Minister for Home Affairs K Shanmugam on Thursday (29 July) questioned the motives of Nikkei Asia’s correspondent who wrote an opinion piece entitled “The institutional failures behind Singapore’s latest COVID outbreak”, noting that the piece was “little more than a work of fiction”.

The opinion piece, published by Nikkei Asia on 23 July, was penned by Andy Wong, who is a political and business intelligence analyst based in Singapore.

In his piece, Mr Wong noted that the cluster linked to KTV lounges “exposed the pernicious role of organised vice enterprises in Singapore, and the institutional failure of the country’s much-vaunted law enforcement to clamp down on them”.

He alleged that “KTV-fronted illegal brothels employing freelance hostesses, or sex workers, have been operating in Singapore for decades”, which have become “a normalised” and “integral part” of many business dealings, as well as serving as “money laundering fronts” for the criminal enterprises.

Following that, Ministry of Home Affairs’ (MHA) senior director of the joint operations group Sam Tee rebutted his claims on Wednesday, saying that the piece was “full of inaccuracies”, and that Mr Wong’s comments on public policies were not based on facts but “imagined realities”.

“Your correspondent’s stance appears to be based on a stern disapproval of illegal sexual activity. We commend his high moral expectations. But his comments on public policies need to be based on facts, not imagined realities,” said Mr Tee.

Mr Shanmugam also took to his Facebook page the next day, noting that the opinion piece contains “several falsehoods” about the government’s approach on KTV operations and immigration policies.

“His piece was little more than a work of fiction,” the Minister remarked.

Mr Shanmugam also mentioned that Mr Wong was “ironically” charged on Wednesday for possessing and transmitting obscene materials in a “sex-themed” Telegram chat group, with investigations against him and others commencing in November 2019.

He noted that the government has taken, and will take, a tough approach to sexual crimes.

“We are left to wonder if the criminal investigation against him was the reason for his diatribe based on falsehoods; and the extent to which he was doing a political hack job (his political affiliation is public). Surprising also that Nikkei will publish such an article,” said Mr Shanmugam.

Netizens think Minister K Shanmugam “diverting”, urge him to address the main issue instead

Penning their thoughts under the comments section of Mr Shanmugam’s and TODAY’s Facebook posts, many netizens urged the Minister to address the main issue of KTV lounges instead of “diverting” to question the correspondent’s motive.

One netizen even commented that Mr Shanmugam seems to be “associating ones alternative political leanings with being criminal” when the criminal charge “shouldn’t be the point of the argument”.

Another netizen wrote: “The mistake made was the KTV not the reporter. Diverting the issue?”

“Two sides of coins. What is on the ground happening is not what is on the paper. PAP is just defending on paper for facts… So what is facts?? Paper police is facts or what [actually happening] on ground is facts?” said a commenter.

A couple of netizens opined that the Minister should reflect on the writer’s claims instead of being “defensive”.

According to an academic survey published in 2012, it was discovered that about 34 per cent of 167 female workers at KTV lounges engaged in selling sex to men patronising such premises.

The survey was conducted between May 2008 and April 2009 by eight researchers from various government entities, targeting foreign female workers in entertainment establishments in Singapore, including KTV lounges.

Out of the 317 female entertainment workers who were interviewed, 167 engaged in selling sex to men patronizing such places to supplement their income.

Of the 167 female entertainment workers engaged in selling sex, 54 of them were from KTV lounges.

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