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Not time to Parti yet …Let’s wait for the real verdict on the Liew Mun Leong affair
By PN Balji
It was a moment of serendipity with a number of stars lining up in the Singapore sky to form a constellation that must have made many of us proud. The timing could not have been more perfect. The country was moving towards a them-and-us polarisation with the debate over politics, the disadvantaged, foreigners and race popping up again. We needed something to unify the country. Indonesian helper Parti Liyani’ss success in the Appeals Court, which acquitted her of all five charges of theft, brought a number of forces together to show that the justice system is not really broken although some aspects of it were exposed to the administration’s embarrassment.
The coming together of a noble lawyer, a NGO fighting against the odds, a Judge who spoke truth to power, the helper who wanted to prove her innocence and a soc. wuillull uuuuial media which, on most occasions, wanted to keep the story on the boil.
In the end, we saw a well-connected r. Jenn b,b:0:-P:0:-P=-O*\0/**\0/*:-P*\0/*:0 other top posts. Liew Mun Leong had a powerful team to craft a polished image of a tycoon who became a darling of the media and the establishment. In the process, the companies that he helmed benefitted.
But the PR playbook he nurtured shrewdly could not save him from one of the most spectacular downfalls in recent corporate history. He forgot the basics of PR: In a crisis, you must not remain silent and must act with speed. If you don’t, a news vacuum will be created with others rushing in to fill the space.
Liew was savvy enough to know the power of media. When he was CEO of Capitaland, he made it a point to have his corporate communications team on the floor where his office was. He told one of his senior managers: I need to meet you and your people very often and need you all within hearing distance. Finance and HR were also on his floor, but “I don’t need to meet them often.”
His PR team arranged lunch meetings with the bigwigs of media regularly and fed stories to them to boost his image and indirectly the image of the companies he headed. But all that media cultivation did not rescue him as Liew faced the biggest crisis of his corporate life. Even the wording of his press statement announcing his resignations became a social media controversy. He said he was bringing forward his “retirement”. Even The Straits Times chose not to use that word, but instead picked the phrase “steps down”.
Liyani was a brave woman. Her lawyer, Anil Balchandani, took up her case free of charge and a group of activists fighting for her rights, Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics, helped to find a shelter for her and, not to forget, the Home’s moral support. Justice Chan Seng Onn questioned the two important pillars of the Singapore justice system, the police and the court. Both did not come out looking good. The police took five weeks after Liew made an official report to start its investigation and the lower court appeared to have not paid enough attention to the gaps in the prosecution’s case.
Home and Law Minister K Shanmugam has said his officers will find out what went wrong. This is the elephant in the room. What the Minister needs to establish is what went wrong in the “chain of events”. Was it because the lower court and the police were not thorough enough due to Liew’s high stature and his connections?
This goes to the heart of the debate in Singapore about whether elitism has seeped into the system and has exposed a decay in our moral system. If this issue is not addressed to satifaction, then the work of the helper, lawyer, migrant activists and the Judge will be wasted.
The time has not come to Parti. Not yet.