Rule of Law My Foot

by singaporearmchaircritic

When I spoke with some foreign friends about the current “anti-immigration” sentiment among Singaporeans, they invariably felt uneasy about the nationalistic undertones of this revulsion at immigration, and could not fathom why Singaporeans, themselves the progeny of migrants, have taken such a strong stance against the foreigner influx today.

It took some effort to explain to them that Singapore has always been a cosmopolitan city but the rate of the foreigner influx in the past five or six years has been phenomenal, nothing quite like what Singaporeans had experienced in the previous decades.

The rather indiscriminate admission of foreigners has also impacted on Singaporeans in a big way and laid bare the shortfalls in many of our government policies. The relentless rise in cost of living is unmitigated by our grossly inadequate social welfare system; the lack of a legislated minimum wage has depressed wages, particularly those of the blue-collar workers; the absence of autonomous trade unions has made Singaporean workers vulnerable to exploitation and abuse by unscrupulous, greedy capitalists and so on.

To top it off, it has also exposed the precariousness of Singapore’s rule of law.

Is this a fair statement? Readers you may judge for yourself after reading about this incident below.

Playground for the Rich?

Unless you read Wanbao or Shin Min or this blogpost, you probably would not know about this case of a former female employee of the Marina Bay Sands casino who was allegedly molested by a VIP gambler.

The VIP gambler is a friend of a Chinese celebrity-comedian, a frequent patron of the MBS casino who often flew into Singapore on his private jet (read reports here and here).

Last February, the Chinese celebrity claimed to have lost his hat in a VIP room at the casino. His male friend promptly used the pretext to conduct a “body search” of the casino staff present, one of whom was the female employee Ms Phua.

Ms Phua told the Chinese media the man patted her from the chest to the waist.

As it all took place very fast, Ms Phua was taken aback. The incident was witnessed by Ms Phua’s colleague(s) and supposedly captured on CCTV surveillance cameras which were ubiquitous in the casino.

Ms Phua lodged a police report a few days later.

Many things happened from February 2012 to this February, before the incident finally came to light in the Chinese media:

The VIP gambler/suspect entered Singapore a number of times and was at MBS casino as recently as last month;

Ms Phua made a second police report to inform the police of the VIP gambler’s subsequent visits to the casino;

Ms Phua was sacked by MBS casino in July 2012;

Ms Phua sought assistance from AWARE, MOM and Chen Show Mao to no avail;

On 13 February 2013, ST reported that MBS casino was fined for not retaining surveillance footage over the period September 2011 to April 2012 (note the coincidence in timing);

As of 16 February 2013, the police told reporters that investigation was still ongoing.

However, a day or two later, the police contacted Ms Phua. She was told that the police had issued a “warning” to the suspect and the case was closed. Period.

Or so the police thought.

Questions

The police and the relevant authorities owe Ms Phua and the public answers to many questions.

The biggest question is: why was the VIP gambler/suspect let off with just a “warning”?

If the police did warn him, doesn’t it imply that there is enough evidence of his guilt? If the police did not manage to get hold of the relevant CCTV footage, why was it so? Was it because of a lapse on the part of the officers-in-charge?

Even without the CCTV footage, could the police not take further action based on the account of the witness(es)? Was the VIP gambler asked to assist with police investigation on his subsequent visits to Singapore? If not, why not?

And on the roles of the MBS casino and the MOM:

Since the conflict of interests was obvious in this case, has MOM looked into why Ms Phua was dismissed from employment? What sort of protection, if any, do the MBS casino and the MOM offer for employees caught in similar situations? Did MBS casino impose a gag order on its staff involved in the incident? What reason did MBS casino give for failing to retain the CCTV footage over the said period?

And most importantly, under the Singapore law, is there no other channel for an ordinary Singaporean like Ms Phua to seek redress for the injustice she suffered?