Blogger's lawyer criticises TTSH and MOH for statements on defamation suit

SINGAPORE - The lawyer for blogger Roy Ngerng has written to Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) and the Ministry of Health (MOH) criticising them for public statements they made regarding Mr Ngerng's defamation suit after he was fired on Tuesday.

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

In his letter sent on Wednesday, he pointed to TTSH citing the defamation as a basis for justifying the termination of Mr Ngerng's employment contract.

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

Mr Ngerng was a patient coordinator at the Communicable Disease Centre.

"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.

Mr Ravi added 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.

Mr Ngerng's former employer, TTSH, had on Tuesday announced that it was terminating Mr Ngerng's contract with immediate effect on two grounds.

The first reason was that he had "misus(ed) working time, hospital computers and facilities" for personal pursuits despite receiving a warning letter.

The second reason was Mr Ngerng's conduct, which it said was "incompatible with the values and standards expected of employees".

It cited Mr Ngerng's May 15 blog post which triggered the defamation suit, noting the 33-year-old had "publicly admitted to the defamation, and also that it was without basis" after receiving a letter of demand from Mr Lee's lawyer to remove the posts and apologise.

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

MOH later issued a statement on the same day supporting TTSH's decision to terminate Mr Ngerng's contract.

It said his "actions show a lack of integrity and are incompatible with the values and standards of behaviour expected of hospital employees".

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