Singapore Writers Festival

Straits Times journalists to share about their scoops at Singapore Writers Festival

(From left) Straits Times journalists Toh Yong Chuan, Carolyn Khew and Salma Khalik will share their accounts at the ST Conversations series of talks.
(From left) Straits Times journalists Toh Yong Chuan, Carolyn Khew and Salma Khalik will share their accounts at the ST Conversations series of talks. PHOTO: ST FILE

Some of the newspaper's best investigative journalists open up on how they get their stories in a series of talks in its second year

A tip-off whispered in the ear of rookie Straits Times (ST) journalist Carolyn Khew sparked a two-year news saga that ended with a man in jail and amendments to the law to better protect elderly Singaporeans without next-of-kin.

Ms Khew, 26, worked with her colleague, veteran journalist Toh Yong Chuan, 47, in 2014 to break the story on Yang Yin, a tour guide from China who misappropriated $1.1 million from 89-year-old Singaporean widow Chung Khin Chun.

They had to use all their powers of persuasion to get those involved to open up. They spent hours - sometimes entire days - on stakeouts and even tailed Yang in a car to a flat in Toa Payoh where he was staying with a friend.

Yang was jailed six years last month for the offence after an 11-day trial this year. He was also given a 26-month sentence for falsifying receipts, as well as for immigration and cheating offences.

In March this year, Parliament approved changes to the Mental Capacity Act to better protect people like Madam Chung.

Mr Toh and Ms Khew will share the details on their relentless pursuit of the high-profile story at ST Conversations - a series of talks at the Singapore Writers Festival, which takes place from Nov 4 to 13. The hour-long sessions are open to festival pass holders.

  • BOOK IT / THE RHYME AND REASON PANEL: HEARING THE VOICE OF SINGAPORE

  • WHERE: The Blue Room, The Arts House, 1 Parliament Lane

    WHEN: Nov 5, 4pm

    ADMISSION: Festival pass event. Passes at $20 for a festival pass, excluding booking fee, from Sistic (go to www.sistic.com.sg or call 6348-5555)

    MICHELIN IN SINGAPORE: THE AFTERMATH

    WHERE: Chamber, The Arts House

    WHEN: Nov 12, 10am

    ADMISSION: Festival pass event, $20 for a festival pass

    THE INSIDE SCOOP

    WHERE: The Blue Room, The Arts House

    WHEN: Nov 13, 10am

    ADMISSION: Festival pass event, $20 for a festival pass

    INFO: www.singaporewritersfestival.com/

Now in its second year, the series will see some of the newspaper's best investigative journalists open up on how they get their scoops.

Mr Toh, who has also written about going undercover as a security guard, a taxi driver and an eldercare worker, feels that investigative journalism gets short shrift in Singapore - a view he hopes to challenge at the talk.

"What we have may not be WikiLeaks, but investigative journalism does exist. And the harder it is to report on something, the more journalists should dig."

Also joining Mr Toh and Ms Khew are senior health correspondent Salma Khalik, known for her hard-hitting healthcare commentaries, and technology editor Irene Tham, who in June, broke the news that the Government would delink civil servants' computers from direct Internet access.

Arts correspondent Akshita Nanda will host a separate dialogue with local writers on Singapore's literary scene, while Life deputy editor and food critic Wong Ah Yoke will catch up with chefs from three of Singapore's first Michelin- starred restaurants.

Mr Wong, 55, has invited chefs Manjunath Mural from modern Indian restaurant The Song Of India, Kirk Westaway from French restaurant Jaan and Sam Leong from Resorts World Sentosa's Forest. Each of these restaurants received a Michelin star in July.

The discussion will take a look at how the recognition has impacted them, for instance, if they are drawing more of the tourist crowd.

Mr Wong also hopes to address the pressure that comes with the Michelin star.

"In the West, it is a serious thing to lose your star - one chef even killed himself," he says.

"I don't think the chefs here would take it that seriously, but it would be interesting to find out the pressures they face and also if they plan to try for another star."

For her panel on what it means to write Singaporean literature, Ms Nanda has gathered novelist Meira Chand, poet and National Poetry Festival director Eric Tinsay Valles, Checkpoint Theatre co-founder and playwright Huzir Sulaiman, and writer and ex-ST journalist Koh Buck Song.

Ms Nanda, 37, feels the debate is timely, given the unprecedented number of local books released in the last five years.

She intends to look at how Singaporean literature is perceived overseas and also at whether a writer's place of birth should be allowed to define how "Singaporean" his or her writing is.

"The composition of the country is changing. Some Singaporeans emigrate, people come from elsewhere to make Singapore their home," she says.

"New residents will compete with old for resources, maybe for seats on the MRT or for government writing grants. But is that wrong?

"We want to discuss what made us and what continues to make and shape us."

•ST Conversations is part of the Singapore Writers Festival.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2016, with the headline 'ST writers on the inside scoop'. Print Edition | Subscribe