Roy Ngerng’s sacking – “politically motivated”?

The employer of blogger Roy Ngerng, Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) announced on 10 June that it has terminated Mr Roy Ngerng’s contract with immediate effect. TTSH claimed that this was due to Ngerng’s conduct which it deemed “incompatible with the values and standards expected of employees”, and for misusing resources at work to pursue “personal and non-job-related interests”.

Ngerng is currently in a legal dispute with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as a result of a defamatory blog post he made, for which Ngerng had apologised to the PM.

In a statement issued to media, TTSH indicated that “Mr Ngerng’s conduct was incompatible with the values and standards we expect of our employees. While our staff are free to pursue their personal interests outside work, they must conduct themselves properly, honourably and with integrity. In particular, they cannot defame someone else without basis, which essentially means knowingly stating a falsehood to the public,” TTSH was quoted by media as saying.

The Ministry of Health has also issued a statement to express support for TTSH’s action. Media reported that MOH supports TTSH’s decision to terminate My Ngerng’s contract, as his “actions show a lack of integrity and are incompatible with the values and standards of behaviour expected of hospital employees.”

Initially, Ngerng posted on his Facebook page at 4.35pm that he accepted the decision of TTSH. “The stress of the court case has made it difficult for me to concentrate on my job,” he wrote. “And my advocacy on the CPF has also taken a toil on my ability to do my job as well.”

However, he made an additional post at 6.13pm, saying, “These past few weeks, I have been under immense pressure at work. However, I have also contributed immensely at work. I had wanted to give my employers the benefit of the doubt, but the truth of the matter is that the sacking was politically motivated.”

When asked why he he felt his dismissal was politically motivated, Ngerng referred TOC to the original statement by MOH, and said that he felt it was so after much consideration and thoughts over the issue.

When interviewed by The Independent Singapore, Ngerng also said “I was never told at my workplace that they had an issue with my impending lawsuit. Three weeks ago, when they gave me a formal warning letter, I understood that they had issues with me using my work time for personal activities.”

“When I got my termination notice, to my understanding, it was because I had used my work time to manage my activism. No colleague or supervisor said anything about my lawsuit.” TTSH’s media release, however, also included his defamation case as an issue.

Are there grounds for believing that his dismissal was politically motivated?

The following is an estimated sequence of events, in tracking TTSH’s actions leading up to Ngerng’s dismissal:

  • About 3.30pm – Ngerng was informed by TTSH of his dismissal.
  • 3.30pm onwards – TTSH and MOH issued media statements, Roy contacted his lawyer and friends.
  • 4.28pm – The first public and third party report of his dismissal was made by Five Stars and a Moon (FSAAM), with extensive information on political leaders and public figures who were not fired in spite of their participation in politics.
  • 4.32pm – Report by FSAAM was republished in Hardware Zone forum.
  • 4.35pm – Ngerng posted the first update of his dismissal on his Facebook page while packing his things at work.
  • 4.50pm onwards – Mainstream media began coverage of the dismissal in their online channels.
  • 5.23pm – Ngerng was shown the media release issued by TTSH, not by his employers but through a media contact who asked him about the dismissal.
  • 6.13pm: Ngerng posted on his Facebook page that the dismissal was politically motivated.

From a public communications perspective, the actions by TTSH seemed odd. The sequence of events indicated that FSAAM was given an exclusive for the announcement – a point that was also identified by Mothership.sg. FSAAM also managed to put together an extensive report, using examples of known public figures, to present the case that Ngerng was justifiably dismissed.

The need for an exclusive announcement is debatable, but even more strange that it was issued to a website that has a relatively small footprint in Singapore – Alexa ranks FSAAM’s position at about 4,600 in Singapore. Why would TTSH choose to send a media release to them if its interest was for broader coverage of its announcement?

In fact, FSAAM did not cite the media statement by TTSH directly in any way. Rather, it added that Ngerng’s “activities at Hong Lim Park have raised a few eyebrows in this area”, a point that was not covered in TTSH’s media statement. As such, did it receive the media release by TTSH, as an “exclusive” or otherwise, or from another source?

TOC sent questions to TTSH and FSAAM on this matter today morning before 8.30am. At time of publishing, which we note is hours more than FSAAM’s reaction time to TTSH’s media release, neither have replied. We will publish their replies here once we receive them.