In PR, when clients encounter an issue, for example a price increase (don’t think consumers ever welcomes one), we usually advise them to explain their position…and that’s it. Keep quiet. Do some media and online monitoring, but do not make any further comments unless absolutely necessary.
Most issues usually die down after a short while when there’s no new development. Do not do anything that prolongs the issue’s lifespan in the public attention. In this light, the dismissal of Roy Ngerng must be welcomed by most journalists (yet another story to milk out of this saga!). The news cycle continues to spin…
This latest development brings back memories of related incidents where people were fired from their jobs for making offensive comments in their private lives – Anton Casey and Amy Cheong come readily to mind.
There are different perspectives on these – some may say that while these fellas were wrong, their misdeeds happened in their personal lives and they shouldn’t be punished professionally. But others think their dismissals are understandable for the disrepute they brought to their organizations. A third group of people may say we should give them a second chance if they are repentant (In the Yellow Ribbon spirit!)
This breeds the question – what type of situations or offences justify dismissal? Anton Casey made distasteful comments, but he didn’t break the law. What about people who earn parking tickets (that’s breaking the law!)? Who have extra-marital affairs? Who abuse their maids? Some offences are more easily forgiven than others. What should be the determining criteria?
According to Roy Ngerng’s (ex) employer, “Mr Ngerng’s neglect of duty and his improper public conduct have compromised his work performance, and are contrary to the high standard of integrity required of the Hospital’s employees to maintain the trust which is vital between the Hospital and the public.”
However, his case is quite different from the other two. It did not trigger the same widespread indignation of the public. The PAP, and his (ex) employer, may see it as a black and white thing. But not from the eyes of the public. If public sentiment is one of the criteria, then the decision is highly questionable.
At the end of the day, it may not be a bad thing for Roy Ngerng. As an activist, he gets another round of welcomed publicity. His dismissal will likely further tilt public opinion and sympathy to his cause. And I don’t think being a ‘patient coordinator’ is something he will miss.
Exactly what sort of public debate Singapore should have? Surely debate about CPF, Govt accountability and transparency to the citizenry for their life savings and retirement funds is 1 of the most important public interests. Yet where are the free and vigorous debates, accountability, transparency, etc? Why is the reputation of the PM more important than the said public interests? Why is the Govt hiding behind defamation laws, using it to stifle debate and what are they hiding? These are some of the questions that beg to be answered by the Govt, but will they?