SINGAPORE: Law Minister K Shanmugam has strongly defended Singapore's prosecutorial system, stressing that Singaporeans must be responsible when making comments about the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC), which is the country's prosecutorial institution.
Replying to questions in Parliament about the case involving prominent plastic surgeon Dr Woffles Wu, Mr Shanmugam said it's quite untenable to allege that the Prosecution had exercised discretion in bad faith in the matter.
The issue also saw a robust debate between Mr Shanmugam and Workers' Party Chairman, Ms Sylvia Lim.
On 13 June, surgeon Woffles Wu was fined S$1,000 for getting an elderly employee to take the rap for two speeding incidents, an offence he was charged with under the Road Traffic Act.
Four days later, the AGC explained why Dr Wu was not charged under the Penal Code, which is a more serious charge.
This prompted opposition MP, Ms Sylvia Lim, to ask if the AGC's statement explained public concerns about equitability of the legal system.
Mr Shanmugam said: "Implicit in Ms Lim's questions are I believe the following assertions. One, that Dr Wu could have been charged for a more serious offence. And two, he was not so charged because he is who he is, there was favouritism."
Ms Lim said: "All of us know that the public is concerned with this case. I did not make any allegations that the AG's Chambers has acted mala fide in any way.
"I am just asking whether that statement issued by the AG's Chambers has addressed public concerns. Unless the minister said there is no public concerns on this matter, which I would be very surprised to hear.
"I just want the minister to confirm whether he is questioning my motive on filing the question. Is he alleging bad faith on my part to cast aspersions on the legal system?"
Mr Shanmugam said: "I am certainly casting no motive on Ms Lim. What I was saying - it would be helpful in the context of statements that Ms Lim and others have made in the past, that we can actually in this House debate issues, look at issues without having to inject politics into it."
Mr Shanmugam also cited six cases between 2004 and 2007, to show that the final result of Dr Wu's case was consistent with the verdict of the Court in those instances - where no jail term was imposed.
These cases involved a person driving without insurance coverage, driving without a valid licence, and furnishing false information.
On whether there will be written grounds of decision, Mr Shanmugam said Ms Lim would know the context in which he made the statement.
Mr Shanmugam said the period for notice of appeal had not expired. He said he does not know whether there would be a notice that is filed or whether written grounds of decision would be given. He said it was in this context, that he made the statement.
"I am glad to note that no allegations are being made against AGC, and that it is not being suggested in any way that AGC made a wrong choice or a false choice in choosing the charges that they did against Dr Wu.
"But the context of the questions certainly, implicitly raised that possibility and because it is a serious possibility, I had to deal with it openly," Mr Shanmugam said.