SINGAPORE will rely on the Romanian government to deal with its former charge d'affaires in Singapore, and avoid putting him through trial by media, said Foreign Affairs Minister George Yeo in Parliament yesterday.
Dr Silviu Ionescu was allegedly behind the wheel of a Romanian Embassy-owned car that mowed down three people in two hit-and-run accidents last December. One of them, Mr Tong Kok Wai, died, while the other two were injured.
Dr Ionescu returned to Romania after the incident.
Mr Yeo said: "I can fully understand the outrage many Singaporeans feel over the hit-andrun accidents and the tragic death of Mr Tong.
"However, we should never do anything that is not in keeping with due legal process nor descend into trial by media, otherwise we would weaken our own case."
A coroner's inquiry into the accidents will be conducted from next Wednesday to March 10.
In reply to Nominated Member of Parliament Calvin Cheng's question on what the Government would do to ensure that investigations would continue, Mr Yeo said that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has issued a diplomatic note formally requesting Dr Ionescu's return to attend the inquiry as an "interested person", but the Government "cannot force him".
MFA has also asked Mr Aurelian Neagu, Romania's ambassador to Singapore, if the country could give the Singapore Government an undertaking that Dr Ionescu would be prosecuted and, if found guilty, be sentenced to a criminal penalty that is commensurate with his actions, said Mr Yeo.
He said: "We were assured by Ambassador Neagu that Romania would follow the full extent of its own law."
The Romanian Prosecutor's Office is investigating Dr Ionescu on charges of "manslaughter, unauthorised departure from a vehicle accident site, and misrepresentation", Mr Yeo said.
MFA has formally asked the Romanian Embassy to waive the immunity of its driver, Mr Marius Trusca, so that he can testify as a witness, but has yet to receive an offical reply.
It is seeking clarification for conflicting media reports about the waiver of Mr Trusca's immunity, and has yet to hear whether Dr Ionescu has been informed of its request.
"We trust that they will do so without undue delay," said Mr Yeo. It is in Singapore's interest to observe the privileges and immunities accorded by the Vienna Convention, because Singapore's diplomats enjoy them in foreign countries, he noted.
When Member of Parliament (Tampines GRC) Irene Ng asked whether the Romanian government's reassurances lacked sincerity, Mr Yeo replied: "I have no doubt that this matter would appear in the Romanian courts... So, there is due process in Singapore, there is due process in Romania...let us take this one step at a time and not speculate, because acting in haste or over-speculating may be injurious to our own case itself."