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The public service? Politicised? Surely not?!

This week: Karl Liew pleads guilty, and Lawrence Wong says the public service shouldn't be politicised, which definitely hasn't already happened definitely no more questions

I sent out a special issue to Milo Peng Funders yesterday: in the light of Subhas Nair’s trial, I reflected on power and demands for civility (i.e. the expectation of “temperate and dignified” responses to things like racism), and the impact on society when we have an environment where the margin for error is zero when it comes to engaging in critical political discourse in a variety of forms. I decided to take the paywall down temporarily, so you can read the special issue here.

Karl Liew pleads guilty

Photo: Grace Baey

Karl Liew, who had testified against his family’s former domestic worker Parti Liyani and accused her of theft, has pleaded guilty to lying to a district judge during Parti’s trial. He had testified back then that a cream polo T-shirt and a red blouse belonged to him — these items of clothing were later established to be women’s clothing, which Parti’s defence lawyer had pointed out did not fit him (Karl had insisted back then that the tops were his, and that he “sometimes” wore women’s clothes). A second charge of lying to a police officer about finding 119 pieces of clothing belonging to him in boxes packed by Parti was taken into consideration.

Both the prosecution and the defence are asking for a maximum fine of $5,000, which the Liew family can well afford and honestly seems pretty slap-on-the-wrist for trying to get a domestic worker convicted and sent to prison. The lawyers said there was no malice in what Karl Liew did, which made me wonder if I’ve misunderstood the meaning of the word “malice” all my life. It was also noted that Liew has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a factor the prosecution took into account when trying to arrive at a sentencing position (i.e. they decided that imprisonment wouldn’t be appropriate given the circumstances). Liew’s defence lawyer said that he’d been “very anxious” about giving evidence against Parti Liyani in open court because he was worried that people would notice his condition. But that doesn’t explain the lying, does it?

The judge will decide on sentencing in April.

If you missed this newsletter’s coverage of Parti Liyani’s acquittal, you can catch up here:

The acquittal of Parti Liyani: What the judge said
Parti Liyani has finally been vindicated. On 4 September, a High Court judge overturned the conviction and sentence handed down by a district court judge, and acquitted the former domestic worker of theft. This news has come as a huge relief to Parti and all the volunteers who have supported her and…
The acquittal of Parti Liyani: Power, privilege, and access to justice
This is the second special issue of We, The Citizens focused on Parti Liyani’s case and the questions it throws up about justice in Singapore. The first issue summed up the High Court judgment. Following the relief of last week, Parti Liyani went to the State Courts today, where she was finally free…
The acquittal of Parti Liyani: Shining a light on illegal deployment
This is the third special issue of We, The Citizens focused on Parti Liyani’s case and the questions it throws up about justice in Singapore. The first issue summed up the High Court judgment, while the second issue looked at access to justice in Singapore.

A politicised public service? Never! 🫢

The public service should never be politicised and should be impartial and objective, says Lawrence Wong.

He also said (emphasis mine):

“In short, you have to be politically sensitive to do your work effectively. But you should never become politicised… You must remain impartial and do your work with professional objectivity, while recognising the political context in which we operate.”

Ahem. The PAP uses the civil service as a space to cultivate future PAP MPs and even party leaders, opposition wards have been shunted to the back of the queue for upgrading, and even losing PAP candidates can emerge as “grassroots leaders” who give out school awards instead of the actual MPs of opposition wards. But sure, whatever you say, bro.

Got some more…

🏗️ Purpose-built dormitories for migrant workers are packed. After the disaster of Covid-19, employers are hiring again so they can get back on track with their projects, but now there’s a housing crunch. Previously, employers might house some workers — like Malaysian work permit holders — in HDB flats, but now that rental costs are so expensive, they’re moving these workers to dormitories too… thus also driving up the price of dormitory housing. How is this problem going to affect workers’ living conditions? This is something we need to keep an eye on.

🎶 Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and National Development Sim Ann has come under fire after she was caught on video shaking hands and greeting other attendees in the first row of the Esplanade Outdoor Theatre even as the singer was performing just meters away. Doesn’t the minister have any concert etiquette? The explanation is apparently that Sim, who had been invited as guest-of-hour for an Earth Hour event, had arrived early, and the organisers ushered her to a seat in the first row. But that’s no excuse: regardless of what the organisers or anyone else did, Sim is a grown woman and could have just told people that they could talk later, after the performance, no? Pfft. It's disappointing to see how little respects artists in Singapore get sometimes.

🙍🏻‍♂️ Charles Yeo, who fled Singapore after being charged in court for harassment and wounding the religious feelings of Christians, is not coming home. This is quite duh but I thought I’d just mention it.

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