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[UPDATE on Wednesday, 11 June at 5pm: Adding information about letter from M Ravi to MOH, TTSH]
Blogger Roy Ngerng, who is being sued by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong for defamation, has been fired from his job.
Ngerng, 33, worked as a contract patient co-ordinator at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH)’s Communicable Disease Centre. Taking to his Facebook page on Tuesday afternoon, he posted a public status update announcing the news.
Saying he has “been expecting this”, Ngerng explained that “the stress of the court case has made it difficult for (him) to concentrate on (his) job”. “My advocacy on the CPF has also taken a toil [sic] on my ability to do my job as well,” he wrote.
“I could have done a lot better over the past few months,” he continued, while saying that he launched campaigns at his workplace and formed close relationships there. “My supervisors have been patient but they also have a responsibility to uphold and I respect that.”
In an apparent about-turn, however, Ngerng posted a fresh update to his Facebook profile about two hours later, claiming the sacking was "politically motivated". He wrote that while he was "under immense pressure at work" over the past few weeks, he had also "contributed immensely" there.
"I had wanted to give my employers the benefit of the doubt, but the truth of the matter is that the sacking is politically motivated," he said.
He related a circulating rumour that Singapore’s Internal Security Department is planning to arrest him as well, saying he “will be watching later and tonight”.
“I do not know what will happen to me later or tonight. All I did was to speak up for our rights and our protection… That’s all I ever wanted to do,” he wrote.
‘Incompatible with values’
Spokespersons for Tan Tock Seng Hospital confirmed that Ngerng was dismissed for “conduct incompatible with the values and standards expected of employees, and for misusing working time, hospital computers and facilities for personal pursuits”.
In a statement shared with Yahoo Singapore on Tuesday, the hospital said Ngerng was in May issued a formal letter of warning when he was discovered to be misusing its resources “to pursue personal and non-job-related interests”.
“However, Mr Ngerng disregarded the warning and continued to misuse company time and resources to access non-job related social media sites to pursue his personal interests,” the statement added.
TTSH also noted that his alleged defamation of the Prime Minister reflected conduct that was incompatible with company values and standards.
“While our staff are free to pursue their personal interests outside work, they must conduct themselves properly, honorably and with integrity. In particular, they cannot defame someone else without basis, which essentially means knowingly stating a falsehood to the public,” the hospital said. “(Ngerng’s) continued disregard of the Hospital’s warnings and advice has rendered his employment with TTSH untenable.”
The hospital also revealed that he was terminated with immediate effect, but has received a month’s salary in lieu of notice.
Local media reported that the Ministry of Health had also backed the hospital in its move, echoing the hospital's views on Ngerng's actions.
On Wednesday, human rights lawyer M Ravi, who is representing Ngerng, sent a letter to both TTSH and MOH expressing regret that the ministry had spoken up on the issue, given that Ngerng's case with PM Lee remains unresolved.
"It would seem appropriate to request that restraint be exercised in relation to issuing public statements about decisions and interferences in relation to matters that are intricately connected to the subject matter of the litigation," Ravi wrote.
Ngerng is embroiled in a defamation suit against PM Lee after posting an article that appeared to accuse the latter of embezzling and misusing CPF funds via the vehicles of Temasek Holdings and the Government Investment Corporation, Singapore’s two key investment arms.
In the course of raising funds for legal fees to pay M Ravi, Ngerng revealed on 6 June that he raised in excess of $91,000 from crowdfunding, after hitting his target of $70,000 in the span of four days.