Another case, another bungle

The trial against Dr Chee Soon Juan by the Official Assignee’s (OA) office started off with another revelation of the Government’s incompetence.

A serious mistake was exposed of the prosecution’s first witness when he admitted that he had signed off as the Commissioner for Oaths when a form was not complete and subsequently amended.

Erroneously commissioning an oath

Under cross-examination, Mr Jonathan Chua, Senior Officer in the Insolvency & Public Trustee’s Office (IPTO), admitted that certain parts of the form that requested for information were not properly filled in and signed.

Mr Chua was one of two officers that attended to Dr Chee during a briefing on 9 Mar 06. He had taken the SDP secretary-general through the Statement of Affairs which every insolvent person has to fill up.

But the Senior Officer failed to obtain information on two sections of the form as well as Dr Chee’s signature on one of the portions called Schedule A. Despite this, he signed off on the form as the Commissoner for Oaths (as this was also part of his duty).

Worse, when Dr Chee was recalled to fix the discrepancies on a subsequent day, Mr Chua did not make a note and alert the Court to the additions on the form.

When questioned by Mr Alfred Dodwell, Dr Chee’s lawyer, Mr Chua admitted that he had made a mistake.

“Should you not have signed the Statement of Affairs when Schedule A was not signed,” Mr Dodwell enquired.

“I can’t answer that,” Mr Chua replied.

“Should there not be a signed affidavit when Dr Chee subsequently signed Schedule A?” the defence lawyer persisted.

“I am not able to answer,” the officer again limply offered.

Mr Dodwell was not satisfied: “I put it to you that when you submitted the Statement of Affairs as evidence to this Court stating that you had obtained the information and signature from Dr Chee on March 9, you had in fact obtained them only after March 9.”

“I am not able to answer,” Mr Chua repeated.

Mr Dodwell, determined not to let the officer off the hook, shot back: “But you made a mistake, did you not?”

“Yes,” came the soft reply.

Handing over the case, not quite

The second witness, Ms Jasmine Ang, performed only slightly better. Yet when cross-examined, she found herself tied up in knots. Ms Ang, also a Senior Officer at IPTO, testified that she was Dr Chee’s case officer but only for the “initial stage for the filing of Dr Chee’s Statement of Affairs.”

But she confused everyone when she said that she did not attend to Dr Chee on 9 Mar when the SDP leader was present to fill up the Statement of Affairs.

“But did you not say that you were in-charge of Dr Chee’s case?” Mr Dodwell asked.

“I was only assisting Mr Jonathon Chua who attended to Dr Chee,” Ms Ang told the Court. “I had three cases to attend that day, but they were not Dr Chee’s,” she added.

Mr Dodwell probed further: “Did Mr Chua hand over Dr Chee’s Statement of Affairs to someone else after it was filed?”

“No,” she answered. “Jonathan Chua informed me that Schedule A was not complete and asked me to contact Dr Chee again.”

“But why did Jonathan Chua inform you when you were not involved in Dr Chee’s case?” the lawyer sharply interjected.

“I don’t know why he informed me,” she came back, clearly confused. Trying her best, she added: “Jonathan Chua highlighted the problem to me and I suggested that we see Ms Kala, our manager.”

“But why did you have to see Ms Kala with Jonathan Chua when you were not in-charge of Dr Chee’s case?” Mr Dodwell pushed, not missing a beat. “First, you say you didn’t know why Jonathan Chua informed you of the error, then you go an see Kala with him.”

Groping for an answer, Ms Ang finally offered: “No particular reason.”

To recount, Ms Jasmine Ang testifies that she handled Dr Chee’s case only during the initial stage but handed it over to Mr Chua at the briefing on 9 Mar. Yet she she claimed that she had three other cases to attend to that morning but sat beside Mr Chua when he attended to Dr Chee.

She also admitted that Mr Chua had informed her about the mistakes on the form and asked her to contact Dr Chee again (which she did). She also went with him to see their manager. All this when she had “nothing” to do with the case.

The stumbling and fumbling reminds one of the trial of Dr Chee, Mr Gandhi Ambalam, and Mr Yap Keng Ho when the Public Prosecuotor and witnesses committed gaffe after blunder in teir prosecution of the case.

The trial continues in Subordinate Court 15 at 10 am tomorrow.

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