Straits Times: Gomez saga: Police quiz WP chief

They wanted to know why Gomez applied for a minority certificate, says Low Thia Khiang

BY PEH SHING HUEI & KEN KWEK

POLICE officers yesterday interviewed Workers’ Party secretary-general Low Thia Khiang at his Hougang office for more than three hours in connection with the James Gomez affair.

Two plain clothes officers who emerged from the Hougang Town Council office at 6.25pm told The Straits Times they were there to interview the Hougang MP-elect but did not provide other details.

Police said in a separate statement that they were investigating “a complaint from the Elections Department against Mr James Gomez for alleged offences of criminal intimidation and providing false information”.

“Police have interviewed several persons, including Elections Department officials, Mr James Gomez and Ms Sylvia Lim,” the statement said of the probe by the Criminal Investigation Department.

Mr Gomez has been at the centre of a controversy with the department over his non-submission of a minority candidate certificate.

Mr Low confirmed that police had a 3pm appointment with him to provide a statement as a witness in the case.

“They wanted to know what I told James as secretary-general of the party,” he told The Straits Times.

“For instance, why he went to apply for a minority certificate. And also what I previously said to the press – that this was a mistake, that it was not something James purposely did, and it was not an intentional kind of thing.”

He also told the officers that he had made it known previously that it has been standing practice in the party that non-Chinese candidates likely to be standing for election must apply for a minority certificate.

He told members “long ago” to do this, and he had also said the same thing before the 2001 General Election.

“There was also an election seminar which I held some time last year,” he said, referring to an internal party event. “I told them, and James Gomez was present, that all of you (non-Chinese) should go and apply.”

He said the complaint by the department against Mr Gomez was possibly for “criminal intimidation of a public servant”.

Mr Gomez became a focal point of last week’s election campaign, after claiming he submitted a minority candidate certificate to the department. When a security camera recording showed he did not hand in his form, he said he was “distracted” and apologised. But People’s Action Party leaders said the apology was inadequate.

Last week, Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng issued an 11-page statement detailing how Mr Gomez “stage-managed” the incident to damage the Government and discredit the Elections Department.

Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew called Mr Gomez a liar and challenged him and the WP leadership to sue him if that was untrue.

Mr Gomez was stopped from leaving the country on Sunday afternoon and taken to the Police Cantonment Complex where he was questioned for nearly eight hours. He was heading back to Sweden to resume work at the Stockholm-based think-tank, International IDEA.

Yesterday, Mr Gomez appeared relaxed when he visited the Hougang Town Council office with Ms Lim, who is the WP chairman. He said he was taking things in stride and waiting for the next development. He is unable to travel as his passport has been impounded and has not been told when or whether police intend to interview him again.

Ms Lim, who led the WP’s team which included Mr Gomez that contested Aljunied GRC, was also interviewed on Sunday for about three hours as a witness in the case.

Mr Low said he was not aware of any other WP members being called up by the police.

The police statement yesterday said that “no arrest has been made and no persons detained in police custody. The police are in the process of reviewing the evidence and interviewing all relevant persons”.

shpeh@sph.com.sg
kenkwek@sph.com.sg

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Posted in 2006 05. Comments Off on Straits Times: Gomez saga: Police quiz WP chief
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