Shanmugam spars with Sylvia Lim over Woffles in Parliament

A HEATED debate broke out yesterday between Law Minister K. Shanmugam and Workers' Party (WP) MP Sylvia Lim over questions about the conviction of plastic surgeon Woffles Wu.

At one point, WP leader Low Thia Khiang even interjected to ask if Mr Shanmugam was "trying to impose some form of intimidation".

Ms Lim had asked whether the Attorney-General's Chambers' (AGC's) explanation for its choice of charges had addressed "public concerns about the equitability of the legal system".

In his reply, Mr Shanmugam said that he had consulted the Attorney-General on the question and reiterated that the penalty meted out was in line with those of past cases.

Dr Wu was fined $1,000 in June for asking an elderly employee, Mr Kuan Yit Wah, to take the rap for two speeding offences in 2005 and 2006.

To demonstrate his case, Mr Shanmugam highlighted six cases dating back as far as 2004, where drivers had committed offences - from speeding to driving without a licence and insurance - under the Road Traffic Act. They were all fined for wilfully giving false information to police.

Still, Ms Lim noted the "aggravating factors", such as the fact that Dr Wu had committed more than one offence over a prolonged period. She added that it had been Dr Wu's idea to abet Mr Kuan to provide false information to the police.

But Mr Shanmugan, who is also Foreign Affairs Minister, replied that the cases cited earlier were similar in that aspect - the motive was to avoid being identified.

He said: "I assume none of us here would say that the sentence should be heavier simply because Dr Wu is rich or famous, or perhaps some of us may not like him."

He stressed that the MPs should "leave politics aside" and look at the facts if "we want to be honest and fair".

"It's got nothing to do with intimidation," he added.

vbarker@sph.com.sg



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