This was what Ms Tang Ling Yee did when she appealed against a one-week jail term for colliding with a 27-year-old motorcyclist. In her explanation to the MP, she described that she had only ‘accidentally brushed a motorcyclist resulting in the motorcyclist sustaining some injuries”.
The only problem was that it wasn’t a brush. The victim suffered multiple fractures requiring a dozen operations in two months, and was hospitalised for 69 days after he was hit by the car she had been driving.
So despite her guilty plea, remorse shown, clean record of 20 years and the fact that she stopped to help the victim, the judge described her use of the MP’s letter as “somewhat troubling” given that the statements within “sought to unfairly trivialise the accident and diminish the true extent of the victim’s substantial injuries”.
This subsequently triggered two letters in The Straits Times about the MPs writing in letters to the judiciary to plead for leniency and if this is tantamount to an abuse of power.
Walau eh! Asking for it! Hong Kan liow!
Why MP can write such letter one?
A quick history- when times were different in the past, residents would go to their MPs to help them write to government agencies. As an elected representative, the MPs job is to try to help his residents best represent their side of the story to government agencies. This makes sense because the MP could connect with the residents, knows the language and system so he knows which agency to write to, thus solving the issue quickly.
Problem with such a system?
MP appeals are the last bastion for many residents, when they run out of options or ideas. While the original intent is noble; to help residents. Problems arise when people seek to use this as a loophole to get out of trouble by only presenting their side of the story, favoring themselves. The MPs will usually not be in a position to verify the facts narrated. The MPs can only represent what the resident tells him. If they deliberately chose to mislead him that is what it is. But the MP job is to just help the represent themselves – better
Is this an abuse of power by the MP?
It is the MPs responsibility to listen carefully and sympathetically to residents to understand their problem so that they can help wherever possible. The courts and judiciary decides using the facts of the case. after they have seen all sides of the story and followed it from start to finish. The MP letter is kinda like for their consideration and it will be for the courts to decide how much weight it carries.
Which is why, the judge found it absolutely “troubling” when Ms Tang misused that MP letter.
The judiciary is a key institution of the state. The reason why we are successful in Singapore is because we have built up institutions and given them status under the Constitution and accorded them due respect. Singapore’s fundamentals depend on strong institutions and upholding the status.
Our courts are integral and function as a check and balance to the system; so you cannot anyhowly tell your sad story to your MP just so you can get leniency on your charges.