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Sackings Galore at Singapore Environment Council

By Chris Soh

Does the Board, which is made up of Members of Parliament and Senior Government Officials approve of this?

Just days after it showed Executive Director Edwin Seah the door despite clearing him of misconduct, the Singapore Environment Council (SEC) has sacked two more of its senior management staff.

On Friday, both Assistant Executive Director Gerard Christopher and Director of Communications Shirley Chua were given their marching orders without reason.

Both had not been given any warnings – written or verbal – at any time during the course of their employment at the SEC. In fact, just a day earlier at the annual School Green Awards, the duo were praised for doing a good job in organizing the event.

Their letters of termination were signed off by the SEC Human Resource Manager Saazliana Abdullah, and handed to them on Friday morning.

The sackings, which came at the back of Mr Seah’s termination early in the week sparked outrage in the SEC office.

Said Jeanette Choong, a programme executive with the SEC, who is understood to have resigned, on Facebook: “Most ridiculous day of my work life. Even Donald’s win can’t Trump this nonsense. Good luck, SEC, well done for sacking three absolutely superb bosses. I can’t even.”

Comments on the Straits Times’ Facebook page also had many commenters questioning the SEC’s actions.

Said Mr Loh Wai Poon: “SEC is a charity organisation so it is funded by the public? It owes the public an explanation what is going on that leads to this spate of senior executive sackings! No reason was given for their termination and we are expected to accept it? It is the public fund that financed SEC! We have a right to know why these executives were sacked.”

Former Chief Executive Officer of the SEC Jose Raymond also took to Facebook to express his disbelief and disgust.

Said Mr Raymond, who left the SEC in December 2014: “This has obviously got nothing to do with performance. This is a huge disappointment, especially since half the Board is made up of senior government officials, including two current Members of Parliament. Do they condone and support these actions? Whatever happened to helping protect jobs and livelihoods? Do the SEC’s sponsors like CDL and StarHub and others approve of this as well?”

“The SEC may have a contractual right to terminate the services of any staff without giving reason, but this is morally and ethically wrong on so many levels.”

Mr Seah was appointed as Executive Director of the SEC in April 2015, after a four month long executive search by the SEC.

When appointed and announced, SEC Chairman Isabella Loh said: “After a thorough selection process, the Board is pleased to announce Edwin as our new Executive Director for his proven leadership, operational expertise and ability to galvanise the organisation during the months he served as the interim Executive Director, and we are confident that he is up to the task of furthering SEC’s plans to make environmental ownership a mainstay amongst our communities, industries and the government through working together.”

Mr Christopher was also announced as the Assistant Executive Director on the same day Mr Seah was announced as the Executive Director of the SEC.

Mr Seah, along with Mr Kavickumar Muruganathan, were both nominated for the Straits Times’ Singaporean of the Year award in 2015 for their roles in bringing about more consumer awareness during the haze episode of 2015. Mr Kavickumar has since joined Asia Pulp and Paper, one of the companies which have been accused of causing the haze episode of 2015, and whose products like Paseo and Livi have been pulled off the shelves from retailers in Singapore.

Among the members of the Board of the SEC are Chairman Isabella Loh, People’s Action Party MPs Teo Ho Pin and Rahayu Mahzam, NParks Deputy CEO Leong Chee Chiew and PUB Chief Sustainability Officer Tan Nguan Sen.

Observers whom TOC spoke to said that there are too many tell-tale signs at the SEC which require a possible intervention by the Charities Unit. But even so, one would have to wonder if the Charities Unit would take any action.

Read: Ms Isabella Loh remains silent over alleged conflict of interest

Earlier this year, TOC reported on allegation upon Ms Isabella for her conflict of interest by sitting on the committee of a research project as chairman where she gain financially and at the same time, influencing SEC, a charity organisation to be part of the research project in the name of the charity organisation’s Chairman.

While the Commissioner of Charity has asked her to submit a report on the matter, it has not replied to queries by TOC on the matter and neither has that report been published.