• Julie O'Connor

Sexual Misconduct: A Governance Issue. Covering-Up Should Not Be An Option on the Table

I saw a suggestion that the term whistleblowing should be replaced with the term ‘obligatory reporting’ and the failure to report should be criminalized. I totally agree and would add that those in positions of power, who are found guilty of covering up, whether it be fraud, sexual misconduct or any other criminal acts should face the same penalties as the perpetrators. Or maybe a more severe penalty because arguably a cover-up is worse than the original crime.

After recently receiving correspondence detailing three complaints of sexual misconduct at one of Singapore’s prominent firms, a quote from a book sprung to mind.

"The Singapore that you will have heard of, with its boasts of prosperity and reputation for the ease of doing business and skyline, has a dark side hidden below the gloss."

It was alleged that complaints of sexual misconduct had been covered up by those within the company’s highest echelons, with suggestions of promotion or money. I have redacted, but the correspondence included:

“xxxxx, partner at xxxx is an attempted rapist and a sex molester. Other retired xxxxx

partners xxxx, xxxxxx, xxxxxx, xxxxx will be called upon to testify if anyone tries to deny these incidents.

"We are not seeking compensation as that is not why we share our stories with you. We agreed for as long as xxxxx is in the position to abuse his power as xxxx partner of xxxxxx, it is our duty to share our stories with you and make sure this painful experience doesn’t happen to anyone else in the office. For many of you here who worked at xxxx Singapore back then, we know you knew about our stories."

I was shocked at the detailed accounts, but not surprised at the alleged cover-up which ensued. I had heard it all before, well-connected individuals being protected and Singapore’s press discouraged from investigating or reporting on the allegations. I won’t name the company, or the parties involved, I will leave that to others more qualified than I to investigate and expose, then hopefully more victims and witnesses will step forward.

I believe the three women, because I witnessed the financial incentives offered to hide allegations of a pattern of fraud, to protect a prominent individual and his associates. When attempting to expose a writ which contained allegations of fraud implicating a prominent board member of a Singapore group of companies, I was told that the press deliberated about exposing. Of course they didn't follow through, because that would have meant another stain on Singapore's 'clean' reputation, which appears was more important than protecting local and international investors from being lured into supporting a moribund group of companies.

Underneath the propaganda spewed by Singapore’s leadership of a zero tolerance to corruption, no cover-ups allowed and no-one being above the law, there is corruption which is leaving many victims in its wake. Hopefully, more victims will continue to find the courage to speak up and expose the filth, and bystanders will find a conscience, which I believe is the cure for wilful blindness. The courage of the City Harvest Church and NKF whistleblowers, and Parti Liyani should not be forgotten.

Back in 2015 when journalists and other seasoned professionals told me that parties in Singapore would cover up what I was trying to expose, I was insistent that was not how it works in Singapore. I can laugh at myself now, like a parrot I would repeat the Singapore Prime Minister’s spiel. Yes, I was a naïve idiot, I had lived in Singapore for six-years, read the Straits Times, but hadn’t seen through the smoke and mirrors because they are master illusionists. There is no whistleblower protection, the press is controlled and intimidation to hide dirt appears to be the order of the day.

The real eye-opener for me, as it should have been for many others, was when the Prime Minister’s own family members called out the abuse of power and a pliant court system. Then we watched the Prime Minister be cleared of the allegations by his subordinates in Parliament. The Prime Minister’s siblings openly said they feared for their safety. If they could be subjected to an abuse of power and face intimidation, what chance does anyone else have of exposing wrongdoing in Singapore?

I hope the three ladies who allege the sexual misconduct receive the justice they deserve, for having the courage to call out the inappropriate behaviour involving a senior member of staff, to prevent further assaults and to demonstrate that this behaviour is not acceptable. Any individuals who cover up such abuse, should also be held fully accountable, because they are complicit. Condoning the covering-up of sexual misconduct is giving the green light for more sexual assaults by powerful individuals to take place in the workplace or at home, and next time it could be your wife, your daughter, or your sister on the receiving end!

#metoomovement #speakupspeakout #whistleblowers #support