AMK VS. AHPETC

Two town councils, two scandals, two different ways to cover them?

At least that is what blogger Andrew Loh is wondering, as he said on his Facebook page on Thursday (Jan 5) evening that the corruption investigation on a general manger of Ang Mo Kio Town Council (AMKTC) “is apparently trivial news” to The Straits Times, compared with the allegations of dishonesty levelled at the then Aljunied-Hougang Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC).

Mr Loh, who is named by Internet media portal The Online Citizen as its co-founder, also questioned the comparative lack of coverage by the newspaper on the case of AMKTC, which is administered by the People’s Action Party (PAP), in contrast to the front-page treatment of the saga involving the Workers’ Party-run AHPETC.

Hours later, he claimed that remarks on the AMKTC case made on Friday (Jan 6) by Minister of Home Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam were edited out by mainstream media outlets.

This is Mr Loh’s full initial Facebook post:

Let’s do a quick recap of the two cases:

The AMKTC Case

AMK VS. AHPETC

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Mr Victor Wong (circled), the general manager and secretary of AMKTC, was removed from his position after a complaint was lodged against him over contracts and dealings in the town council.

Town council chairman Ang Hin Kee told The Straits Times that Mr Wong is under investigation by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB).

The AHPETC Saga

The then AHPETC had been facing questions about its management of its accounts and collection of service and conservancy charges (S&CC).

AMK VS. AHPETC

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Then Minister of Finance Tharman Shanmugaratnam led the Auditor-General’s Office to conduct an independent financial audit into AHPETC’s accounts. Five key lapses were found, according to the report:

1) Lack of governance over transactions with related parties
2) Poor monitoring of S&CC arrears
3) Poor record and accounting system
4) Non-compliance with rules on sinking funds
5) Insufficient internal controls and procurement

No Carpet Sweeping

Minister of Home Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam said on Friday (Jan 6) that the AMKTC investigation will not be “swept under the carpet”.

He said that during a press conference on criminal probe processes, The Straits Times reported.

Front-Page Placement

But Mr Loh drew attention to a front-cover article published in the lead up to Hougang’s by-election in 2012, which the Workers’ Party won handily.

Just a few days before the polls on May 27, 2012, The Straits Times’ front-page story “WP faces allegations of dishonesty” was run together with a photo of WP leaders Low Thia Khiang, Sylvia Lim and Png Eng Huat, who was running for the Hougang seat. Two pages inside were also devoted to the news.

AMK VS. AHPETC

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In contrast, “where is the front page splash on the AMK case”, asked Mr Loh.

Hours after Mr Shanmugam’s remarks were published on Friday, Mr Loh again questioned the mainstream media in a post on Facebook, claiming that some remarks made by the minister were removed:

No Probing

What is certain is that the AHPETC saga was covered exhaustively by the broadsheet, while so far we have had just two short stories on AMKTC.

It’s worth noting that the first report on the AMKTC case carried just a statement from the AMKTC chairman and nothing much else. What, no probing, ST journalists?

That lack of investigative journalism could be the reason why there’s barely any news about the corruption case.

Your Move, ST

It remains to be seen whether The Straits Times will address Mr Loh’s comments about the differing coverage between the two sagas. (We think not.)

Featured image from Channel NewsAsia and Facebook