Many Singaporeans are shocked by the lenient ruling in favour of Kong Hee and his gang of church leaders, who all had their sentences halved by the appeals judge.
Almost everyone can see why this is an extremely unfavourable precedent for transparency and accountability in Singapore. Even though these church leaders were caught stealing over $50 million in funds from the church, the convicted have essentially been given a light slap on the wrist for one of the most serious criminal breach of trust offences in Singapore history.
More than that, this ruling is another tight slap in the face for our blundering AGC (Attorney General’s Chambers).
The AGC prosecutor Mavis Chionh let herself be distracted by arguments about religion and “good intentions” and let the trial drag on for 2 years, spending millions of tax payers dollars in the process with no visible conclusion in sight. We cannot fault Singaporeans for being frustrated about the trial and its verdict when to the outsider, it was just an open and shut case of charity leaders stealing money from their donors. This failure only speaks volumes about the way our AGC conducts its cases.
The AGC most recently committed another glaring blunder, which has caused no end of controversy with regards to the upcoming reserved president elections this year.
Based on the Constitutional Commission’s recommendations, Singapore should reserve an election for members of particular racial groups in the event that five open elections go by without a candidate from that racial group being elected.
To the ordinary Singapore, it is not so hard to remember that we have had only four elected presidents, starting from the late President Ong Teng Cheong. For reasons unknown to us, and it would be unwise for us to speculate about their underlying motivations, the AGC unthinkingly advised the government to include the late President Wee Kim Wee, who was not an elected president, in the count of elected presidents.
I assume that this is a case of slipshod fact checking because I fear what the implications are if the AGC had other reasons for trying to force President Wee into the list.
Irregardless, these two major blunders reflect very badly on our AGC, who wants to pride itself on being a world-class legal institution.
I can only hope such blunders are minimized in future, but my expectations are tempered when the government sees fit to appoint one of its former members directly into the seat of Deputy Attorney General designate and act like it’s a completely normal thing to do.