More staff members abruptly dismissed from Singapore Environment Council

WONG PEI TING Today Online 11 Nov 16;

SINGAPORE — More staff have been dismissed by the Singapore Environment Council (SEC), on the back of the sudden termination of former executive director Edwin Seah from his duties.

The non-profit organisation — which has Institution of a Public Character status that allows it to collect tax-deductible donations — has sacked its assistant executive director, Mr Gerard Christopher, and its communications director, Ms Shirley Chua. No reasons were given.

The dismissal took place on Friday morning (Nov 11), with immediate effect. Speaking to the media, Ms Chua said she had been given no warning, but was “mentally prepared” after they “treated her suspiciously” by telling her to submit her media queries on Mr Seah’s case to a public relations firm on Tuesday (Nov 8).

When contacted, the council declined to comment on the sacking. “The board believes it is inappropriate to discuss employment matters with anyone other than the individuals themselves as it is an internal matter,” it said in a statement.

Earlier this week, the council terminated Mr Seah from duty after suspending him from duty last month, even though an inquiry against him had cleared him of wrongdoing, The Straits Times reported.

Mr Seah was suspended over how he planned the Asian Environmental Journalism Awards, a yearly SEC affair that was held last month. There were also allegations that he was behind an anonymous email sent in February to local newsrooms alleging a conflict of interest involving SEC chairman Isabella Loh and projects she worked on. The SEC had dismissed the allegation after a review.

The inquiry was presided by a panel of three SEC board members, including Member of Parliament and Mayor of North West District Teo Ho Pin, National Environment Agency director Dalson Chung, and SEC executive committee chairman Lam Joon Khoi.

Former SEC head Edwin Seah cleared of charges, but terminated from duty
Audrey Tan Straits Times 9 Nov 16;
SINGAPORE - Mr Edwin Seah, the former executive director of environmental group Singapore Environment Council (SEC), has been cleared of the charges relating to his suspension.

But The Straits Times understands that despite this, his employment with the council has been terminated, with the SEC Board saying it did not find him a good fit for the organisation.

ST understands that Mr Seah, 46, was told of the termination on Tuesday (Nov 8). SEC staff also received an e-mail, which ST has seen, stating that Mr Seah was no longer a staff with SEC.

The latest development comes after a special panel was convened on Nov 2 to look into the reasons for his suspension.

Mr Seah had in October been told by SEC executive committee chairman Lam Joon Khoi that he was suspended from duty. Mr Seah said then that no reason was given for his suspension.

ST understands that Mr Seah was suspended for not following standard operating procedure during an SEC event and over suspicions that he was behind an anonymous e-mail that was sent to media organisations early this year.


Two Singapore Environment Council employees told to leave on short notice
WONG PEI TING Today Online 12 Nov 16;

SINGAPORE — More staff members have been dismissed by the Singapore Environment Council (SEC), following the sudden termination of its former executive director Edwin Seah from his duties.

The non-profit organisation — which has Institution of a Public Character status that allows it to collect tax-deductible donations — has sacked its assistant executive director, Mr Gerard Christopher, 43. and its communications director, Ms Shirley Chua, 45. No reasons were given.

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The dismissal took place Friday (Nov 11) morning with immediate effect. Speaking to the media, Ms Chua said that she was given no warning, but was “mentally prepared” when instead of letting her handle media queries on Mr Seah’s case, an executive committee member told her to send them to a public relations firm on Tuesday.

Mr Christopher said that the dismissals came a day after the conclusion of SEC’s annual programme, the School Green Awards. “General feedback was ‘well done’, ‘good job’. That was just yesterday,” he said. “Out of the blue, I was given the letter of termination with no reason... Throughout my time there, I had not been given a letter of warning, never been reprimanded,” he added.

When contacted, the council declined to comment. “The board believes it is inappropriate to discuss employment matters with anyone other than the individuals themselves as it is an internal matter,” it said in a statement.

Of the SEC’s programmes, the most notable is its administration of the Singapore Green Labelling Scheme, which endorses industrial and consumer products that have less undesirable effects on the environment.

On Friday, 15 of the remaining 26 staff members in the council were at an impromptu farewell lunch for Ms Chua and Mr Christopher. Mr Seah was also present at the lunch. One employee said that more than half of the team cried when they learnt of the “shock terminations”.

The staff members said that they are demoralised and worried that the abrupt dismissals would “decrease the confidence” for more than a dozen partners and sponsors who work with the council, thus affecting the programmes it runs.

Mr Seah agreed that this is “going to shake confidence”. “People will wonder why people are leaving in quick succession,” he said.

Earlier this week, The Straits Times reported that the council terminated Mr Seah’s employment after suspending him from duty last month, even though an inquiry had cleared him of wrongdoing.

Mr Seah told the media on Friday that a human resources manager delivered the letter to his place at 7pm on Tuesday, and his belongings in the office were later couriered to him.

Mr Seah was suspended over how he planned the Asian Environmental Journalism Awards, a yearly SEC affair that was held last month. There were also suspicions that he was behind an anonymous email sent in February to Singapore newsrooms alleging a conflict of interest involving SEC chairman Isabella Loh and projects she handled. The SEC had dismissed that allegation after a review.

The inquiry was presided by a panel of three SEC board members: Member of Parliament Teo Ho Pin, National Environment Agency director Dalson Chung, and SEC executive committee chairman Lam Joon Khoi.

Mr Jose Raymond, former chief executive of the council, posted on his Facebook account that the dismissals are “a huge disappointment, especially since half the Board is made up of senior government officials, including two current Members of Parliament”.

“Do they condone and support these actions? Whatever happened to helping protect jobs and livelihoods?… The SEC may have a contractual right to terminate the services of any staff without giving reason, but this is morally and ethnically wrong on so many levels,” he added.

TODAY reached out to some of the board members for comments, but they did not respond by press time.


2 more senior employees terminated from Singapore Environment Council
Liyana Othman Channel NewsAsia 11 Nov 16;

SINGAPORE: Two more senior staff members from the Singapore Environment Council (SEC) have had their employment terminated.

The non-governmental organisation's (NGO) assistant executive director Gerard Christopher and director of communications Shirley Chua were sacked on Friday morning (Nov 11), according to a source with knowledge of the latest developments. They were informed of the news in person through an HR staff member, and their termination was effective immediately.

This development comes on the heels of the dismissal of SEC's former executive director Edwin Seah earlier this week, even though he was cleared of the charges relating to his suspension.

Channel NewsAsia understands he was suspended in October following disagreements with higher management.

When approached, Ms Chua told Channel NewsAsia: "I won't say I was shocked. I was mentally prepared to be asked to leave after Edwin's suspension.

"If this can happen to Edwin, when he has not committed any wrongdoing, this could happen to the remaining management staff," she said.

"Hopefully one day the truth will prevail."

Said Mr Christopher: "I was a bit flabbergasted. There was nothing that was told (to us) prior. I think we have delivered on our programmes - on all fronts of our programmes - I'm just shocked."

Mr Seah echoed his sentiment. "Just like my suspension, it was unexpected and shocking. But at the end of the day you have to feel for the team who is still there. I would assume many of them are affected. You just hope that the programmes will continue unaffected."

SEC's board said on Friday that "it is inappropriate to discuss employment matters with anyone other than the individuals themselves as it is an internal matter".

- CNA/kk



SEC sackings raise issue of employee protection
MATILDA GABRIELPILLAI Today Online 18 Nov 16;

I read with concern about the sacking of Singapore Environment Council staff without reasons being given. The case raises issues about the protection of employee rights in the workplace (“Two SEC employees told to leave on short notice”; Nov 12).

Although cleared of wrongdoing, former SEC executive director Edwin Seah was given his walking papers last week. The explanation: He was thought not to be a good fit for the organisation.

Then two other senior figures lost their jobs without explanation. Given that at least one of the trio was investigated for misconduct, a cloud of suspicion hovers over all of them. Their careers may possibly never recover from this blow. And yet, they may all be innocent.

Questioned by the media, the SEC, an Institution of a Public Character, issued a statement saying that its board believed it was inappropriate to discuss employment matters with anyone but the individuals themselves, as it was an internal matter.

In Singapore, management commonly takes this stance when asked to explain suspicious cases of employee termination. It cannot, however, be defended as good employment practice.

Theoretically, it would allow management to discriminate against employees and create space for other forms of worker abuse.

Vague claims that one is not a good fit can also be used to cover up decisions about employees based on factors unrelated to merit.

Giving employers the right to terminate staff without accountability is a way to beg for inefficiency in human resource management.

Employees in managerial or executive positions lack union protection and are not covered by the Employment Act. Those who are unfairly treated often cannot afford legal recourse against wrongful termination.

Professionals, executives and managers pay taxes and have an equal right to job protection as employers and unionised workers. It is time to address their needs.

Does the Government approve of employers taking refuge behind a screen of authority when workers’ careers are in jeopardy? What facilities now protect this class of employees from unjust treatment?

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