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AsiaOne’s quick access to Leon Perera’s former driver: Coincidence or calculated move?

In the fast-paced world of news reporting, speed and access are paramount. However, eyebrows are bound to be raised when an online publication gains access to a central figure in a high-profile scandal within a day of the story breaking.

This is exactly what transpired when AsiaOne, an online publication owned by SPH Media Trust and mm2 Asia, swiftly secured an interview with the personal driver of now-disgraced former Workers’ Party member Leon Perera, following a leaked video scandal.

This scandal led to the resignations of Perera and fellow Workers’ Party Central Executive Committee member, Nicole Seah, over an alleged affair.

Just yesterday, AsiaOne published the account of Perera’s driver, who was masquerading under the pseudonym ‘Tan’. However, TOC understands that the driver’s real name is Wong.

Interestingly, this same driver was caught on video earlier this year involved in a dispute over a priority seat on a train.

This 80-year-old former employee detailed several instances of ostensibly intimate interactions between Perera and Seah, which he claimed to have observed through the rear mirror during his decade-long service for Perera.

He also asserted that he shared this information with WP leaders, who did not subsequently act on it.

WP Secretary General, Mr Pritam Singh, at the party’s press conference on Wednesday, justified the party’s inaction due to the lack of corroborative evidence and the denials from the two former WP members about the affair.

However, the real question is not what was disclosed, but rather how it was uncovered so quickly. How was AsiaOne able to contact Wong and conduct as well as produce a video interview, all within less than a day of the video leak?

This is especially intriguing given that Wong decided to come forward only after being approached by several media outlets, suggesting he was passively sought out rather than actively reaching out to the media in response to the viral video.

The underlying question is, how did these outlets know to reach out to Wong and that he held information about the alleged affair?

Upon digging deeper, TOC uncovered a potential connection that could possibly explain AsiaOne’s prompt reporting.

According to sources, an employee of AsiaOne named Edmund Chua, who is not a journalist but heads AsiaOne’s Consumer Insights and Analytics Office, had been in contact with Wong for over a year.

When contacted, AsiaOne initially denied any involvement of Chua in the story or in their editorial operations. Moreover, AsiaOne asserted that Chua had not been, nor was he currently, in contact with the driver when TOC reached out, albeit with a misspelt name.

However, when queried again with the correct name of the driver, AsiaOne chose not to respond further.

Chua’s background is also noteworthy: he was an employee in the Prime Minister’s office for close to five years until 2019 and has been a Data Analyst for Chong Pang Grassroots Organizations since 2008 – an entity headed by Minister for Home Affairs and Law, Mr K Shanmugam.

Screenshot from an article from People’s Action Party’s website dated 21 June 2012

While this may all be a simple coincidence, one cannot help but draw parallels between the swift publication of the video and AsiaOne’s quick access to Wong. This uncanny timing inevitably leads to questions about the extent of this coincidence and the potential involvement of other parties.

Equally baffling is the origin of the leaked video, which Wong denied knowledge of. Given the secretive nature of the affair between two public figures, it’s hard to conceive that the video could have been captured without the use of a spy camera. If this is the case, who planted it, and how did they know to place it precisely where the two WP members would be dining?

The tailing and use of spy cameras by private investigators against Members of Parliament are explicitly disallowed in Singapore, suggesting the dated footage – some say back in 2020 or 2021 – may have come from someone with authority within the establishment.

Adding to the intrigue, the leaked video was made public on the same day that People’s Action Party (PAP) announced the resignations of its two MPs, Tan Chuan Jin and Cheng Li Hui – similarly over an affair between the two.

Furthermore, Minister K Shanmugam decided to pay a visit to AsiaOne’s new office just days before the leaked video emerged, and AsiaOne reported on the visit on the same day the video was leaked.

When questioned by a member of the press about the video’s timing and its relation to the subsequent resignations, Mr Singh responded cautiously.

“I don’t want to encourage speculative statements in public from any of my party members, and I would be very concerned if we went down that road,” he told the reporter from Rice Media.

“But I think the fact that you’re asking the question suggests it’s on your mind, and I think you’re not wrong,” he added.

“I think it’s on a lot of people’s minds, but I leave you to draw your own conclusions, on… this ‘uncanny coincidence’ vis-a-vis timing.”

While all of these questions might only lead to speculation, the rapid succession of events and the intricate web of connections surrounding this scandal cannot be overlooked.

Update: Minister Shanmugam has clarified that the visit to AsiaOne was made on 3 June.
Clarification: PAP knew about Tan Chuan Jin’s affair in 2020.

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