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  • Writer's pictureJulie O'Connor

No Rhyme or Reason - Selective Enforcement is Probably Worse Than No Enforcement

Some receive a POFMA some don't, some are investigated some aren't, some can exonerate themselves in Parliament, some can't....

Last Sunday, a subordinate of the Law Minister issued a POFMA against Kenneth Jeyaretnam and others. The first thing I found disconcerting was that a subordinate was issuing legal notices to parties, claiming that what was published about his boss was untrue. Secondly, it wasn't Kenneth Jeyaretnam who initially raised concerns that Livspace may have undertaken renovation works at Minister Shanmugam's house, that insinuation was made by Singapore lawyer in exile, Charles Yeo. Yet, as far as I am aware, Charles Yeo has received no POFMA, even though he openly publishes his email address. Thirdly, why wait over two-weeks to correct yesterday's news?

Kenneth Jeyaretnam, as any opposition leader should, was seeking clarification on this information which was being circulated by many on social media and in chat groups. Some might argue that if the Government was more forthright and transparent, especially on matters of public interest, misinformation wouldn't be so much of an issue in Singapore. If there was a press that didn't have to toe the line because it may have to rely on handouts from the Government to survive, investigative journalists could be asking the hard-hitting questions instead of politicians. The CEO of Livspace is Minister Shanmugam's son and the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) reports to Minister Shanmugam. With the amount of cronyism in Singapore, asking the question if Livspace is engaged by SLA to undertake work, which might have included work on Minister Shanmugam's house, is a valid one in my opinion. The leasing of the Ridout properties raised many questions, not all of which appear to have been addressed, leaving concerns that something is amiss...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't believe that Kenneth Jeyaretnam has been served a POFMA on any of the other sensitive subject matters that he tackles. So why was Kenneth Jeyaretnam 'selected' for a POFMA instead of Charles Yeo on this occasion? It can't have been due to Charles Yeo being overseas because I have been served a POFMA and I'm in Australia. Charles Yeo can't have been excluded because he doesn't have many followers, because he will have more than me, and I most certainly met the criteria for a POFMA.

If all are equal with regards truth v falsehoods, why didn't the Law Minister have his subordinate serve a POFMA on the SLA after it put out a statement that the rentals by both Ministers were from open bidding, when it was a direct transaction process? Why not a POFMA for the SLA statement which claimed that Minister Shanmugam had paid higher than the guide price, when the CPIB found that this was not true? Surely Minister Shanmugam would have known what the truth was when SLA made those false statements.

What are the criteria for being 'selected' for enforcement?
  • Timothy Dutton CBE wasn't served a POFMA when he stated that the decision to find senior lawyer Lee Suet Fern guilty of professional misconduct and suspend her from legal practice was one made out of “serious legal error” and legally unsound reasoning. So, if no POFMA is served are we to assume that Timothy Dutton's statement is true and as many believe Lee Suet Fern was persecuted because her husband Lee Hsien Yang dared speak truth to power?

  • Freedom House has not been served a POFMA for casting serious doubt on judicial independence in Singapore, but Li Shengwu was 'selected' for sharing similar thoughts in a private post to his friends. Like his mum, was Li Shengwu 'selected' because his father raised concerns about an abuse of power in the highest echelons?

  • I didn't receive an email or a phone call from the Singapore police requesting the open letter that I had sent to the Chief Justice be removed from my website and social media. It was Terry Xu who had shared my letter that was 'selected' for enforcement. Terry had his phone and laptop confiscated, was asked to remove the letter from The Online Citizen website and was later found guilty of Contempt of Court.

There are many more instances of 'selective' enforcement.

Prior to her acquittal on appeal, Parti Liyani was investigated, charged and convicted of the theft of S$34,000 of goods from her well-connected, elite employer, based on flimsy and perjured evidence. Why was Parti Liyani 'selected' for investigation, but not the well-connected, Director of EZRA Holdings who was represented by the legal firm formerly headed up by the Attorney General?

There are a whole host of serious concerns raised in relation to the now former Director of EZRA Holdings, and its subsidiaries. These included but are not limited to allegations of forgery, a conspiracy to defraud, insider trading, misleading investors, repeated non-disclosures etc. Was the US$3,500,000 undisclosed Related Party Transaction investigated and who is the director of EZRA Holdings who was paid the US$3,500,000 refundable deposit that was unsecured and interest free? Given the timing of this transaction, was this sum used to pay the authorised representative of a Plaintiff, so he would retract a writ which implicated the Director in an alleged pattern of fraud? Was this sum repaid to the company before it collapsed? How much of the A$23,300,000 that an EZRA Holdings subsidiary paid for assets, went back into the pocket of the EZRA Director via a claim to a beneficial interest in the seller of those assets? Why did DBS Legal refuse to authenticate two DBS letters which were used in a conspiracy to defraud, prior to the purchase of the above assets? Why did DBS Legal later refuse to allow the subject of these letters to be included in a whistleblower submission?

It's concerning, given the losses faced by many Singapore investors and the estimated $637 million financial exposure faced by DBS following the collapse of the EZRA Holdings group, that the authorities have refused to investigate the EZRA Holdings Director? Even more so when both the Attorney General and the Second Minister of Law might be conflicted if their former client is investigated.

As far as I can tell, there are no exceptions written in small print that cover-ups are allowed for some, or that a select group of individuals are above the law in Singapore, unless of course this is some unwritten rule whispered about behind closed doors. When Ministers are conflicted, any concerns raised should be independently investigated. Subordinates should not be involved in the process.

The latest scandals to hit the shores of Singapore are the ex-marital affair involving the Speaker of Parliament which remained undisclosed by the PAP leadership for over three-years, and the graft probe involving Minister Iswaran which was only exposed after a UK investigation. Similar to this graft probe, the Keppel bribery, Sembcorp bribery, Noble Group fraud, Wirecard fraud, and others were all uncovered by overseas parties and not by Singapore authorities. If Singapore's establishment prefers to keep its dirt under wraps, one can only wonder how much more is hidden?

I became disillusioned with the Singapore establishment, not when A$3.5 million was offered by a Director of EZRA Holdings to save his backside, but when Singapore's watchmen were nowhere to be seen as the ship took on more fare paying passengers and headed on towards the iceberg looming on the horizon.

In light of these scandals and concerns of cover-ups, surely the Singapore's Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau now has to expand its investigations to uncover what else is hidden? Are any relatives of ministers running businesses that are related to ministers’ portfolios and have there been any other private trips taken as part of official trips that have been funded by taxpayers? Could conflicts in the upper echelons have resulted in prosecutorial discretion being abused to protect some, whilst punishing others?

Paying Ministers top dollar doesn't mean that they should be beyond reproach. Nor does it guarantee zero corruption, that no cover-ups are taking place, or that no-one is above the law in Singapore.

"All men are not created equal but should be treated as though they were under the law" ~Andy Rooney

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