MPA hangs whistle-blower out to dry?

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) is being sued by a whistle-blower for damages after it failed to protect his identity in a whistle-blowing case.

The whistle-blower, Tan Keng Hong, is claiming damages from MPA for the grief he and his family have been through.

The 52-year-old witnessed a crime in August 2011 where a Singapore company Elcarim Petroleum loaded unrecovered waste oil in one of their motor tankers at Tanjong Kling Road.

He subsequently made a police report the same month and, as a result, Elcarim Petroluem was convicted in January 2012 of breaching Regulation 7 of the MPA (dangerous goods, petroleum and explosives) Regulations.

At the time, Mr Tan told TRE:

In our marine industries, the Maritime & Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) handles all the rules and regulations in the sea and some of its staff handle the rules and regulations their own ways.  The MPA can ”overlook” an offence committed by a listed Co’s contractor for almost 6 years until I complained to a higher authority (than MPA). They then decided to charge them in court.

The best part was that this offence they had committed was linked to another 2 other offences which the MPA again had “overlooked”…

An un-classed vessel carrying highly flammable and combustive cargo can sail in and out and around our port a few hundred times over about 6 years and our ever reliable MPA can “overlook” this deadly matter.  What if the ship had collided in our port or exploded when transferring its cargo to another vessel or at a wharf?

The MPA charged the owner of the vessel but failed to charge its handling agent and the captain of the vessel and she happened to be registered in Singapore. The beautiful question here is, how does the agent apply permits for her movements over this period of time?…

All its crew members working aboard did not know about the unauthorized passage way the ship was traveling and if there were any accidents, the crew members would not be covered by any insurance and I think our Ministry Of Manpower will have a lot of answering to do.

Shortly after the conclusion of the court proceedings, Mr Tan and his family began suffering harassment at home.

He had bicycle chains attached to his metal gate, locking his family in. His potted plants were smashed and he had paint splashed on his door and windows on several occasions.

Mr Tan also claimed that he received phone calls in the middle of the night cursing and swearing at him.

As such, Mr Tan and his family were put through a great deal of stress and fear and they now want to claim compensation from MPA since they had revealed his identity to Elcarim Petroleum during the trial. His name, IC number and address were included in a document which was used in the case.

MPA replied in their defence that Mr Tan should have known that he would not be kept anonymous when he first filed the police report on the criminal activity he had witnessed.

MPA claims that because Mr Tan had gone to the police and not given the information directly to MPA, there “could not have been any agreement of confidentiality”.

MPA added that Mr Tan should have known that he could be named in court since the police “may be duty-bound” to give the details of the first information reports to the accused, if asked.

In a nutshell, MPA is disclaiming responsibility for all the suffering that Mr Tan and his family have gone through.

Should Mr Tan have kept quiet and acted as if he heard and saw nothing since he had absolutely nothing to gain from his “heroic” act?

The above report was first published on TR Emeritus.

Editor’s note: An article in the Singapore Law Review, published in 2010, stated that “Section 36 of the Prevention of Corruption Act ensures that a complainant’s identity will not be disclosed, even during court proceedings, unless the court finds that he has wilfully made a false statement in his complaint.”