Eric Song of Singapore Athletics issued Letter of Demand for Defamation
Updated: Aug 26, 2020
It has been brought to my attention that Singapore Athletics (SA) Honorary Secretary Eric Song has been issued a letter of demand for defamation, for purportedly false statements he made about national pole vaulter Rachel Yang and pole vault coach, David Yeo, in a WhatsApp chat group containing members of the SA Management Committee (MC).
The message he sent is as follows:
This comment was made in the aftermath of a mediation session between Rachel and SA, when SA issued a statement saying that Rachel had been compensated with a “5-figure” sum after they admitted to providing “confusing” information rendering her being unable to compete for the 2018 Asian Games. (Source)
Seemingly unhappy with the result of the mediation, Eric made that comment in the WhatsApp chat group suggesting that SA was never in the wrong, while making negative remarks on the character of Rachel and her husband/coach, David.
These comments were brought to David's attention, who has proceeded to issue a letter of demand to Eric Song:
Some time after this, SA launched an investigation into this matter. But rather than investigating Eric Song for his purported defamatory comments, SA chose to go on a witch hunt for the person who leaked Eric's WhatsApp message. SA even made a statement to the press, calling it a "serious matter to be resolved that happened during our watch and all MC members are obliged to attend the BOI". Source: https://65sports.sg/2020/03/28/drama-at-singapore-athletics-part-xi/
My take as follows:
1) Why is SA spending their time and other public resources, when the lawsuit was brought against Eric in his personal capacity, rather than against SA?
2) If SA does want to get involved, why is SA going on a witch hunt for the whistle-blower rather than addressing the main issue at hand - are Eric's comments false and defamatory, and if they are, what action is being taken against an MC member for such unbecoming conduct?
As a Charity under the Singapore Charities Act, I find it highly disturbing that between this incident and the recent Extraordinary General Meeting, it seems like members of the SA Management Committee have been resorting to lies and other underhand means in what looks to be a no holds barred attempt to abuse their power and influence in this sport, against anyone who stands up against them for what is right.
I hereby call upon Eric Song to publicly explain his actions and validate his statements if he can. If not, then he should duly retract his statement and apologise to the parties he has lied about. The Singapore public should pay close attention to his next steps, especially because he holds a job of "Associate Director, Sports and Adventure" at the Singapore Management University (SMU), a public Institution of Higher Learning. His salary is funded by all taxpayers in Singapore, and SMU is a public university, which I believe makes him a public servant.
In general, a public servant who lies and shows no remorse is in blatant disregard for the first value of the Singapore Public Service, which is Integrity.
In my opinion, if Eric Song is unable to substantiate what he has said about Rachel and David, then he should be dismissed from his position in SA MC and his job at SMU with immediate effect.
20 August 2020 Update - Singapore Athletics responds through President Tang Weng Fei
On Saturday, 15 August, I noted in a blog post that Singapore Athletics (SA) Honorary Secretary Eric Song has been issued a letter of demand for defamation, and asked a few questions over Singapore Athletics' handling of the matter.
On 20 August 2020, SA President Tang Weng Fei responded with a statement through The Straits Times. While I thank Mr Tang for his time spent on the response, I have to point out that in my view, the response does not address any of the questions answered, and looks to be an attempt to deflect attention away from the main issue(s).
Tang argues that "The main issue at hand is that privleged, confidential and time-sensitive information of SA is, once again, being released to external parties."
I fundamentally disagree that that is the main issue, and I feel like SA was made up of smart people, they would know this.
Say for example that Member A of the SA Management Committee was planning to commit a crime, and discussed his plans with other members of the SA Management Committee (MC) in their WhatsApp group. Disagreeing with his intentions, Member B leaks a screenshot of Member A's messages to the public to draw attention before the crime can be committed.
Member A hence faces public backlash for his intentions. Would SA continue siding with Member A, and argue that the main issue is not that Member A planned to commit a crime, but that Member B had leaked a message from a "private and confidential" WhatsApp group? I'd hope that SA's answer to this would be "No, of course not!"
Drawing parallels to our current situation, Eric Song has said things about athlete Rachel Isabel Yang and coach David Yeo in the SA MC WhatsApp group that another member feels is untrue and needed to be addressed. The message was leaked to the relevant parties. Now, Eric Song is facing backlash.
Is it right for SA to continue siding with Eric Song, and argue that the main issue is not that Eric Song may have possibly lied about Rachel and David, but that someone had leaked a message from a "private and confidential" WhatsApp group?
It's very simple, if you don't want to get into trouble or get sued:
1) Don't talk about other people behind their backs.
2) Don't lie. Especially if you're going to do it in writing!