Maruah raises questions over blogger's dismissal from hospital

SINGAPORE - Human rights group Maruah on Thursday 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 Mr Ngerng's apology for a blog post alleging that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had misappropriated Central Provident Fund monies, as a reflection of Mr Ngerng's lack of integrity .

It questioned whether "employers can simply terminate 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 PM Lee for defamation. He was fired on Tuesday by TTSH, where he was a patient coordinator at the Communicable Diseases Centre.

TTSH said that Mr Ngerng 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, 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".

The Health Ministry also issued a statement supporting the hospital's decision.

In its statement Maruah asked for clarification on whether MOH's regulatory role includes the human resource policies and actions of restructured hospitals.

It said: "Should not that be the decision of TTSH independent of any regulating government body especially when the suit brought against Mr Ngerng is a civil case with a letter of demand issued by the Prime Minister, in his personal capacity?"

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