SINGAPORE - The case of Benjamin Lee who fell to his death on Jan 26 sparked a discussion in parliament today (Mar 1) lasting near 3-hours. The 14-year-old teenager was interrogated by the police on the same day he died over molest allegations.
Members of Parliament grilled Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam and Acting Minister for Education Ng Chee Meng on the treatment of minors and facts about the case.
Here are five highlights discussed in Parliament today about the Benjamin Lim case:
1. "It is likely that on the evidence available to us, Benjamin would have received no more than a warning. He is unlikely to have been charged in court." - Mr Shanmugam
Photo: Benjamin's hearse leaving Yishun Blk 316A on 28 January 2016 / Lianhe Wanbao
Young persons are given second chances where possible, Mr Shanmugam said as he laid bare the police's approach to offences by juveniles.
Factors like Benjamin's age, his first offence, and the nature of the alleged molest based on CCTV footage evidence, which can be characterised as being in the less serious range, would have been taken in account.
2. "[The Online Citizen] has gone on a planned, orchestrated campaign, using falsehoods, and has published about 20 articles or so as part of its campaign." -Mr Shanmugam
"It is sad to see the level of dishonesty and politicisation of this matter. Where the police are wrong - we must and will take action. But we should not allow deliberate, dishonest attacks." -Mr Shanmugam
Mr Shanmugam reserved harsh words for The Online Citizen (TOC), slamming the socio-political website for spreading falsehoods and inaccuracies about the Benjamin Lim case.
TOC reported that the officers had the word 'Police' emblazoned on their T-shirt when they went to find Benjamin. This was not true, Mr Shanmugam said, and that the officers were all in plain clothes.
Mr Shanmugam also disputed the number of police officers present at different parts of the interrogation, which TOC claimed was 5.
Contrary to allegations that Benjamin was denied food and drink, Mr Shanmugam said he was offered them, but he declined.
3. "Once the coroner announces his findings, both facts and conclusions, then people can offer their criticisms, viewpoints, comments." -Mr Shanmugam
Photo: The twin towers of the New Phoenix Park on Irrawaddy Road which houses the Ministry of Home Affairs and the police headquarters. / The Straits Times
Explaining why the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) refrained from commenting on the case, Mr Shanmugam said that the rule of sub judice sets out guidelines on what can be said or not when an inquiry is ongoing, and the police had to respect the process.
MHA was cautious in releasing information out of respect for Benjamin and his family, to give them time and space to grieve, Mr Shanmugam said.
4. "Mr Thio has a duty to be fair to the police officers involved. He need only to have referred to the police statement on Feb 1 to know that his facts are untrue." -Mr Shanmugam
Law Society president Thio Shen Yi
Mr Shanmugam was referring to comments made by Mr Thio Shen Yi, president of The Law Society of Singapore on the case.
Mr Thio had also claimed in op-ed piece he wrote for the Singapore Law Gazette that there were five policemen who went to find Benjamin, and these five officers then escorted Benjamin back to the police station.
Stressing that the police adhered to procedures, Mr Shanmugam laid bare the facts, such as the number of police officers present at different parts of the interrogation and escort, the offer of food and drink which was declined, and that Benjamin was never handcuffed.
5. "Our schools provide a safe, nurturing and conducive environment for learning. Our schools will always take appropriate steps to look after their students' interests and well-being, but they cannot do so in a manner that will obstruct the police in their investigations." -Mr Ng
Google streetview screengrab of North View Secondary School.
While schools will take care of students' interests and their well-being, schools have to co-operate with the police during investigations, Acting Minister of Education (School) Mr Ng Chee Meng said.
He noted that there are no straightforward answers as schools are responsible for their students, and the police, in the interest of public safety.
The Ministry of Home Affairs's review of police protocol involving young people will also involved the Ministry of Education (MOE), Mr Ng added.
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