Blogger's lawyer criticises TTSH and MOH statements

Blogger's lawyer criticises TTSH and MOH statements
TTSH says there was “nothing improper” in its statement as Mr Ngerng had publicly admitted to posting the defamatory article online.

A day after blogger Roy Ngerng was fired by his employer Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH), his lawyer has written to the hospital and the Ministry of Health (MOH) to criticise them for their public statements on his dismissal that touched on the defamation suit involving Mr Ngerng.

Mr M. Ravi said the suit, which is filed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong against Mr Ngerng for alleging that Mr Lee criminally misappropriated Central Provident Fund monies, is still before the courts and "its outcome remains a matter for the courts to determine".

Therefore commenting on it would be sub judice, he said.

But in a statement last night, TTSH stood by what it had said on Tuesday, saying there was "nothing improper" in its statement as Mr Ngerng had publicly admitted to posting the defamatory article online .

The blogger had acknowledged that his allegation was "false and completely without foundation". He had also apologised and taken down the article.

In his letter to TTSH and MOH yesterday, Mr Ravi referred to the hospital's statement on Tuesday in which it cited the defamation as one basis for terminating Mr Ngerng's employment as a patient coordinator at the Communicable Disease Centre.

He expressed regret that MOH, which he said was not a party to the employment contract between Mr Ngerng and TTSH, had issued a statement supporting the hospital's decision.

"It would seem appropriate to request that restraint be exercised in relation to issuing public statements about decisions and inferences in relation to matters that are intricately connected to the subject matter of the litigation," said Mr Ravi in his letter, which was sent to the media.

"Neither TTSH nor the Ministry of Health are parties to the civil litigation, whose final determination awaits the judgment of the Courts," he added.

He said that the law of defamation is complex and may entail matters such as the analysis of technical issues arising from proceedings following apology, assessing the amount of damages and issues that may lead to an appeal.

On Tuesday, the hospital said it was terminating Mr Ngerng's contract for conduct "incompatible with the values and standards expected of employees" and for "misusing working time, hospital computers and facilities for personal pursuits" despite receiving a warning letter.

It cited Mr Ngerng's May 15 blog post, which had triggered the defamation suit, and that he had publicly admitted to the defamation, and that his allegation was without basis.

Employees must conduct themselves properly, honourably and with integrity, it said, adding: "In particular, they cannot defame someone else without basis, which essentially means knowingly stating a falsehood to the public."

MOH also issued a statement that day supporting TTSH's decision. It said that Mr Ngerng's "actions show a lack of integrity and are incompatible with the values and standards of behaviour expected of hospital employees".

Mr Ngerng posted two separate statements online on Tuesday. In the first post, he said that he respected the hospital's decision, as the stress of the law suit and his advocacy on CPF issues had taken a toll on his ability to do his job.

In his second post, he said he had wanted to give his employer the benefit of the doubt but he felt the move was politically motivated.

This article was first published on June 12, 2014.
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