SINGAPORE: It was in the "public interest" that police reveal the criminal history of the man who took the eldest son of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong for a walk last month, Interior Minister K Shanmugam wrote. to a question in Parliament on Monday (1 April).
This was so that the police could give "a more complete and historical explanation" as to why police were investigating the matter. Shanmugam said the public could "misunderstand police actions" if the police did not define their security concerns.
A police report was filed last month after the videos surfaced on the social networks of Lee's son, who was hitchhiking in a private car on March 15. In the video, the driver can be heard several times by asking him about his identity, home address. and security arrangements.
Police shared the man's criminal history in his statements to the media.
Mr. Shanmugam was questioned by Labor Party parliamentarian Sylvia Lim about the regulations and guidelines in place to ensure that authorities and the media did not publish harmful information about suspects in ongoing investigations and proceedings.
Ms. Lim also asked whether the "prior criminal history and extrajudicial records" of the man who allegedly uploaded Mr. Li's videos "were disclosed to the media by the police or other public authority or body, and if so why ".
"When asked by the media, the police confirmed these investigations. The Minister of Home Affairs ordered the police to declare the man's background without revealing his name, "explained Mr. Shanmugam in his written response.
"It was in the public interest for the police to provide a fuller explanation and explain why they were investigating the matter.
"If the police have not established their security concerns, the public can not understand why the police were investigating the matter and may even misinterpret the actions of the police.
"It was important to provide the public with relevant and specific facts in order to maintain public confidence in the police force."
READ: Police report made after car driver took videos of PM Lee's son
Mr. Shanmugam has stated the man's criminal record in his response, including his previous conviction in 2014 to take a vehicle without the consent of its owner under the Road Traffic Act.
It also included an offense of driving an uninsured motor vehicle in relation to third party risks under the Motor Vehicle Law (Third Party Risks and Compensation).
The man also received a housing burglary warning in 2002 and a report was made against him for criminal intimidation in 2014, the minister wrote in his response.
IT IS NOT POSSIBLE, IN ALL CASES, TO WAIT FOR TESTING
Shanmugam acknowledged that decisions made by the police on what information to disclose "are guided by existing legal requirements".
"With the proliferation of social media, public agencies will need to, from time to time, release information faster than what used to be the case," he said.
"It may not always be possible in all cases to await the commencement or conclusion of a trial, a process that may take weeks or months before disclosing relevant facts to the public.
"When the police assess that it is necessary to disclose information before, they will do so, taking care not to prejudice investigations or legal proceedings that may arise."
Mr. Shanmugam shared more details about the incident in his response.
He said the car the man drove was not licensed for hitchhiking, and that the company Grab had rescinded the man's contract last November for driving a car without proper decals and suspected advertising.
The driver recognized Mr. Li, who was waiting for a hail cab, and decided to pick him up, the minister said.
Mr. Li has Asperger's syndrome, a mild form of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction and non-verbal communication. Li albinism, which results in [him] have very poor eyesight, "added Mr. Shanmugam.
"Leaving Li's background aside, it's very disturbing when an individual picks up any vulnerable person, whether adult or child, and puts that person in such a situation," he said.
"The man put Mr. Li in an uncomfortable situation, apparently exploited the situation, filmed and then circulated."
Police were concerned about Li's safety, Shanmugam said.
"The man made repeated references to Rochalie Drive and pressed Mr. Li on the security arrangements at the PM house. The questions he asked showed that he already knew Mr. Li's identity," the minister added.