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Insider Exposes the Real Shame of Foreign Leechers behind The Real Singapore

The big news last week  had to be the revelation by The New Paper that 2 Editors of The Real Singapore (TRS) website were arrested on February 4th for a seditious article in regards to the playing of drums at the annual Thaipusam festival. To recap you can read about it by here and here.
The arrest of some men for disorderly conduct and assault after playing drums, inevitably led TRS to publish a ‘false article’ on the issue of drum playing.
Since this news broke out, there’s been a lot of buzz online and many bloggers, along with the main stream media have waded in to give their take on the matter. Some cheered the arrest, some were indifferent, while others naturally deemed this another attempt to muzzle free speech. I’m not here to change anyone’s perceptions, but unlike most people, I believe I can offer a more thoughtful, if not a better insight on the matter. This is no boast, but it stems from the fact I was close enough to TRS to have a better understanding and to make observations. You see, I was for almost a year, a Facebook moderator with TRS.

Robin Yang and Ai Takagi leaving the Police Cantonment Complex following their arrests. (Redwire Singapore photo)

While I had no control over content, the Editors posted articles even mine, I had some control over their Facebook page, in the sense I could delete comments and reply to messages sent in. And of course I was in contact with the Editors online, although I didn’t actually meet any of them. Anyway more on this later, let me begin by assessing them in 3 ways – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
The Good
TRS models itself as a free speech site where ordinary Singaporeans (and others) can send their articles with little or no editing, especially their grievances. But of course there’s no denying that TRS is mainly, if not entirely pro-opposition. Fair enough every media outlet has some form of bias, there’s no denying that our main stream media (MSM) are unapologetically pro-PAP, but it’s the same everywhere in the West too. Fox News is pro-Republican, many British newspapers back 1 political party over another. But in the Singapore context, sites like TRS and others, notably TOC and TREmeritus, have an important role to play to counter the bias by the MSM.

TRS modelling itself as a ‘voice of average Singaporeans’ and they were so, some of the time.

So it’s good that TRS allows ordinary people to write in and publish their stories or articles. Until the advent of the new and social media,, the only recourse people had to air their grievances was the MSM, notably the Straits Times Forum page and others. And these were and still are heavily edited. Some contributors have even complained that the editing was so widespread that it removed the sting or gist of their complaints, especially if it was a complaint against the Govt or PAP. And even if 1 or 2 were allowed in, the rest in response would be inevitably pro-Govt, say a ratio of 8:2 or higher. So in this instance TRS served and continues to serve a good purpose. We may never know the true situation on the ground or what other Singaporeans are experiencing if sites don’t allow, to use their title – the Real Singapore – to be published, seen or heard (as in the case with photos and videos).

A contribution to the ST’s forum page. If it isn’t critical of the Govt, then it has a chance of publication. If it is, then virtually no chance or with heavy editing and a slew of rebuttals. This allows sites like TRS to grow in popularity.

In fact I reflected on this sometime back, if the MSM was more engaging and allowed publication of actual day to day complaints, grievances and problems faced by and because of Govt policies, sites like TRS would die a natural death or be somewhat insignificant. But because they don’t and the majority of people have only their newspapers, websites or TV news programmes to get their 1 sided version of events, some inevitably turn to other sites like TRS. I’m not saying MSM publishes rubbish all the time, but seriously, some of their articles, editorials and forum submissions are so complimentary of almost every single Govt policy, that even the most neutral of readers (of which I unashamedly declare membership) find it hard to stomach. So this is The Good by TRS.
The Bad
Next we come to The Bad. While TRS has allowed people an avenue to send articles and complaints, it makes a very bad mistake in not exercising proper editorial and journalistic control. Very often if a submission (the majority of which come via the FB page) points a flaw or grievance to a Govt policy, TRS immediately without checking, publishes it. The Editors told me that they are doing their bit to ensure an ‘end of PAP rule.’ Like I said, there’s nothing wrong in journalistic bias, every news site does it and TRS is well within its right to be against the PAP. But the problem lies when submissions are not properly verified.
12 Cupcakes was pilloried by TRS for allegedly under paying their foreign workers. The firm denies the allegations and had little recourse owing to TRS’ then anonymity.
Very often the submission while containing a genuine grievance by the sender, is only 1 version of the event. Take the sacking of a security guard by a firm at MBS (if I remember correctly), the ’12 cupcakes issue’ or the complaints against certain PAP Town Councils, or replies the submitter gets from a Govt agency which rejects or disallows his requests. Among the most famous was a family that had to sleep on beaches, because HDB refused to give them a flat. In all of these cases, it was later shown that another and more reasonable version existed for the plight of the submitters.
By not verifying, TRS opens itself to allegations of inaccuracy and rubs people the wrong way, especially those affected by these submissions. And by not checking and blindly publishing, TRS is inadvertently (or maybe purposely) allowing certain people with an agenda, the very space and scope of readership to disseminate these rather biased or inaccurate views, which they themselves do not enjoy, but because of the size of the readership of TRS, they now can. Take the Looney Fringe headed by Roy Ngerng, TRS is 1 of his mouthpieces to publish his and Han Hui Hui’s distorted views, and sometimes plain lies.
Another aspect of the Bad is the willingness by TRS to publish articles from overseas, which are inaccurate or just to boost readership by getting people to become fervently angry and bordering on xenophobia even. News about dumb things done in China, Philippines and India are routinely published to stoke anger or condemnation of their peoples in Singapore. And not all of it is exactly true. A lot of the articles are highly dubious. And the general stereotyping of all these nationalities under 1 broad anti-foreigner umbrella, unfairly tarnishes all, even those who don’t support these actions or have no connections with them. TRS also is quick is publish articles on sex (especially overseas articles), which in the ordinary sense should have little bearing with ordinary Singaporeans or for a site that acclaims itself to be the voice of ordinary Singaporeans politically. All these is done to boost readership of course, while understandable, it should be done with much greater editorial oversight and very sparingly, not a routine feature.
The Ugly
Finally we come to the Ugly. And there’s a lot. The Feb 3 article about a complaint by a Filipino family highlights this. It’s a falsehood period and should never be published. Yet to stoke anger, to argue their bias and to boost readership they deliberately went ahead with it. And if you been reading them for some time, you’ll notice a general trend – they are deliberately highlighting articles against 1 or more religions and their practises. Articles attacking Islam’s edict on circumcision was allowed to be published. Articles decrying the Christian values (and also Islam’s) against homosexuality were allowed to be published, not just once but many times. And frequently videos or photos showing some inconsiderate act (purportedly) by 1 race is uploaded and readers comments invited.

A Lianhe Zhaobao article on the ‘halal pork fiasco.’  TRS rapidly published this without verification.

Then there are outright falsehoods – remember 1 showing NTUC selling pork with a ‘halal mark?’ It was done to stoke anger, condemn NTUC (a Govt related body) and boost readership. Not a very nice thing to do, whichever way you look at it. Another thing TRS does is pilfer articles or things uploaded on FB and elsewhere and publishing as its own or even if it gives accreditation, it’s done by publishing the whole content on its link with just a small line indicating the originator or his webpage. Now some people don’t mind this, I don’t, my blog is small, basically only to pen my own thoughts. I don’t earn any revenue and even if I did have adverts, I doubt it would come to much as I probably only get 30-40k views a month (last year’s figures), a good portion repeat readers. But some bloggers and article contributors depend on advertising or are not keen to share their content with everyone. TRS by not asking them permission to reproduce the whole article denies them the audience, who would only read the article on TRS’s webpage, not theirs. Instead of publishing or writing a commentary or analysis of the article, they pilfer it wholesale without permission. This can’t be right.
The Real Problem with TRS
Having given a brief synopsis of what TRS is all about, now I can share my experiences and views. I shall list the ‘real problems’ with TRS. What they have been doing and perhaps, what’s in store for them.
a) How TRS got off the ground.
TRS got off the ground after another site Temasek Revealed (not the precursor to the current TREmeritus), but another with purportedly the same name, shut down. TRS moved in to fill the void and very easily picked up the lost audience from there and have since grown in strength. Initially they had to even resort to buying sponsorship from FB to boost their likes and readership. Then to attract more readers, they decided to up the ante by being openly controversial and doing some of things mentioned above.
This is rather normal and not totally unexpected, if it isn’t normal. Many new sites have to do something to become popular especially a news aggregator like TRS. Hosting a site that offers countless number of articles costs quite a bit, and TRS needed a lot of them to defray costs through advertisements. Moreover they are using servers hosted in 3 countries, Sweden, Switzerland and Canada, if I’m not mistaken. Other sites have routinely faced a funding/financial problem – TOC and TREmeritus have to find ways to sell memberships as their advertisement income is insufficient to cover costs for bandwith and operating the site, not to mention find/employ people to run it. There’s only so much volunteers can do for free. In the end you need money to keep it going or you’ll run of space and time. So TRS did what it had to do and haven’t had a real issue with money.
Blogger ‘Simply Inconceivable’ has a new name for The Real Singapore!
The problem arises when they did not stop or find other methods. Fed by the drug of popularity/success of employing highly questionable methods, TRS either deliberately or inadvertently continued down the same path. And then upped the ante further, with falsehoods and controversial topics touching on race and religion, instead on just sticking to their core aim of being a voice to air for ordinary Singaporeans, especially as a counter balance to the MSM. After all when you’re on a ‘money making scheme’ it’s rather hard to stop or slow down. I wouldn’t go so far as accuse them of being greedy, but I’m sure others have, like this article.
b) The people behind TRS.
I’m not sure how many were involved in setting up the site, but my time there was under the 3 named persons – Robin Yang, Ai Takagi and ‘Melanie Tan.’ There was a 4th, namely Alex Tan the former RP candidate, but he had his wings clipped a bit because he had a propensity to write rubbish and controversial topics that were grossly inaccurate and even defamatory. Obviously I was merely invited to be a FB Mod, not an editor or content uploader. They wanted me to help manage the comments and reply to messages sent or to write articles for them (which I didn’t as I was never told exactly what to write about). They didn’t reveal their real identities either, but I wasn’t too concerned, as I was not directly involved in running the site and it made little difference who they were.

The ‘infamous Melanie Tan’ being exposed by TRS exposed ! She was very rattled by this.

But of course over the course of time, I roughly was able to tell who from who, based on their style and manner of writing and the timing of their activity. It was clear that at least 1 or 2 were based abroad, although all used the fake “Melanie Tan” account. And clearly 1 was based in Australia, while another was based here at least most of the time.
But they were able to work under the cloak of anonymity, and I had no desire to actually meet them as I had to consider my own position given the highly inflammatory nature of some their posts. They were obviously wary of getting arrested or sued, as they also knew how bad or wrong some of their stuff here. Their problems arose when this site – was set up early last year or thereabouts. Suddenly the veil of secrecy was lifted. They obviously denied the allegations made by the site, but I sensed straightaway it wasn’t far off the mark, as there was a clear element of anxiety on their part. Clearly rattled but they were happy to go on with the pretence, because they remained confident, that those allegations could not be actually proven and they were using foreign servers and were out the country most of the time. The only ones permanently in Singapore were myself, Alex Tan and Han Hui Hui who writes articles for them or interviews some people for them. But at that juncture our roles were mainly on FB not with the actual website.
c) The rampant use of religion and race.
My biggest bug bear was their rampant use of topics relating to religion. These are always controversial topics and must be handled with ‘kid gloves’ and approached very respectfully, if not avoided altogether. Very few, in fact I can’t find other similar sites talking about Singapore issues that wants to go here. TREmeritus and others specifically avoid it and they rebuffed efforts by TRS to join forces mainly because of this and their libellous content.
The problem with TRS is that all 3 Editors are liberals who spend the bulk of their lives abroad especially in Western countries or those with a different take to religion and race from Singapore’s. FB for example is based in the US. There it’s not wrong to question or criticise, even mock and insult religion. Rather it’s racist stuff that gets more airtime and disdain. Don’t take my word for it, there’s so many anti-Islamic or anti- Christian pages on FB. Many are downright vile and have been repeatedly complained to by readers to FB. But FB allows it, as in line with US law. Only racist content is flagged and removed and sometimes pages are shut down. In countries like the UK and Australia, you can criticise religion but if you disseminate racist content then that’s an offence.
Given their liberal and atheist leanings it was no surprise when TRS took the side of Pinkdot in the war of words between them and religious leaders from Islam and Christianity.
So these 3 Editors are so schooled in their way of life and acceptance of Western values, they cannot see the fuss about highly controversial articles attacking religion, with Islam and Christianity in particular. Look, the West can practise whatever philosophy or way of life they like, but respect has to be given to customs, philosophies and the rule of law elsewhere. Religion and customs are widely practised and adhered to in Asia, Singapore is no different. We tolerate and even accept what practises and customs other religions have, even if we disagree with them. I gather that some if not all of the Editors are atheists and as such you see an abundance of opinion pieces from Western writers attacking religions like Islam and Christianity, or mocking their beliefs vs science.
And since the Editors are also liberal they take a very tolerant view of homosexuality and as such side with the LGBT movement and encourage and promote articles by them especially those that openly mock Christianity and Islam for their opposition to it. All these are unnecessary and only fan the flames of hatred or make people get angry with religions whose adherents, revere devoutly. Many times I’ve told them to tone down or cut back on such articles, they say they agree, then a few days later post another series of articles attacking religions for their practices.
d) The Malaysian connection
It’s also clear that TRS has a former or maybe current Malaysian Chinese and this would explain the number of articles mocking the Malaysian Govt and by extension the Malays as a whole. It isn’t rocket science that some cracks have appeared between the Malay majority and Chinese minority, even with the Indians added in the mix. And of course, the displeasure by some quarters of the supremacy of Islam as the national religion of Malaysia. I don’t know everything about these issues there beyond what I bother to read, and basically it’s none of my business or the concern of Singaporeans by and large. This is a matter for them to resolve, we can observe, maybe make a few comments, but frankly while there are similarities between our 2 nations, there’s clearly a different complexity or understanding between the races here. Of course each has grievances, and of course the minority will inevitably be the ones with more.

Given the nationality of 1 of TRS’s editors and the great controversy, hence readership of  Malaysian issues like the above, became a common sight on TRS.

But our inter-racial issues are relatively minor and bear little resemblance to the problems or issues Malaysia is facing. However because of their ancestry and links to Malaysia, TRS’s foreign editors use the site to propagate their racial debate here as well. This usually starts with a Malaysia bashing then followed by a bashing of Malays and Chinese in particular. Of course TRS also bashes  other nationalities as well notably Filipinos, Indians and Chinese from their respective countries. But the pitting of Malays vs Chinese is a dangerous and basically unethical game to play.
And just to show ‘balance’, they will publish both – articles mocking Malays and articles mocking Chinese. Egs: Why Malays can park ‘indiscriminately’ when others can’t for prayers? Why Chinese can burn incense and joss sticks and pollute the environment? Neither of which are helpful and only pits each race against the other.
e) The lies that is Farhan and article submissions
A favourite refrain when Malay users write in to complain about racist or unpleasant articles about Malays or Islam, is that the chief editor is one Muhammad Farhan. Now I don’t know for sure if there was a Farhan at the beginning but there certainly isn’t any Malay Editors on TRS for a long time, even now. Yet they were happy to create this persona to further their end to publish such articles and duped a lot of Malay readers, who also happen to form a bulk of their readership if not a majority.

The use of satay to depict the ID image of so-called ‘chief editor’ Farhan, a slip on the part of TRS. Very very few Malays would ever consider satay as the staple or image food relating to their race or culture.

Of course they can and have fooled some, and still do even today, but you cannot fool everyone. All is needed is a simple test – find me 1 Malay who has some say in TRS who would agree and accept the kind of articles they published questioning Islam? Until now, I’ve never found a single Malay who accepted such articles, even when moderating the comments, all were aghast at the underlying tones of the article. And their naivety was further shown when they created a fake FB profile for Farhan. Of all the photos to use as an ID, they chose 1 portraying satay! A Freudian slip there – satay while obviously having Malay roots would hardly figure as an image any normal Malay would use to reflect their culture. Go ask your Malay friends, how many if they were to use an image for an ID would consider satay? Farhan was and is a lie, and 1 in bad taste. I vehemently opposed this tactic and that spelt the end of my association with them.
The other major lie is user submission to a controversial topic. In order to justify such articles, TRS will routinely produce articles by users supporting such calls and defending them. Unfortunately I found little evidence of actual users sending such articles. It’s clearly written by 1 of them or their associates. So it’s hard to claim they are fair and balanced, and encourage public participation, when the fact remains that they too, are guilty of creating falsehoods to paint themselves in a better light or justify some of their controversial or highly irregular and improper actions.
f) The silence for 2 weeks
1 troubling fact is that TRS remained silent on their arrest for a full 2 weeks, and the matter only came to light when TNP released it last week. And since then, TRS has again remained silent except for an evasive reply that does not explain why they resorted to such an extravagant lie and after being caught, why didn’t they come clean?
And now with further evidence showing the handsome profits they have reaped and the fact that 2/3 of the editorial team is foreign, while the sole Singaporean is also a student abroad. How can they continue to claim to be fair and transparent when they clearly tried to hoodwink their readers for a long time?

Han Hui Hui has been part of TRS’s team for some time but their lawyer M Ravi has stated that fellow Looney Fringe Roy Ngerng is also paid by them.

M Ravi has claimed that Roy Ngerng is also part of the TRS team and is paid $3,000 a month. We know that Han Hui Hui is also part of it, and Alex Tan too in some capacity. Can all these 3 claim to be victimised, when they are also earning a slice of the TRS profits? If Ravi’s allegations are true of course, and I believe they are. So Roy and Ms Han have not be ostracised or rejected by employers, rather they have a found another novel way to earn money, and at the same time trumpet their own actions. TRS has always sided with the Looney Fringe in every single activity they partake. It’s no surprise then to find the connection between the Looney Fringe and TRS.
What Future does TRS Face?
This is of course the interesting bit. We already know that 2 of them – Yang and Takagi have been arrested by the Police and are out on bail. It’s therefore very likely that charges will follow. I’m given to understand that TRS made a fatal error in underestimating the Police, thinking their cloak of invisibility was beyond anyone’s reach. But the Police sent their crack teams from the CID – the Special Investigation Section and Computer Crimes Unit. If really these 2 units were involved then, the matter is very serious for them. If the Police are prepared to launch 2 of their top units to probe TRS, it means they are not taking things lightly. They can expect further and more serious charges.

TRS like many similar sites have been told/warned/advised by the AGC to issue an apology for articles relating cases like the above. But because of their then anonymity, they ignored it.

There’s also a possibility that the dreaded ISA might be used if it’s determined there’s a huge foreign influence by bodies operating out of Singapore. Melanie even boasted once they had found a significant foreign backer. Anyway this only relates to the case revolving around the seditious article. TRS has done much more. They were warned and instructed by the AGC to remove articles in contempt of the judiciary and publish a full apology and promise of no repeat. This they did not do.
They have also routinely fanned anti-racial and anti-religious fervour by allowing articles to be published without proper editorial control. And even now after the expose, they continue to publish defamatory articles – the latest was 1 last week alleging nepotism and cronyism by Lee Kuan Yew. Note these are the very things Chee Soon Juan got sued and bankrupted for.
Now anybody can think and assume such nepotism or cronyism, even corruption exists, they may even share it privately among friends and family, but it’s a totally different thing to publish them without a shred of evidence to show for it. And this is just the latest in a long line of such articles.
And even if we ignore their problems with the Govt, then there’s also a number of private individual or companies they’ve attacked and published articles that are inflammatory and with little evidence to support the allegations. Some private individuals may not have the means to take them to court, but some of those TRS ‘exposed’ are certainly not poor and certainly are unlikely to forget the damage the articles caused. A number of lawsuits might soon follow after the criminal case.
And of course the Govt might use the law to gazette them the same way they have done with TOC or even shut them down. Of course some say, this will just mean another will pop up. However I also think that even if that happens, the next group will be very wary and try to avoid the pitfalls of routes TRS has taken. The Govt knows who’s behind TREmeritus and yet they operate still. Sammyboy forums is another site that routinely lambasts the PAP with exposes. But unlike TRS, these do stuff sporadically and never bordering of the paths that lead to defamation or sedition.
Of course TRS has a right to continue, and they certainly are. They will be unwilling to let a cash cow go so easily, especially one that allowed them to operate with indifference, irreverence and with gay abandon for so long. Or it might be 1 last hurrah before the inevitable slew of charges and lawsuits follow, a final chance to build up their defense war chest.
TRS can continue to survive and thrive just like TREmeritus and TOC have, but it has to start with building credibility. If not they are on a slippery path that may eventually lead them to the ‘state apartments’ at Changi.
But the lesson here is that if you want to contribute and offer a platform, you should be honest, open and fair. Or maybe if you want it to counter balance the MSM or even as a platform to attack the PAP, you must do it in the proper way and not resort to falsehoods. And you should stick to the political stuff, not get too personal and be careful not to cross certain boundaries, no matter how tempting they might be. If you want anonymity fine, but don’t use your own bias and agenda or allow those with similar bias and agenda to use your site to gain an audience and cause distress to segments of society or even all of society. A cloak of invisibility is not a cloak of invincibility. This was a lesson I saw coming a long time ago, it’s a real pity TRS had to learn it the hard way. For all the good they have done, they allowed a lack of honesty and credibility ruin all of that, and worse, did a lot of damage along the way. Rather than help the opposition cause, it only helped them enrich themselves. And that’s The Real Shame with The Real Singapore.
This story was first published on AnyhowHantam.
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