How cheap can you get?

Karl Liew Kai Lung, son of Liew Mun Leong

It’s often said that you can tell the nature and quality of a society by the way it treats its most vulnerable and I’m glad to say that Singapore’s High Court proved Singapore’s value as a society on 4 September 2020 when it acquitted Ms. Parti Liyani, an Indonesian maid who had been accused of theft and had previously served sometime in jail. Ms. Liyani was the maid of Mr. Liew Mun Leong, Chairman of Changi Airport and one of Singapore’s most prominent businessmen.

The facts leading to her acquittal can be found in the written judgement by Justice Chan Seng Onn.

In many ways the judgement reads like the plot of a Korean Drama and exposes Singapore’s institutions as being, well pliable to the whims of the rich and powerful. The police in particular come out looking exceedingly bad. One of the most obvious points recorded in the judgement is the fact that the police allowed the Liew family to use items in the boxes where some of the allegedly stolen items were kept. If you have watched enough shows on TV, you’ll know that this is clearly wrong.

Then there was the fact that Ms. Liyani, who is not conversant in English (one of the reasons why Indonesian maids are paid less than their Filipina counterparts) was questioned in – English and that was translated for her in Bahasa Melayu when her native language is Bahasa Indonesia. While Malay and Indonesian are similar, there are significant differences in the mean of various words – significant enough for misunderstandings to occur in legal situations. Nobody bothered to inform Ms. Liyani that she had the right to have a Bahasa Indonesia interpreter present.

Then there’s the role of Mr. Liew Mun Leong and his family and that is perhaps the biggest tragedy. Mr. Liew was once one of Singapore’s most respected businessmen. In many ways, he’s what you’d call the type of business hero that Singapore needs. While his is not quite the rags to riches story, he didn’t come from an elite school (Queenstown Technical) and he worked his way up. He is one of those very rare creatures. A Former civil servant who succeeded in the private sector and it’s not just Singapore that recognised his achievements. On 12 September 2017, Mr. Liew was conferred the rank of Knight in the French Legion of Honour (Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur) for his contributions to the French economy. More can be found here.

Yet, when you read the efforts that he went through with his family to effectively stiff a maid earning something like $300 to $600 a month (Ms. Liyani started out on $300 a month and they doubled her pay towards the end of her service), one can’t help but feel that Mr. Liew has shown himself to be nothing more than a power hungry ghoul and you’re left wondering if Mr. Liew’s previous achievements were really due to anything more than the ability to peddle influence?

One of the most striking points against Mr. Liew is the fact that he got his maid to work for his son in addition to himself (she had to clean his house, his son’s house and office). This is against the rules, though there are families who get around this by compensating the maid. Well, to be fair to Mr. Liew, he did compensate her to the princely sum of a few bucks a month, which he allegedly took his time to pay.

Mr. Liew is not the only businessman who has proven to be an arsehole. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were notoriously temperamental bosses and both Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk have been known to be jerks. However, while these men may have been difficult to work with, there is no record of any of them going all out to destroy someone so much lower on the proverbial social scale.

At one stage, Mr. Liew was making around $5,000,000 a year. In 2007, his bonus was over S$20 million. A summary of where Mr. Liew ranks of the pay scale can be found here.

If you read the judgement, you’ll realise that the Liew family put in quite a bit of effort to get Ms. Liyani locked up. Think about it, a man who helms big companies and earns at least $5,000,000 a year went out of his way to “fix” a maid earning $7,200 a year (based on Ms. Liyani’s maximum salary of $600 a month).

I stress that Ms. Liyani should not have gotten free pass if she had stolen things. However, based on the evidence as laid out in the judgement (this is a court judgement not an editorial piece), it is very clear that the Liew family conspired to frame a maid who had served them loyally for nine-years (she was accused of stealing a DVD player that didn’t work).

What makes this worrying is that once the verdict came out and Ms. Liyani was acquitted, the powers that be proceeded to rush to defend Mr. Liew. One of the worst defenses came from that bastion of business transparency – Temasek Holdings, which bleated on about how Mr. Liew had contributed so much and the public should hear his side of the story. The report can be found here.

Not to be outdone, the government lead by it’s least conflicted minister, Mr. K Shanmugaratnam (Minister for Law and Home Affairs – somehow there’s no conflict between the law maker and the law enforcer) proceeded to give a spiel about how there was not to be a witch hunt and the government would look into what went wrong.

One cannot help but want to scream at officialdom for being “tone deaf,” and ask if the ruling party really wants to lose more seats. Sure, Mr. Liew has been a very successful businessman but that cannot distract us from the fact that he and his family have been guilty of several offenses that have been exposed in open court. By rushing to defend him, it gives the impression that the government is only interested in protecting one of its own, which is the very thing that Singapore tells the foreign investment community it does not do.

The Prime Minister needs to reign in his wife and ministers. A bit of distance from Mr. Liew would help. He should look no further than predecessor who distanced himself from TT Durai of the National Kidney Foundation in 2005. There, the government had the sense to realise that Mrs. Goh’s peanut remarks were unhelpful and nobody rushed to defend Mr. Durai when his misdeeds were uncovered.

While Mr. Liew and the government don’t emerge looking good from this entire saga, I believe that the incident shows that there is hope. There is hope that civil society groups like HOME (which supported Ms. Liyani) exist. These organisations provide some hope for the least of us.

It’s also encouraging that there are lawyers like Anil Balchandani the Managing Proprietor of Red Lion Circle Advocates and Solicitors, who worked tirelessly and for free to see that Ms. Liyani got some justice.

Justice Chan Seng Onn

Lastly, there is the man that all Singaporeans need to be grateful for – Justice Chan Seng Onn, who weighed the evidence carefully and looked at the circumstances in a fair and impartial manner. He was not swayed by the influence that Mr. Liew had in the business community, ruled according to the evidence and even went as far as to commend Mr. Balchandani for representing Ms. Liyani so effectively.

Justice Chan has given hope to Singapore by showing that there is a possibility of receiving fairness from the system and for the powers that be who might condemn fairness as an airy concept, they would do well to remember that foreign investors like places where there is rule of law rather than rule of personality.

 

Tang Li

*Although I’ve been based mainly in Singapore for nearly two decades, I’ve had the privilege of being able meet people who have crossed borders and cultures. I’ve befriended ministers and ambassadors and worked on projects involving a former head of state. Yet, at the same time, I’ve had the privilege of befriending migrant labourers and former convicts. All of them have a story to tell. All of them add to the fabric of life. I hope to express the stories that inspire us to create life as it should be.

 

 

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26 Responses to “How cheap can you get?”

  • To MOM; Mr Josephine Teo:

    Mrs Liew and Karl Liew deploy the domestic helper Parti illegally.
    Mr Liew ML is the legal employer of Parti.
    Why did MOM issue caution/advisory to Mrs Liew and Karl Liew, and not Liew ML.
    Could you clarify please?

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  • LML is a "free-rider":

    LML did well because he got a “free-ride” from his “connections” in Temasek (you know who). He was made Capitaland CEO despite having no experience in real estate. The person with the expertise and experience Dr Han Cheng Fong, DBS Land CEO got the boot.

    LML is another case of a free-rider helping another free-rider.

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  • To MediaCorp and Jack Neo:

    You can make this saga into a drama serial (for MediaCorp) or movie (for Jack Neo), guarantee you it will have ratings higher than KDramas and Hollywood movies, better than Netflix Crash Landing and Hollywood A Beautiful Mind.
    Quick, get the copyright to do that.
    Dont waste it and do it as another run of the mill documentary or Crime Watch.
    Proviso – PAP allows it.

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  • liew will blame his son:

    one of us worked for a pap folk higher ranked than liew.

    this pap folk lies all the time. as soon as mouth opens, a lie comes out.

    what is abhorring is he even blames his son if something comes out.

    but everyone who knows the pap folk all know this pap folk never blames himself for anything even though nothing can happen without his approval.

    one day someone overtook his car while entering the carpark. this pap folk was super mad and the standing instruction thereafter was nobody can cut in front of his car.

    61% sheep thinks producing cotton for pap is a very good thing to do. it only shows 61% sheep has not really met the real pap.

    birds of a feather flock together. unless one is of the same bend as pap, the twain cannot meet.

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  • Billy ma:

    The judiciary is trustworthy as long as the parties involved are not from PAP, their friends & families, & their cronies.

    Over the years it’s open for all to see that majority of cases that involved PAP & it’s cronies are awarded to them.

    Like that north Korean fat boy, PAP had installed their own loyalty & obedient people in every position of authority across the nation.

    And these positions are used for PAP to exercise their will in every aspect including their own interest & benefits.

    They have absolute power & authority plus all the $$$$ they want to ride freely.

    It is sad.

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  • Mike:

    Best article i ever read on this matter! Especially the last 4 paragraphs, it gave limited but precious hope for this place call Singapore.

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  • size up the children SES:

    aiyoh. but sinkie land society is like that one leh ?? <$500k, mediocre ?? no million $$ salary, cannot command respect when tokking to higher paid business men leh ? even heard (heard lar don't know how true leh ?) that teachers start to size up the children SES by asking whether family got car or not ???

    here white monkey idiots, horses or donkeys all treated specially leh ??? no ? if you are rich, even your shix words will be listened too ??

    what to do, our white monkey idiots (as sinkie land leadership) have set the benchmark at the most 'visible' & 'loud noisy' manner leh ??

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  • Will Justice be served or not?:

    Ho Ching, Shanmugam & Pillay has spoken out in his defence. Good man, no witch hunt, contributions to Singapore as if he was not obscenely rewarded. It looks they are doing exactly the very same thing that Liew family did to pre-empt any legal fallout from the time bomb.

    Why can’t they simply treat him as any criminal or offender who has broken the law. The Maid hiring contravention by itself is a small matter as it would only attract a fine at the most but the false accusation of theft is a very serious matter as it meant the innocent Maid would be jailed for more than 2 years for what is perceived to be unwanted garbage exaggerated to an excessive amount in order to attract a potentially heavy sentence for The Maid. Certainly there is bad blood between the son & The Maid. The obvious conclusion one would jump to is that the son is simply another spoilt child. Clearly there is criminal intent especially on the part of the the son.

    Well the clear signals have already been given, since the father is a very influential man of extensive connections. Well, What remains to be seen is whether justice can be seen to have been done in this case or white washed with additional legal findings to justify the ends.

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  • xoxo:

    The GREEDY poor sgs…cannot be given hel
    P…LKY?

    Sure but the RICH MUST BE OFFERED ASSISTANCE,from MONETARY TO OTHERWISE!

    LML CASE SHOWS THIS IS THE CASE.
    So MANY OTHER POWERFOOL$ CAME TO HIS AID?

    Are THEY lending suppoet to Mun Leong or are THEY TRYING TO PROTECT THEIR *RIGHTS* JUST IN CASE THEY GET PUNISHED FOR TGE SAME OFFENCES???

    SALUTE JUSTICE *BAO* CHAN S .O.

    GREAT JUDGE!
    GOOD WORK FOR SG’s JUSTICE system.
    As for KARL N HIS RICH PARENT$,they better regret and REPENT.

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  • chua chye koon:

    plese dont compare bill gates, bezos with this asshole Liew..he is nothing lah

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  • Another Observation:

    If you want to keep your job, be a Yes woman or man, or else you not only don’t get your promotion/pay raise but may also get dismissed.

    To add value to your job and get things done for your boss, exploit loopholes in the laws and rulebook, aka creative approach, the legal and uncorrupt way ok according to Mr Liew Mun Leong in his interviews.

    Trust your secretary, no hanky panky please, and pay her well using company money, you will get a Yes-cum-trustworthy loyalist.

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  • What I understand is this::

    LML is a "free-rider":
    LML did well because he got a “free-ride” from his “connections” in Temasek (you know who). He was made Capitaland CEO despite having no experience in real estate. The person with the expertise and experience Dr Han Cheng Fong, DBS Land CEO got the boot.

    LML is another case of a free-rider helping another free-rider.

    I think DBS Land was in trouble during the Asian Financial Crisis, so was DBS.

    Hence, the government state company PIDEMCO was merged with DBS Land.

    Likewise, DBS Bank bought on the cheap POSB Bank that is cash rich with ordinary Singaporeans savings.

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  • That is interesting:

    liew will blame his son:
    one of us worked for a pap folk higher ranked than liew.

    this pap folk lies all the time. as soon as mouth opens, a lie comes out.

    what is abhorring is he even blames his son if something comes out.

    but everyone who knows the pap folk all know this pap folk never blames himself for anything even though nothing can happen without his approval.

    one day someone overtook his car while entering the carpark. this pap folk was super mad and the standing instruction thereafter was nobody can cut in front of his car.

    61% sheep thinks producing cotton for pap is a very good thing to do. it only shows 61% sheep has not really met the real pap.

    birds of a feather flock together. unless one is of the same bend as pap, the twain cannot meet.

    Who is this big shot?

    Tell us leh.

    PAP and cronies don’t read TREMERITUS one.

    The worst can happen is just get pofma’d pa.

    Say leh ssay leh.

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  • TumasikPatriot:

    Investors & Scoundrel-Cheats Love the “Rule by Law and NOT of Law”…”Honor among THIEVES”

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  • Croc eyed:

    Is it just me or crocodile?

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  • Got Discount for Justice?:

    Will Justice be served or not?:
    Ho Ching, Shanmugam & Pillay has spoken out in his defence. Good man, no witch hunt, contributions to Singapore as if he was not obscenely rewarded. It looks they are doing exactly the very same thing that Liew family did to pre-empt any legal fallout from the time bomb.

    Why can’t they simply treat him as any criminal or offender who has broken the law. The Maid hiring contravention by itself is a small matter as it would only attract a fine at the most but the false accusation of theft is a very serious matter as it meant the innocent Maid would be jailed for more than 2 years for what is perceived to be unwanted garbage exaggerated to an excessive amount in order to attract a potentially heavy sentence for The Maid. Certainly there is bad blood between the son & The Maid. The obvious conclusion one would jump to is that the son is simply another spoilt child. Clearly there is criminal intent especially on the part of the the son.

    Well the clear signals have already been given, since the father is a very influential man of extensive connections. Well, What remains to be seen is whether justice can be seen to have been done in this case or white washed with additional legal findings to justify the ends.

    Does this mean got discou t if got contrubutions? What if murder? I asked What If. I never allege hor.

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  • What I heard from good sources:

    What I understand is this:: I think DBS Land was in trouble during the Asian Financial Crisis, so was DBS.

    Hence, the government state company PIDEMCO was merged with DBS Land.

    Likewise, DBS Bank bought on the cheap POSB Bank that is cash rich with ordinary Singaporeans savings.

    Might be true but why was Liew Mun Leong picked to head the merged companies when he had no experience on real estate. DBS Land CEO Dr. Han Cheng Fong had the experience.

    POSB Bank was likely merged with DBS Bank so it can compete with UOB that acquired OUB. The government wanted DBS Bank to be the largest local bank which is government controlled. It does not like the largest bank to be UOB which is family-controlled. LKY was also telling the local banks to merge to become big and become global players

    The government wanted to grow DBS Bank and put Dhanabalan as bank chairman. DBS Bank had a chance to buy OUB but then DBS Bank Director (and friend of Dhanabalan) Fock Siew Wah (ex-Morgan) blew it. He upset with OUB Chairman and controlling shareholder Liew Ying Chow. The latter was so upset he sold OUB to Wee Cho Yaw of UOB. This likely also contributed the forced merger of DBS Bank and POSB.

    Dhanabalan also wanted to “shake-up” top management at DBS bank. He asked Fock Siew Wah to get his ex-boss at Morgan John Olds to join DBS Bank as CEO with instructions to “chop heads”. He promptly did. Only its Deputy President Ng Kee Choe was kept but only for show. Fock Siew Wah then brought in his friends at Morgan from Hong Kong, Singapore and New York to join the bank. After they made their “pile” (aka money) they left and the current DBS Bank CEO Piyush Gupta was recruited.

    The government wanted a foreigner to head the bank because the bank is so large if its CEO is a homegrown Singaporean he will easily qualify to run for the Elected President post. Moreover, the post of DBS CEO pay so well a person who held it for a few years can afford to be a “loose cannon” if he got the EP post. (Chua Kim Yeow was DBS President from 1980 to 1986 and Executive Chairman of POSB from head of POSB Bank Chua Kim Yeow 1986 to 1993. He (reluctantly) run against Ong Teng Cheong in Singapore’s first presidential election.)

    Piyush Gupta became a Singaporean after he became DBS CEO. Unlikely he will run (or even qualify) for the EP post. Anyway, he will not “rock-the-boat” and just be another PAP stooge just like Nathan, Tony Tan and Halimah if ever got the EP post.

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  • oxygen:

    @ Tang Li,
    SOMEHOW I FIND MYSELF STRONGLY DISAGREEING with the honorable law and home affairs minister.
    There is immense scope and risks of law abuse inherent when the law architect also the law enforcer.

    Why?

    Very simple – just look at case histories.

    Tang Li:Not to be outdone, the government lead by it’s least conflicted minister, Mr. K Shanmugaratnam (Minister for Law and Home Affairs – somehow there’s no conflict between the law maker and the law enforcer) proceeded to give a spiel about how there was not to be a witch hunt and the government would look into what went wrong.

    When law enforcer is also the law architecture, statutory law can be DELIBERATELY AMBIGUOUSLY WRITTEN with a dragnet to catch all or selectively catch some of political convenience.

    How do you explain these anomalies?

    The late JB Jeyaretnam was convicted of all charged offence in LEE-jiapore but on appeal to the UK Privvy Council, they were all thrown out in utter mocking.

    In election polling date, no loitering after voting within 200 metres of polling station WAS RULED AS EXCLUDING those loitering within the station. How can inside a forbidden perimeter EXCLUDED its exclusion violation? The English and LAW language usage is turned upside down!!

    How is SDP5 convicted of illegal assembly law violation by mere evidence of “fact of two person walking in the same direction” constitute illegal assembly (stopped walking in assembly and thinking I presumed???) when plenty of horny old uncles assemble in Paya Lebar MRT station hunting in packs and onward march to Geylang red-light adventures totally unmolested by strict law application ( a process in which they really paused assembled, think and march on with the same proud mind motivation presumably???).

    Where is the check and balance in selective arrest, investigation, prosecution and conviction of offences – not dissimilar to the Parti Liyani disgraceful episode???

    The prosecution drowned themselves in the same blind intoxication OF OWNSELF-BELIEVE/CONVINCE-OWNSELF is the font of truth and sainthood – never mind the veracity of contradictory evidences presented – and till now haven’t discover what went wrong in the chain of events.

    Parti Liyani is the latest victim. More to come of grave injustices (and impunity protection for elite faces) unless we have a separate Office of Public Prosecution TO FIGHT RIDICULOUS LAW ARCHITECTURE (or refused to prosecute otherwise) in keeping the AG down to earthly humility and justice seeking regardless of who is in the dock or witness stand.

    REMEMBER THE GHOST OF BRIGINSHAW V BRINGINSHAW 1938 divorce proceedings were buried in anonymous graveyards in Australia – THEY SHOULD NOT RE-INCARNATE IN LEE-jiapore.

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  • limpei:

    finally there is one Justice Bao in Singapore!

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  • oxygen:

    @ What I understand is this::

    CAPITALAND was born in year 2000 when DBS Land merged with Pidemco Land.

    https://www.google.com/search?q=capitaland&rlz=1C1CHBF_enSG880SG880&oq=CAPITA&aqs=chrome.0.0l3j69i57j0l4.4466578j0j15&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

    And yes, it was whacked badly by the GFC in 2008/2009. Its balance sheet was riddled with debts to the extent of BILLIONS OF DOLLARS. Idle debt in distressed economic environment is VERY DANGEROUS -running the risks of insolvency bankruptcy.

    I recalled Capitaland did a HUGE CAPITAL RAISING EXERCISE amounting to billions of dollars offering a steep price discount. I BOUGHT LOADS OF CAPITALAND SHARES then and made good money selling every share in Capitaland when the global economy cycle turn after global central banks print money to shore up banks and property businesses.

    I have never touch this share ever again. It was a one-time casino-like betting for me that paid off handsomely by pure luck, I don’t like property investments.

    Other than dividends for its long-term holders of Capitaland only, I don’t think investors made good money (most likely lost big money) in capital gains/loss for those who bought in the peak before the GFC.

    What I understand is this:: I think DBS Land was in trouble during the Asian Financial Crisis, so was DBS.

    Hence, the government state company PIDEMCO was merged with DBS Land.

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  • Taleban:

    Justice Chan, when are you going for early retirement or private practice?
    Remember Michael Khoo.
    Good luck.

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  • Sex in office:

    Billy ma:
    Like that north Korean fat boy, PAP had installed their own loyalty & obedient people in every position of authority across the nation.

    Hello,
    You talk as if only PAP do it….
    Everywhere everyone is doing the same … 唯亲适用

    Your Ang Mo Tua Kee Democratic USA also doing the same, installing own people. 唯亲适用
    Your Democratic ROC Taiwan US guard puppy also doing the same, installing own people. 唯亲适用
    Here you go ….I got proof…dare you to deny it….

    Sex in President Office
    【新聞傳真】要女友穿網襪局長室做愛 丁允恭訂婚後劈四女逼墮胎|鏡週刊
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M4fzliJvmgM

    不堪折磨 前女友曝”丁逼墮胎.在辦公室恩愛” 新聞大白話 20200909
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KE5P2T95JbA

    昔遭丁允恭酸摧毀質感 白冰冰直播連譙N次渣
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pab06DLlozs

    花媽愛將 丁允恭劈腿四女 成混世渣男 ! 民進黨 變啞巴? 小英 只能苦吞?! 國民大會 20200910 (完整版)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KzK7EFYqqc4

    GE2024.PAP.Guarantee.Win.Again
    Majullah $PAP$ $PAP$ Huat$ Huat$ Huat$
    Lazy Singaporeans must be Cheaper, Better, Faster

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  • oxygen:

    @ Sex in office

    SO YOU FINALLY CONFESSED PAPpypolitics is full of sh*t?

    Sex in office: Hello,
    You talk as if only PAP do it…

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  • mike:

    Taleban:
    Justice Chan, when are you going for early retirement or private practice?
    Remember Michael Khoo.
    Good luck.

    He had extended retirement on 2019 for two years, due early 2021.
    So don’t mistaken, perhaps he has had it enough.

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  • LML:

    Look like the whole problem caused by the Son….
    Sad outcome.

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  • Ah Ha:

    This article and the couple hundred others I have read on this err of justice never get to the Law Minister, why not? Hasn’t he said “we will look into it but not a witch hunt,” but so far not a peep, not a whimper from the keeper of the stone tablets and the people on the social media sites are giving him a free ride, why? Is this another err about to happen or the prelude to let the peasants cry, yell and scream for a while and then shove the dust under the rug?

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