Doc cleared over fake certs: Prosecution drops appeal

She now plans to return to Myanmar to find out why her papers were deemed false

Prosecutors have dropped an appeal against the decision of a district judge to clear a Myanmar doctor of producing fake medical certificates.

The Straits Times understands that the decision was made after prosecutors reviewed the judge's grounds of decision.

For Dr Hnin Wai Hlaing, 40, this meant the end of a two-year ordeal.

"It was time my suffering ended and I am happy. I am really relieved now. I was very worried because I was uncertain about the appeal," she said in an interview with ST.

Dr Hnin had been charged with producing to the Singapore Medical Council two fake certificates of registration and good standing said to be issued by the Myanmar Medical Council (MMC) in order to satisfy practising requirements here.

She could have been fined up to $10,000, or jailed for up to two years, or faced both punishments.

HAPPY IT'S ENDED

It was time my suffering ended and I am happy. I am really relieved now. I was very worried because I was uncertain about the appeal.

DR HNIN WAI HLAING

But District Judge Kamala Ponnampalam in judgment grounds released last month said the prosecution had not proven that the two certificates were fraudulent.

She made clear, among other things, that just because Dr Hnin was not on the MMC's registration list did not mean that her certificates from Yangon were counterfeit.

In court, the prosecution's case rested on the strength of the MMC's manual records. The prosecution had invited the court to infer that Dr Hnin's certificates were fraudulent because she was not on the MMC's register of doctors.

But the judge noted that a key witness from the MMC had conceded it was hard to say if Dr Hnin's registration certificate was false as the MMC has many versions of it.

A graduate from the University of Medicine 1 in Yangon in 2004, Dr Hnin worked as a doctor there before moving to Singapore in 2008.

The judge found no dispute that Dr Hnin had graduated as a doctor, noting she "had no reason not to register herself with the MMC or to subsequently produce fraudulent certificates".

Dr Hnin said she planned to return to Yangon to find out what happened. "I was shocked but I just carry on day to day and try not to think about the case," she said, when asked how she coped.

Her former employer, Singapore General Hospital (SGH), had carried out a verification check with the MMC and terminated her contract in 2014 after a probe.

Dr Hnin thanked her lawyer, Mr Peter Ong, for his efforts and for employing her part-time when she was jobless. She added that she kept the case to herself and did not tell her father in Yangon.

A senior consultant at SGH, where Dr Hnin worked as a clinical associate in the department of internal medicine in 2013, lauded her competence, enthusiasm and compassion in a testimonial to the court.

Her job experience here also included a two-year stint at the National Cancer Centre where she came into contact with cancer patients and their families, she said.

Testimonials about her work performance at the centre were also tendered in court.

She often started at 7am and finished around 8pm, and was described as a very hardworking and pleasant doctor who performed well with colleagues, treated patients compassionately and had the aptitude to become a well-accomplished clinician.

Dr Hnin, a permanent resident here who now works for a pharmacy, furthered her medical training here and is in the final leg of qualifying for a postgraduate degree which leads to membership of the Royal College of Physicians in Britain.

" I am grateful for the training and experience I have received in Singapore and appreciate the fair justice system here," she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 11, 2016, with the headline 'Doc cleared over fake certs: Prosecution drops appeal'. Print Edition | Subscribe