The cases, which happened some months ago, have been settled “amicably”, with apparently the Ministry of Manpower also involved. Yet, the Straits Times found it newsworthy enough to report it months later.
On 31 August 2013, the Straits Times published a report titled, “2 claim to be sacked for being pregnant”, by its “Manpower Correspondent”, Toh Yong Chuan.
Mr Toh writes:
“Two women had accused the managing agent [FM Solutions and Services – FMSS] of the town council run by the Workers’ Party of ‘unfairly dismissing’ them because they were pregnant.”
Cutting to the chase, the report essentially said:
- The Manpower Ministry said “the disputes have been amicably settled.”
- The two women “asked not to be named because they said they have moved on.”
- FMSS said: “In no case was FMSS found guilty of or liable for any discrimination against its employees.”
It would thus seem that this was just another workplace dispute which had been resolved.
The newsworthy part, presumably, is the fact that FMSS is also the managing agent of an opposition constituency town council, in this case, a WP one.
Indeed, Mr Toh added in the bit about FMSS’ association with the WP and reported on the earlier exchanges between the People’s Action Party (PAP) and the WP over the WP awarding the town council contract to FMSS.
Mr Toh writes:
“It is not the first time FMSS is in the spotlight. In May, the Government and WP traded blows in Parliament on how the WP had appointed the new company, set up by a WP supporter, to run town council services without calling for a tender.”
First of all, Mr Toh repeats a tired point about WP “not calling for a tender” and completely ignored the fact that the WP had in fact provided explanations – THREE TIMES – on why it had decided not to call for a tender the first time round.
The first time was when WP had awarded the contract to FMSS without tender in 2011. (See here.)
It again explained its move in 2012.
And the WP explained it once more in May this year. (See here.)
One has to wonder why reporters from the mainstream press are unable or unwilling to report the facts more fairly.
Another point which reports and reporters from the mainstream press like to highlight and repeat is that FMSS is “set up by a WP supporter”.
Such reports fail to explain why this is newsworthy , or why it is more newsworthy than the PAP’s company – Action Information Management (AIM) – which handles PAP town councils’ computer systems, being run by PAP members and ex-PAP MPs.
With some 40 per cent of Singaporeans voting for the opposition, one would think that there are indeed many businesses which are “set up” by opposition (and WP) supporters.
Note the difference between a supporter and a party member.
The more important issue here, surely, is whether there were any improprieties in how the contract was awarded.
Mr Toh failed to report that the WP had in fact challenged – or invited – the PAP to report it to the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) if the PAP felt that the awarding of the contract without a tender was dubious or questionable – or if there were in fact corruption involved.
The PAP has chosen not to do so.
In fact, the PAP has stopped all questioning of the WP on the matter immediately after WP issued the invitation.
Mr Toh failed to mention any of this but instead has evidently chosen to repeat ad nauseum a point which one would think has already been empathically settled – by the silence from the PAP itself to the WP challenge.
Singaporeans should read reports from the mainstream press with some caution and they should expect higher standards of professionalism from our newspapers.
Surely, the facts about the FMSS contract are not that hard to report on, since they are all in the public domain, such as in Parliamentary reports and statements issued by the various parties.
We therefore should and must start asking why reporters like Mr Toh, who was the press secretary at the Ministry of Home Affairs before joining the Straits Times in 2011, choose to report the way they do.