Rights group concerned over blogger's firing

SINGAPORE - Human rights group Maruah yesterday expressed concern over how Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) fired blogger Roy Ngerng and the reasons it gave for doing so.

Maruah said that TTSH has a right to "haul up" employees who do not spend their time on the work they were hired to do, but asked if alternative approaches to dismissal, such as suspending him without pay for a period of one week, were considered.

It added that TTSH should clarify how much Mr Ngerng's work had actually suffered.

Maruah also said it was "gravely concerned" that TTSH had made its decision based on an apology as a reflection of Mr Ngerng's lack of integrity.

It questioned whether "employers can simply terminate (the services of) employees based on the fact that they had apologised for their oversights and 'facts'", and asked if the hospital has "a zero tolerance towards apologies".

Mr Ngerng, 33, is being sued by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong for defamation, for alleging in a blog post that Mr Lee had misappropriated Central Provident Fund monies.

TTSH had said that Mr Ngerng, who was fired on Tuesday, had his contract terminated due to "conduct incompatible with the values and standards expected of employees, and for misusing working time, hospital computers and facilities for personal pursuits".

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

The hospital also said that employees must conduct themselves properly, honourably and with integrity, adding that "they cannot defame someone else without basis, which essentially means knowingly stating a falsehood to the public".

On the same day, the Ministry of Health (MOH) issued a statement supporting the hospital's decision. Yesterday, Maruah asked if MOH's regulatory role includes the human resource policies and actions of restructured hospitals.

This article was first published on June 13, 2014.
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