Shanmugam questions motives of writer of Nikkei piece on KTV cluster

Minister calls it 'work of fiction', notes that the man faces charges over obscene materials

Minister for Home Affairs K. Shanmugam yesterday questioned the motives of the writer of an opinion piece on the KTV Covid-19 cluster, whose claims had been rebutted by his ministry a day earlier.

He noted that the writer, Andy Wong Ming Jun, 28, was charged over his alleged involvement in a Telegram group containing leaked sexual videos and images of women on Wednesday.

"We are left to wonder if the criminal investigation against him was the reason for his diatribe based on falsehoods; and the extent to which he was doing a political hack job (his political affiliation is public). Surprising also that Nikkei will publish such an article," said Mr Shanmugam in a Facebook post.

The article, published on the Nikkei Asia website last Friday, said that the KTV cluster - currently linked to more than 200 cases - had "exposed the pernicious role of organised vice enterprises in Singapore".

It also asked why KTVs were allowed to reopen "without explanation" last year, and said there was an "evident border policy loophole", with foreign sex workers being allowed to enter the country by falsely claiming familial ties.

These claims were rebutted on Wednesday by Mr Sam Tee from the Ministry of Home Affairs' (MHA) Joint Operations Group, who said the piece was full of inaccuracies.

The senior director said it was false for the article - titled The Institutional Failures Behind Singapore's Latest Covid Outbreak - to claim that most KTVs in Singapore are fronts for money laundering or illegal brothels run by organised crime cartels.

He also said that while the authorities are aware some visitors to Singapore seek entry for the purposes of prostitution, which is not allowed under entry conditions, there was no foolproof way of determining this upfront even as all efforts to turn away dubious travellers are taken.

Mr Shanmugam, who is also Minister for Law, said the piece was "little more than a work of fiction". It was ironic that Wong has been charged with multiple counts of possessing obscene films and transmitting obscene materials in a sex-themed chat group, the minister said.

Investigations against Wong and others began in November 2019.

Mr Shanmugam added: "MHA has rebutted the article strongly, and has said his high moral expectations are commendable but his comments on public policies need to be based on facts, not imagined realities."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 30, 2021, with the headline 'Shanmugam questions motives of writer of Nikkei piece on KTV cluster'. Subscribe