Socio-political site The Independent faces a possibility of getting sued by NTUC Foodfare for defamation. This comes as The Independent refuses to remove its articles and Facebook posts about NTUC Foodfare rejecting a hawker’s application to cut down operating hours which the article claims, eventually led to the hawker passing on due to overworking.
The Independent has since posted the letter of demand sent to its premises by NTUC Foodfare online. Publisher of The Independent Kumaran Pillai has also said that that it had “material evidence” to back its articles and “corroborate” what is written. The online site had submitted a letter to NTUC Foodfare stating it “needs more time to investigate the contentions raised” in the demand letter. Pillai has also set couple of questions raised at NTUC Foodfare.
According to the letter, the food operator has demanded the online site to sign an apology letter, which is to be published on the homepage. This is to be accompanied by two press statements by NTUC Foodfare which was a response to The Independent’s articles. The articles in question are titled, “Elderly hawker allegedly passed away after working 18 hour days to avoid hefty fine when NTUC Foodfare rejected appeal to shorten operating hours”, and “NTUC Foodfare slaps $3,500 fine on injured tenant who was unable to operate the stall for few days”.
A check by Marketing showed that the articles are still running and Marketing has reached out to NTUC Foodfare as to what next steps it will take.
Recently in Singapore, there has been a surge of chatter around the hawker scene. Coincidentally, following an interview with Vulcan Post, NTUC Foodfare CEO Parry Ong also copped flak last week for some of the comments made in an article where he shared his views on the ongoing allegations regarding social enterprise-run hawker centres. Users were triggered when Ong commented that hawkers have the “privilege of choice” to switch operations under NEA if they do not wish to work with social-enterprise run hawker centres (SEHCs). Several labelled him “arrogant” and even said “NTUC has lost its moral compass”.
In a statement to Marketing at that time, an NTUC Foodfare spokesperson said the team has contacted Vulcan Post to highlight that the headline was quoted out of context, and corrections have been made and reposted. The spokesperson added that what Ong had shared with Vulcan Post was for their better understanding of SEHCs, and it was not an intended interview for reporting.