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SMSes expose Michael Palmer's affair

E-mails sent to The New Paper had screengrabs of SMS and e-mail exchanges allegedly between ex-MP Michael Palmer and Madam Laura Ong. -TNP
Judith Tan

Sat, Dec 15, 2012
The New Paper

In a shock move on Wednesday, Speaker of the House Michael Palmer resigned as Member of Parliament for Punggol East after revealing he had an extramarital affair with Madam Laura Ong, an ex-employee of the People's Association working in Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC.

SINGAPORE - "My friend got a super scandal about a politician having an affair. Got proof. You interested?"

This intriguing text message sent to The New Paper by a contact at 10.48am on Saturday was the first hint of what unfolded yesterday.

TNP immediately tried to find out more about what seemed like an explosive story. For the next hour, there was silence.

Then a couple more messages arrived five minutes before noon from a source close to the woman linked to the scandal.

At noon, four e-mails with the header "Michael Palmer" were sent to TNP.

Attached to three of them were screengrabs of SMS and e-mail exchanges allegedly between the politician and the woman. Michael Palmer. Speaker of Parliament since last year. Young, dashing politician. This was a big story indeed.

The messages, which seemed to have been sent to the woman's smartphone, suggested an intimate relationship between the two, which included regular Monday meetings.

One message reads: "Hello darling... I love you loads. More than I sometimes show... Sorry. Love love."

Another message says: "But you can't judge our relationship by just what happens on Monday."

One e-mail shows a forwarded message: "Your booking at Fairmont Singapore." The last e-mail sent by the source contained a picture of a Dior handbag that Mr Palmer purportedly gave the woman.

Shortly after, the informant said in an SMS that the issue needed to be escalated. He declined to speak to TNP and would only communicate through SMS.

"You recall Yaw Shin Leong? We need good ministers," he wrote.

Mr Yaw, a former member of the Workers' Party, was the MP for Hougang before news of his alleged extramarital affairs caused his sacking earlier this year.

As TNP was trying to verify the information given by the source, somewhere else in Singapore that same day, Mr Palmer was coming clean to the People's Action Party (PAP).

He met Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and said that "he would resign his positions", the media was told in a press conference chaired by the DPM on Wednesday.

When Mr Palmer apologised "for what he had done", Mr Teo told him to look after his family and to do what he could "to make up for the hurt he had caused them".

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Michael Palmer's political career
Click on thumbnail to view (Photos: SPH, Internet)

Married

Mr Palmer, 44, has been married for 15 years to Diane, 41, a former lawyer. They have a 10-year-old son.

He said he was having a relationship with a woman, a People's Association (PA) staff member working in the Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC.

The source told TNP they had been in a relationship for more than a year. The two did not work directly together.

DPM Teo, who has worked closely with Mr Palmer for more than six years, assured him that arrangements would be made so the residents in his constituency would be looked after.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was then informed. He agreed that Mr Palmer's offer to resign was the proper thing to do. By Saturday night, the source had also gone quiet.

On Sunday morning, PM Lee met Mr Palmer and confirmed the decision to accept his resignation.

Mr Lee also directed that the matter "be dealt with decisively and in an open way". Later that night, Mr Palmer's Facebook account could no longer be accessed.

At the PAP, the next two days were spent making arrangements to ensure that the residents of Punggol East would be taken care of.

Then on Wednesday, things came to a head.

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First, Mr Palmer's personal Facebook account was deleted in the morning.

Then his Facebook page and Twitter accounts also disappeared. At 9.33am, the PAP invited the media to a press conference by DPM Teo at 1.15pm.

Facing a roomful of reporters and cameras, a visibly tired and grave Mr Palmer, accompanied by a solemn DPM Teo, announced his resignation.

Reading from a written statement, he told the press he had resigned "to avoid further embarrassment to the PAP and to Parliament".

He declined to take personal questions on his affair and how it had affected his family.

In his letter to the PM, also dated on Wednesday, he tendered his resignation as MP and as a PAP member with immediate effect.

He said he took full responsibility for his "grave mistake".

"My conduct was improper and it was a serious error of judgment," he wrote.

PM Lee accepted the resignation "with great sadness" yesterday.

He said: "It is necessary that all PAP MPs and advisers to grassroots organisations uphold the highest standards of personal conduct... and that the party be seen to hold its MPs and advisers to these standards."

Mr Palmer also asked for his family to be spared the publicity.

"I humbly request that you be kind enough to respect my family's privacy during this difficult period," he said.

This appeal was repeated by both DPM Teo and PM Lee. DPM Teo told reporters that those involved "are suffering much hurt from this episode".

"They need time and space for the healing to take place. I hope Singaporeans give them this time and space to do so, and that in time, they will rebuild their lives," he said.

The PA identified the woman as Madam Laura Ong, constituency director of Pasir Ris West Constituency Office, in a press statement on Wednesday evening.

It said she had tendered her resignation on Monday, citing family commitments.

On Wednesday night, Mr Palmer and his wife met grassroots leaders and volunteers of the Punggol East ward.

In a Facebook post, DPM Teo, who was also there with Mr Teo Ser Luck, said Mr Palmer had apologised to the grassroots members.

"There were tears in many eyes as they wished Michael and his family well," he wrote.

Mr Palmer did not respond to TNP's requests on Wednesay to comment on the SMS and e-mail exchanges.

Coincidentally, an American novelist named Michael Palmer released his new book this week. Its title - Political Suicide.


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