The media reported on Thursday that more individuals and organisations have started to distance themselves from the Bellagraph Nova (BN) Group, which has come under fire for doctoring images of former US president Barack Obama and putting them in its marketing material (‘More distance themselves from Singapore’s Loh cousins behind Newcastle bid after Obama photo controversy‘, 27 Aug).
The company came to the attention of worldwide media when it tried to place a bid for English Premier League football club Newcastle United two weeks ago (15 Aug). The company is co-founded by Singaporean cousins Nelson Loh and Terence Loh, and Chinese businesswoman Evangeline Shen.
The bad publicity of using doctored images of the former US president by BN Group has led some investors to begin pulling out millions of dollars invested in the various entities under the group. The investors are said to be from Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and China who have invested in convertible bonds and equity in some of the group’s entities. It was reported that the group has as many as “31 entities”.
The doctored images were uncovered by Reuters earlier through an investigative reporting. They were doctored to make Mr Obama look like he had met the Lohs and Ms Shen in Paris when, in fact, Mr Obama had attended a charity event in Singapore last year, where the trio were among those present. Other discrepancies have since surfaced in BN Group’s press material.
In one of the entities’ website, it was mentioned that the Lohs are “patrons of the Hong Kah (Gek Poh) Grassroot Community”. When approached by the media, the People’s Association (PA) clarified that the two are “no longer patrons of Gek Poh Ville CCMC”.
PA enjoys a special relationship with PAP
CCMC refers to Community Club Management Committees overseen by PA. According to PA’s website, CCMCs help build, manage and maintain the Community Clubs (CCs) in Singapore.
“The CCMCs meet regularly to plan and organise innovative programmes that help bring residents together at the CCs to interact and forge friendships,” PA said. “Our CCMCs promote racial harmony and social cohesion through the various cultural, educational, recreational, sporting, social and other community-based activities organised specially for residents.”
And Gek Poh Ville CC is located opposite the Gek Poh Shopping Centre, near Boon Lay Interchange in Jurong.
PA itself is a government statutory board, which comes under the Ministry of Culture, Community, and Youth (MCCY). However, it enjoys a special relationship with the ruling PAP. This was revealed by the late Lee Kuan Yew in the past (‘13 of 18 grassroots organizations checked by AGO found to have recurring problems in award of contracts‘).
Apparently, at a public forum one time, Mr Lee commented on what some PRC officials had observed when they were visiting Singapore. He said, “They (PRCs) discover that the People’s Action Party (PAP) has only a small office in Bedok. But everywhere they go, they see the PAP – in the RCs (residents’ committees), CCCs (citizens’ consultative committees), and the CCs (community clubs).”
All these grassroots organizations (GROs), of course, fall under the purview of PA.