Whistle-blower harassed after court case ended

SINGAPORE - He had information that a crime was being committed.

So, in 2011, Mr Tan Keng Hong reported it to the authorities, and the culprits were eventually taken to task.

But soon after the court case ended in January 2012, the 52-year-old said he and his family became victims of incessant harassment, which has continued to this day.

This, he alleged, was because his name, identity card number and address were included in an open-court document used in the case.

Now, Mr Tan has filed a law suit against the Maritime and Port Authority Of Singapore (MPA), which carried out the prosecution, seeking damages for the grief he and his family have been through.

In his statement of claim filed in July, Mr Tan detailed more than seven instances where he and his family had been harassed at their first-storey unit.

On one occasion, someone had used a bicycle chain to lock his metal gate. Some of his flowerpots were smashed and paint was splashed on his door and windows on several occasions. He also received incessant calls on his phone in the middle of the night, with the caller making threats and cursing him.

As a result, he and his family are now "living in constant fear, stress, anxiety", said the court document.

Before this, he and his family had resided "without incident" at the three-room flat since 2010, he said.

Mr Tan, who is married with a 23-year-old son, said they are still living there as they have no money to move.

POLICE REPORTS

He has since made 12 police reports on the harassments.

He said he installed a closed-circuit television camera outside his unit, but removed it earlier this year during a block upgrading.

Mr Tan, who worked as a marine coordinator for another shipping company when he made the report, had provided information that led to the prosecution of a Singaporean company known as Elcarim Petroleum.

In August 2011, he witnessed the company's motor tanker loading a cargo of unrecovered waste oil, which they were not supposed to, at Tanjong Kling Road.

In January 2012, the company pleaded guilty to five charges of contravening Regulation 7 of the MPA (Dangerous Goods, Petroleum and Explosives) Regulations.

It was fined $7,500.

In his statement of claim, Mr Tan, through his lawyer M. Lukshumayeh, said there was an "implied agreement" that MPA should protect him by not disclosing his identity and address.

Mr Tan left his old job and was subsequently jailed for 11 months for smuggling contraband cigarettes across the Causeway.

Since his release from jail in February, he has been working as a freelance marine coordinator.

zothman@sph.com.sg

Complaint was unsolicited and voluntary

He was neither a confidential informant nor did he make any request for anonymity.

These were some of the details the Maritime and Port Authority Of Singapore (MPA) provided in its defence of the claims made by Mr Tan Keng Hong.

In its defence, which was filed in the State Courts on July 25, MPA's lawyers from Straits Law Practice LLC said neither the agency nor its prosecutor, Mr Ng Hak Mun, had acted in "bad faith" when it named Mr Tan in its court hearing on Jan 10, 2012.

MPA said the information from Mr Tan was not provided directly to the agency, but through a report made at Bukit Merah Neighbourhood Police Centre on Aug 3, 2011.

The police subsequently referred the matter to the MPA, which then investigated.

Since the complaint was unsolicited and voluntary, there could not have been any agreement of confidentiality, argued MPA.

The agency also submitted that any individual who made a complaint to the police or any regulatory body "would reasonably have known that they may be called as witnesses in court in the prosecution of any persons for offences pursuant to the relevant laws, statutes and regulations".

'OPEN JUSTICE'

Also, when requests are made by accused persons, the police "may be duty-bound" to furnish the first information reports to such accused persons "in the interest of open justice", the defence added.

When contacted, an MPA spokesman said the agency has a "strict policy" when it comes to protecting "the identity of any whistle-blower".

The MPA will not divulge the identity, except in documents that have to be tendered to the courts, she added.

The spokesman said: "Where credible information is provided to MPA, we will follow up to investigate and take appropriate action based on the evidence we have gathered."


This article was first published on Sep 23, 2014.
Get The New Paper for more stories.