By Chris Soh
Two months after the Executive Director of the Singapore Environment Council (SEC) Mr Edwin Seah was suspended from duties, a video which has been sent to The Online Citizen may provide some clues as to what could have truly led to his suspension and ultimate removal from his position.
When TOC first wrote about the issue on 15 October, we were informed by sources within SEC that the suspension of Mr Seah was the culmination of tension between him and the chairman Ms Isabella Loh Wai Kiew. It was also said then that the tension was exacerbated when Ms Loh Wai Kiew was not asked to present any awards to the winners at the Asian Environmental Journalism Awards on 12 October.
On 13 October, a day after the AEJA, Mr Seah was suspended from duties and the SEC informed the media that “investigations are ongoing.”
Mr Seah was subsequently removed from his position after a special panel hearing was convened on 2 November, which cleared him of all charges. Apart from Mr Seah, the SEC also terminated the services of its Assistant Executive Director Gerard Christopher and Director of Communications Shirley Chua without reason.
The video which was sent to TOC by current sources within the SEC corroborates the suspicion of the tension between Mr Seah and Ms Loh Wai Kiew.
In 0:40s of the video, Ms Loh Wai Kiew is seen gesticulating at Mr Seah on stage to a point that she is positioned at the back of the stage.
This exchange between Ms Loh and Mr Seah go on for about 10 seconds until Ms Loh shamelessly squeezes herself right next to Mr Chee Hong Tat for the photo opportunity.
At about 1:17, Zainul Abideen Rasheed, who was the chairman of the judging panel for the awards, suddenly leaves the group even to the surprise of Chee Hong Tat.
Zainul, a losing candidate at the 2011 General Elections in Aljunied GRC, then re-appeared with what looked like a souvenir, and after another round of photos, he leaves the group again, only to return soon after.
At 2:25, the emcee invites Mr Seah to present a token of appreciation to Mr Chee Hong Tat, but it is Ms Loh who takes the award and presents it to Mr Chee.
Anyone who’s organized events will know that the emcee script is prepared before hand and Ms Loh was not supposed to present the token of appreciation to the Guest of Honour.
All four – Mr Zainul, Ms Loh, Mr Chee and Mr Seah then try to squeeze in for a group shot towards the end of the video which just turns out so awkward and hilarious.
Ms Loh Wai Kiew is no stranger to controversy herself. She was once Miss December for the Sembcorp Waste annual calendar when she was CEO of the public waste collector.
In 2011, she also cancelled the Halloween Horrors night at the Singapore Zoo, when she was interim CEO.
Her decision was lampooned and lambasted by the students of Singapore Polytechnic, who had spent months to prepare for the event and was even ridiculed by Mr Brown.
She also had to apologise to President Tony Tan for linking his comments about family bonding activities to her unfortunate and erroneous decision to cancel the Halloween Horrors night event which was popular with the youth and despite close to $1 million being spent.
Earlier this year, Ms Loh and the SEC were also in the news after it was reported that she had used her position to influence the charity in taking part in a research project which she gains financially without any declaration of conflict of interest.
This allegation was sent to the Commissioner of Charities on 16 February 2016 with TOC copied in the email.
The Nanyang Technological University later said that Ms Loh had declared all possible conflicts to interests to the university before her name was included in the proposal to the National Research Foundation for the project.
Ms Loh has held the position of Chairman of the SEC since 2008. Apart from Lam Joon Khoi, who was a former deputy secretary at the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources and CEO of the National Environment Agency and Singapore Land Authority, other board members include PAP Members of Parliament Teo Ho Pin and Rahayu Mahzam, and senior civil servants.