Doorstop Interview on Foreign Domestic Worker Piang Ngaih Don - Remarks by Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law

Published: 25 February 2021

1.    I want to be restrained in my comments.


2.    In Mdm Gaiyathiri’s case, she has admitted to the facts, she has pleaded guilty, but the sentencing has been adjourned. Her husband, a police officer, Chelvam, and Gaiyathiri’s mother, are both facing charges. Their cases haven’t been heard yet. So, we need to be careful in what we say, because the cases have not been disposed of.


3.    But I do want to register the following. The facts admitted in court by Mdm Gaiyathiri when she pleaded guilty, show extreme inhumanity, extreme cruelty. I’m sure I speak for many Singaporeans when I express our complete abhorrence at what happened.


4.    What was done to Ms Piang, the foreign domestic worker, was terrible, completely unacceptable. In fact, none of these words describe adequately what actually happened to her. She was tied up, burnt with heated iron, denied food, hit repeatedly, and more. She was starved and beaten to death. The bestiality of the conduct is shocking.


5.    If you go back to history, the history of people, history of countries – ordinary people are capable of extreme evil, and evil lurks in people who seem ordinary. And it doesn’t occur only in faraway places and people don’t walk around with clear indicators that show a person to be evil. When this evil is encouraged as part of the state system then you get what happened in Nazi Germany, which was described by Hannah Arendt as the “Banality of Evil”.


6.    The point I’ll make is that people who seem ordinary are capable of extraordinary evil, and there are two pillars in any society to keep evil in check. One, is education. Two, we need rule of law to keep such evil in check. The law has to come down with full force, when the rules are broken. Mdm Gaiyathiri’s husband is a Police officer. We need – and thankfully, we have – a system, where it doesn’t matter who you are, whether you are a police officer, civil servant, or man on the street, if the investigation shows that you ought to be charged, you will be charged, and you will face the full weight of the law.


7.    Chelvam has been suspended from Police duties since Aug 2016, three days before he was charged. He is facing five charges, including for voluntarily committing hurt against a domestic helper. Second, using criminal force. He is alleged to have hit the domestic worker’s shoulders with a toy bat. He is charged with causing the disappearance of evidence – he is alleged to have removed the CCTV system from the crime scene. He is also charged for providing false information – the verbal statement he gave to the IO (Investigating Officer) about the CCTV removal is said to be false. And, abetment to VCGH (voluntarily causing grievous hurt) charge. The allegation is that he abetted his wife to illegally, basically, not give enough food to Ms Piang for no less than 35 days.


8.    As I said, he has not been tried for the charges yet. These are the charges. There is always the presumption of innocence, and the matter will have to be dealt with in court. But the point is, Police officer or not, the law will take its course. After the criminal proceedings in court are over, he will face disciplinary proceedings regardless of the outcome of the trial because whatever happens in the trial, the Police have their own internal set of proceedings, and disciplinary proceedings will be commenced.


9.    Those are the remarks that I wanted to share with you all.