Meet the Malaysian writers running The Online Citizen

May 28, 2021 | 🚀 Fathership

The Online Citizen (TOC) "attacks the Government with its team of Malaysian writers", Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said on Tuesday (Nay 25).

The minister's comments came as the police took the unusual step of releasing body-worn camera footage of the incident to verify TOC's account of alleged bullying of an elderly woman with dementia who was not wearing a mask.

"TOC has done this to try and cast doubt on the police, to damage the trust that people have in the police, and is really a disservice to the thousands of police officers who have been fighting in the frontlines," Mr Shanmugam said.

The minister also said it is a "regular" occurrence that TOC attacks the Government with its "team of Malaysian writers".

Who are TOC's Malaysian writers

On September 18 last year, self-styled online vigilante SMRT Feedback carried out an exposé on TOC, alleging that the socio-political site paid Malaysian writers to write negative articles about Singapore.

The group released the real identities and location of anonymous writers under TOC's payroll, several of which are listed below.

1. Rubaashini Shunmuganathan aka "Kiara Xavier"

Of all the writers in TOC's stable, Ms Shunmuganathan was singled out as the writer behind two seditious and defamatory articles.

The first article called for Singaporean civil servants to follow the example of their Hong Kong counterparts in protesting.

The second made allegations about Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, which has led to a civil suit by Mr Lee who says they are false attacks against his character and fitness to hold office.

The reveal prompted Mr Shanmugam to ask, "Who controls her? Who pays her? What is her purpose? All these are legitimate questions. Most readers would just assume this was by a genuine Singaporean contributor."

Ms Shunmuganathan is based in Shah Alam, Malaysia and is currently a freelance writer charging USD 12 per hour.

She started writing for TOC since end-2018 until October 2020 before keeping a low profile (due to backlash on her exposé) and then resuming her writing on TOC as recent as January this year. Her total article contribution for TOC stands at 786 on the last count.

2. Kathleen Fernandez

Ms Kathleen Fernandez has been writing for TOC since July 2018, contributing over 1,200 articles. She is currently a regular feature on TOC's editorial team.

Ms Fernandez is also based in Shah Alam, Malaysia, and was a former colleague of Ms Shunmuganathan in a different Malaysian publishing house.

3. Aldgra Fredly

Ms Aldgra Fredly is a Journalism graduate from Malaysia's Universiti Teknologi Mara. Like Ms Fernandez, she is also a regular writer for TOC, contributing close to 600 articles mainly on socio-political affairs in Singapore.

Ms Fredly is currently based in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.

4. Roxanne Tai

Ms Roxanne Tai is currently a full-time writer with TOC since March 2020. She was formerly a writer for Malaysia-based tabloid World of Buzz. Like Ms Fernandez and Ms Shumuganathan, she is currently based in Shah Alam, Malaysia. Her rates are at USD 15 per hour.

3. Stephen Netto

Mr Stephen Netto doubles up as social media manager and writer for TOC.

His responsibilities include driving TOC's social media strategy and driving traffic to the site.

Currently residing in Shah Alam, he was formerly an intern at another Malaysia tabloid SAYS.

He has contributed over 400 articles for TOC.

TOC tried to hide the fact that they hired Malaysian writers

On the same day of SMRT Feedback's exposé, TOC's chief editor Terry Xu replaced the alias "Kiara Xavier" to Ms Rubaashini Shunmuganathan name on all relevant articles, confirming the allegations made by the vigilante group.

Backlash against TOC soon followed.

Without responding to SMRT Feedback's report, Mr Xu hastily posted a "job offer" on Facebook looking for a Singaporean to fill the job as a writer with a salary offer of SGD 2,140 per month. The job description was delibrately worded to intimidate any Singaporeans wanting to apply:

“Before applying for the job, you have to got mental preparation for visits by the police to your home, the possibility of being sued by government officials for your work and trailed by the Internal Security Department. Your family must give the go-ahead to you for taking up the job. While the company will try to cover your expenses and damages but we have to warn you of our limited resources.”

Mr Xu later rebranded The Online Citizen to "The Online Citizen Asia", purportedly to establish itself as a media platform covering international affairs.

SMRT Feedback, however, asserts that the rebranding was a cover for TOC to continue using foreign writers to interfere in Singapore's socio-political affairs.

The allegation was later proven to be true as the Malaysian writers are still reporting exclusively on Singapore's domestic affairs.

TOC is currently dominated by Malaysians

TOC's social media assets, while controlled by Mr Xu, is also managed by a majority of Malaysian individuals, followed by Singapore and Indonesia and an individual from the United Kingdom.

Mr Shanmugam has long questioned the credibility of TOC. In a speech he gave last year (Sept 25), the minister hghlighted the need for governments to counter the threat of foreign interference in domestic politics through inflammatory articles that seek to fracture social cohesion.

Referring to TOC's team of Malaysian writers, Mr Shanmuugam said, "They have no interest in sociopolitical stability within a country. Their only interest is in eyeballs."

TOC website's chief editor Terry Xu, responding to the minister's speech, said all articles are directed and subsequently approved by him.

"Nothing goes unvetted by me, a Singaporean who has served his national service and held responsible by the Ministry of Communications and Information as the registered person in charge," he was quoted as saying in an article posted on TOC's Facebook page.

Unrepentant teen with a long list of offences is why some parents shouldn't breed

Nov 25, 2021 | 🚀 Fathership

Ralph Wee Yi Kai, a 19-year-old Singaporean man, has pleaded guilty to eight charges on Nov. 25 during his plead guilty mention before District Judge May Mesenas.

The charges include consuming weed, causing unnecessary suffering to a frog, possessing imitation tobacco products, trespassing into the rhinoceros enclosure at the Singapore Zoo, and committing mischief by damaging property, reported CNA.

Another six charges will be considered during his sentencing.

Probation is "not realistic"

Wee pleaded guilty via video link from his place in remand, where he has been since Nov. 6.

The prosecution strongly objected to a probation suitability report, noting that Wee is "beyond the control of his parents, which renders probation unsuitable", according to CNA.

The prosecution asserted that probation "is not realistic" for Wee, based on his repeated offences and conduct in court.

They cited his "blatant disregard for rules", and urged for a reformative training suitability report instead.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Melissa Lee said Wee "has a tendency to abuse drugs and alcohol", which caused him to behave aggressively towards his parents.

He also "posed a risk" to them, which led him to be admitted to the Institute of Mental Health.

"Never expected it to come to this"

Wee's defence lawyer Shashi Nathan requested for the addition of a probation suitability report, according to CNA.

Shashi maintains that his family is able to supervise Wee, and added that his client "comes from a good family" who are "able to look after him".

He said that Wee was undergoing "a severe emotional crisis" when he committed his offences, and shared that the case has also affected Wee's family, especially after their home address was released to the press.

"While Ralph understands that what he did was wrong, he never expected it to come to this," said Shashi.

Difference between probation and reformative training

Wee was ordered to go though both assessments for a probation suitability report and a reformative training report, reported Yahoo News.

Offenders who undergo probation will not have a criminal record, while reformative training, which provides a more structured environment, results in a criminal record.

What Wee's lawyer said

Wee's lawyer said his client acted out after breaking up with his girlfriend, 18, who was the one who filmed the video of Wee backflipping in the zoo.

The defence lawyer, Shashi, said Wee spiralled into an emotional crisis as a result of his break-up.

Wee is homeschooled.

The court was told Wee saw a video of a man riding a giraffe and decided to make a video in the rhino enclosure, Yahoo News reported.

The ex-girlfriend had filmed the act and posted it on her private Snapchat account.

Wee posted it on his public TikTok account and a police report was made by a zoo personnel within the same day.

Wee removed the video when he was told to do so by the police, but reposted it on Dec. 18, before being told to remove it again, claiming he thought the video had been made private when he reposted it.

Wee had also included a link in his Instagram account biography to directed to a page selling t-shirts with the words "rhino ralph".

But he denied creating the merchandise profile.

He later removed the link.

Wee will return to court on Dec. 20 for his sentencing.

Timeline of events with updated details

Oct. 9, 2020, 2:40am: Allegedly committed an act of vandalism by hitting an information panel at a bus stop in Sixth Avenue, off Bukit Timah Road, causing S$900 in damage.

Allegedly caused damage to two cars -- S$2,800 to a Mercedes-Benz and more than S$1,600 to a BMW -- in nearby Sixth Crescent.

A taxi driver passing by reported him to the police, as Wee was standing in the middle of the road with a beer bottle in hand.

Dec. 16, 2020: Wee was placed on compulsory supervision for 60 months from Dec. 16. He was required to present himself for urine tests on each Tuesday and Thursday, but failed to turn up on four occasions.

He was placed on e-tagging during this period of time, after having been charged for his earlier offences.

He had to stay at home from 10pm to 6am as part of his bail conditions.

Dec. 17, 2020, 2.40pm: Accused of trespassing into the rhinoceros enclosure and taking a video.

Dec. 18, 2020: Reposted zoo video, despite taking it down earlier after being told to do so by the police. Told to remove video again.

Dec. 24, 2020: Accused of abusing a frog, which subsequently died, by hitting a ball against it on a foosball table, causing "unnecessary pain and suffering".

The incident allegedly took place at a Sentosa Cove property.

July 2021: First hauled to court and charged with two counts of mischief, as well as one count each of vandalism and criminal trespass.

Bail was then set at S$15,000.

Aug. 6, 2021: Allegedly consumed cannabis while out on bail. Arrested at his residence and two urine samples obtained tested positive for weed. S$15,000 bail revoked.

Sep. 14, 2021: Allegedly possessed an e-vaporiser and six e-cigarette pods at a ward in the Institute of Mental Health.

Three police officers showed up at IMH, where Wee was warded, to arrest him for failing to attend court.

He was admitted to IMH due to his drug and alcohol abuse, as had acted aggressively towards his parents when they demanded the drugs from him.

He was warded in IMH due to the risk he posed to his parents.

Oct. 13, 2021: Charged with one count of drug consumption while still in remand.

Bail raised to S$20,000 and Wee was released.

While out on second bail, Wee committed a string of offences, including cutting his electronic tag, according to ST, as well as not reporting for his urine tests on a few occasions, CNA reported.

The prosecution has called for an urgent bail review hearing to have Wee's second bail revoked for the alleged fresh offences.

Oct. 26, 2021: Allegedly cut a S$100 GPS ankle tag at an address on Leedon Road at about 12:10am.

Prior to this act, Wee was upset at his father, who had asked Wee to sleep early since he had to report for his urine test in the morning.

After arguing with his father, Wee decided to leave the house, and used pliers to cut off his e-tag before cycling to his friend’s house.

Upon discovering that Wee was missing, his father called the police.

The e-tag, worth S$100, was damaged and could no longer be used.

It was found in Wee’s house.

Oct. 28, 2021: Allegedly possessed an e-cigarette pod at the Leedon Road address.

Nov. 5, 2021: Warrant of arrest issued, as Wee could not wake up to attend court.

Nov. 6, 2021: Wee arrested.

Nov. 12, 2021: Slapped with four additional charges.

Nov. 25, 2021: Pleaded guilty to consuming weed, causing unnecessary suffering to a frog, possessing imitation tobacco products, trespassing into a rhino enclosure, and committing mischief by damaging property belonging to others.

Ordered to go though assessments for a probation suitability report and a reformative training report.