Parti Liani was an Indonesian housemaid who worked for a very wealthy family in Singapore and earned 345 a month.
The family she worked for was a wealthy Singaporean business family and the head of the family was the chairman of several well-known Singaporean companies.
One day the family lodged a report with the police that their maid had stolen household items and then the case took over the whole country.
The Liu family accused Parthi Liani of stealing luxury bags, a valuable watch and a DVD player.
Earlier this month, the Singapore High Court acquitted Parti Liani of all charges. It took the party four years to get this acquittal.
The lawsuit raises questions about Singapore’s social inequality, policing and the rule of law.
After four years of hard work, the party has finally been able to get the verdict in its favor, but people are questioning how the district judge had convicted her in the first instance.
How did the trial begin?
Parti Liani started working in 2007 at the home of a businessman named Liu Man Leung, where his son Carl Liu and several other family members also lived.
Carl Lew moved his family to a separate home in 2016.
According to court documents, Carl Liu had his house and office cleaned several times by the party, contrary to the country’s laws. Parti Liani also complained about it.
A few months later, the Liu family told Parti Liani that they had lost their jobs because they feared they were stealing valuables from the house.
Parti Livni replied that he was angry with Carl Leo for refusing to clean his toilet.
The Liu family ordered Parti Livni to pack up and leave within two hours. They were told to pack their belongings, which would be sent to Indonesia.
Parti Liani packed her things and returned to Indonesia the same day.
While she was packing, she threatened to complain to Singaporean authorities that she had been asked to work at Carl Leo’s home.
When Parti Liani returned to Indonesia, the Liu family checked her belongings and claimed to have found items that had been stolen.
The head of the family, Liu Man Leung, and his son, Carl Liu, reported the theft to police. Parti Liani had no knowledge of all this.
She was arrested when she returned to Singapore in search of work after spending five weeks in Indonesia.
She could not work because of a police report. During this time they had to stay in temporary accommodation set up by foreign workers and receive financial support to support themselves.
The lawsuit was settled out of court in Singapore
When the trial began, the prosecution accused Parti Liani of stealing 115 valuables from the Leo family’s home, including some clothes, handbags, a DVD player and a valuable watch.
The court was told that the total value of the stolen goods was S 34 34,000.
During the trial, Parti Liani told the court that the items he was accused of stealing were either his own property and some of the useless items that the family had thrown away as useless.
He also said that in his absence, the Liu family put some things in the luggage that he did not pack himself.
In 2019, a district judge found the Leo family’s allegations to be true and sentenced Parti Liani to two years and two months in prison.
Parti Liani filed an appeal in the High Court against the district judge’s decision and was ordered to be released.
High Court Judge Justice Chen in his judgment pointed out some aspects regarding the conduct of the prosecution and the district judge.
The High Court ruled that there was evidence that the Liu family had filed a police report against their former maid to prevent her from complaining about their treatment.
The judge wrote that some of the items accused of stealing from the party were already useless. The judge wrote that the buttons of the valuable watch which was allegedly stolen from the party were broken and the two iPhones which were accused of being stolen did not work.
Similarly, the DVD player who was accused of stealing was discarded by the Leo family as useless.
The judge asked why someone would steal useless things.
The prosecution admitted to the court that it knew the DVD did not work and deliberately presented it to the trial court as a case.
High Court Judge Justice Chen criticized the prosecution. The High Court judge said that the testimony of petitioner Carl Liu could not be accepted.
Carl Leo told the court that Parti Liani had stolen a knife he had brought from Britain. He later admitted that he had not bought it in 2002. Similarly, Carl Liu accused the party of stealing some of the women’s clothes they wore.
The High Court judge also questioned the attitude of the police. Police did not go to the scene until five weeks after the report was filed.
When police launched an investigation, they did not provide Parti Liani with an interpreter who understood Indonesian.
Eugene Tan, a law professor at Singapore University of Management, said the way police have investigated the case is disturbing.
“Not only the police but also the prosecution and the district judge accepted the allegations leveled by the rich family against a housemaid.”
The battle of the weak and the strong
The lawsuit was settled out of court in Singapore. People saw this case as a battle between the rich and the poor.
The majority of the people were against this rich family of Singapore who filed a false case against a maid from which they had to go through legal action for four years.
People saw this case in the context of intimidating the poor of the privileged class.
Despite the fact that the housemaid eventually received justice, the case raised many questions in the minds of the public about the impartiality of the police and the judiciary.
According to Professor Tan, there is no such case in his memory. “The way the institutions failed in this case created unrest among the people,” said Professor Tan.
The way the police and the lower judiciary have accepted the Leo family’s false allegations raises questions about the inadequacy of the check and balance system in the institutions.
Following the public outcry, Liu Minh Leonic announced that he was resigning from the chairmanship of several companies.
Liu Minh Leung said in a statement that he respects the court’s decision but also defended the decision to file a police report on false allegations.
Following the court ruling, the police and prosecution system have been re-examined. Law Minister Shanmagam admitted that a mistake had been made in the matter.
People here are waiting to see what steps the government will take in the light of this court decision. If the government does not comply with the Singaporean people’s demand for a transparent and accountable system, it will reinforce the notion that the interests of the elite are given priority over the interests of society.
Access to justice for foreign workers
The lawsuit raises questions about the access to justice for migrant workers in Singapore.
Parti Liani was able to fight her case because some NGOs helped her. Lawyer Anil Balchandani has been fighting the party’s case for free for many years.
Anil Balchandani estimates that if he had fought the case for a fee, the client would have had to pay 1.5 million rupees.
Singapore provides legal assistance to foreign workers, but since most of them are sole breadwinners and cannot afford to stay unemployed for months, they are reluctant to take legal action.
The courage with which the lawyer of Parti Liani fought and won the case against the government institutions has won the hearts of many people.
Professor Tan says it was a battle between David and Goliath in which David won.
Parti Liani says she will now return to Indonesia. “Now my problems are over and I will return home,” he said in an interview.
“I am forgiving my employer in the hope that what he did to me he will not do to other workers,” she said.