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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Netizens play 'Sherlock' over alleged scandals

Sulaiman Kamal | 8:57 PM | | | | Best Blogger Tips

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The events of the past week have got netizens into a curious frenzy.
First, it was news of the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau's (CPIB) probe on two top civil servants - the Singapore Civil Defence Force's (SCDF) Mr Peter Lim and the Central Narcotics Bureau's (CNB) Mr Ng Boon Gay.
Then came another revelation: The New Paper reported that Hougang Member of Parliament Yaw Shin Leong was the subject of a raging online debate over whether he had had an extramarital affair.
The two top civil servants were also linked to a woman working in the IT industry, who is connected to the CPIB probe.

Not unexpectedly, the debate in cyberspace focuses on:
1. Did the men do it?
2. Who are the women involved?
The online community is mining for more details on the women, with some posting their alleged "findings" online.
The woman implicated in Mr Lim's and Mr Ng's graft probes, who has not been named in the mainstream media, was one of the top Internet searches this week.
Such reactions are only to be expected, said psychologist Daniel Koh of Insights Mind Centre.
"These two cases, which involved people in high places, have gripped the nation," he noted.
"A lot of people want to know what's going on. And in the absence of any official details, they turn to the Internet to get it."
Observers said these scandals feed into that basic of human instincts - curiosity.
"The stories are very salacious and, honestly, sex sells," said former Nominated MP and media watcher Siew Kum Hong.
"In the case of the two civil servants, the story has moved from corruption to more sordid details," he added.
"I must admit I myself was curious and even searched for details on the woman involved online." And he's not alone.
Sales manager Albert Lim, 38, admitted that the ongoing scandal makes for "captivating reading".
But as details in the mainstream press are limited, Mr Lim revealed that he turned to online forums like HardwareZone "to fill in the gaps".
"The news about the investigations involving the two civil servants broke over the Chinese New Year holidays, and in a short time, a lot of information has trickled into the media," said Mr Lim.
Heading online
"But I go online for the news that the mainstream media won't cover...and already there is a wealth of things online."
TNP was the first to report last Wednesday that a female IT executive was assisting CPIB with its investigations into Mr Lim and Mr Ng's case.
Mr Ng and Mr Lim were arrested on Dec 19 and Jan 4 respectively under the Prevention of Corruption Act and released on bail.
Under the Act, a conviction carries a maximum fine of $100,000, a jail term of up to five years, or both.
They also face disciplinary action by the Public Service Commission (PSC).
The CPIB probe is a criminal procedure, whereas the PSC probe is an internal civil service disciplinary process.
Separately, Mr Yaw has maintained his silence over the alleged extramarital affair.
Speaking to a reporter from Chinese evening paper Shin Min Daily News on Saturday, he said he had no intention of responding to rumours.
Said Mr Yaw: "I have said it before, if these are rumours, then there is nothing for me to say."
With him was his wife, Madam Lau Wang Lin, who also would not comment on the allegation.
Singapore Management University's assistant law professor Eugene Tan thinks that the "frenzy" created by these two cases is driven by the fact that "scandals rarely happen in Singapore".
"People like to put a face to a scandal, and that's natural," said socio-political blogger Alex Au.
"Not that I condone such behaviour... We should give it some time because jumping to conclusions would lead readers to assume that the parties involved are guilty," he added.
The women involved in both cases have so far escaped the media glare.
But that hasn't stopped netizens from continuing to guess at their identities.
Mr Yaw's alleged partner in the alleged extramarital affair is said to be a married woman from his Workers' Party (WP).
She has been named in online postings.
Meanwhile, a 36-year-old mother of two is believed to be the IT executive to have wined and dined both Mr Lim and Mr Ng.
It is unclear if she did this while at her previous job in a Japanese multi-national company (MNC) or in her present job at an American MNC.
Both Mr Lim and Mr Ng are married.
The Straits Times provided clues to her identity on Saturday.
She is believed to have been educated at a local polytechnic and an Australian university and lives in a condominium in the central part of Singapore, it reported.
But while several online sources have identified the mystery woman, there has been little trace of her online so far.
Web searches of her name have also thrown up a blank: Her profiles on networking sites Facebook and LinkedIn are understood to have been removed recently, The Straits Times added.
"In this instance, this woman probably knew before the media did that both men were being investigated," a cyber-security expert told TNP.
"That gives her ample time to delete her presence on the online social platforms."


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