.

The new maid arrived in Singapore on Oct 25, 2016, and the family decided that Ms Parti would be dismissed on Oct 28, said Mr Shanmugam.

The second point centred on what Ms Parti had said about her intention to lodge a complaint with the Manpower Ministry (MOM) after she was fired on Oct 28, 2016.

What the maid said was that she wanted to complain about the short notice period, Mr Shanmugam told the House.

This was confirmed by a maid agent who was present at the Liews' house while Ms Parti was packing, he said.

"(Ms Parti) did not say that she wanted to complain to MOM about anything else. As can be seen, this is quite different from the inference that the High Court had made.

"But the High Court, understandably and naturally, went on the basis of the evidence, and the submissions made to it.

"The High Court didn't have the benefit of this additional evidence. And as I've said, our purpose is not to reopen the High Court's findings."

Further investigations also revealed that the maid agents twice offered to help Ms Parti lodge a MOM complaint, but she declined.

Ms Parti lodged her complaint about illegal deployment after she was charged, he said.

As for the third issue, Mr Shanmugam pointed out that filing a police report would not stop Ms Parti from returning to Singapore to lodge a complaint.

"Indeed, in this case, it didn't stop her from returning to Singapore."

While the High Court found that the reason for filing the report were "curious", Mr Liew had stated that he was doing so "for record purposes" because he was worried that Ms Parti's boyfriends might break into their home.

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