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Erasing history? CNA removes article on the late Lim Chong Yah’s call for minimum wage

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While the Facebook video is still up, the article - entitled 'Singapore should have minimum wage, says economist Lim Chong Yah' - appears to have been removed. The link to the article now features a 'Page Not Found' notice.

SINGAPORE: Channel NewsAsia (CNA) has come under fire after appearing to remove an article on the late economist Lim Chong Yah’s views on how Singapore should have a minimum wage.

Prof Lim, who passed away on Saturday (8 July), was an eminent economist and wage policy pioneer. Having served as the founding chairman of the National Wages Council (NWC), Prof Lim’s many contributions to Singapore’s economic progress led him to receive the Public Service Star in 1976, the Meritorious Service Medal in 1983 and the Distinguished Service Order in 2000.

Prof Lim had been a proponent of a mandatory minimum wage scheme towards the end of his life. He called for a minimum wage in Singapore more than a decade ago, in 2012. In an interview with CNA in 2017, Prof Lim again championed a minimum wage proposal and urged the Government to reconsider its stance.

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Former CNA journalist Bharati Jagdish had asked Prof Lim what was the point of the NWC’s wage guidelines after the economist noted that the compliance rate was very low. Responding to Ms Bharati’s comment that the NWC appears to have no teeth, Prof Lim said: “That’s why I came up with the minimum wage proposal.”

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When Ms Bharati noted that the Government is against implementing a minimum wage scheme, Prof Lim said: “I hope Govt will change its mind. One can discuss the minimum wage issue till Kingdom comes. There are pros, there are cons.

Most nations in the world, developed countries in particular, have introduced the minimum wage system. And there were studies that show that with the introduction of the minimum wage, it will not damage the economy provided the minimum wage level is linked to the national productivity level.”

He added, “In other words, it cannot be too high. Neither should it be too low that it becomes irrelevant. In our case, we are very blessed that we have a mechanism called the National Wages Council that can ensure whether we are going too far in having the minimum wage. If it is, say, $1000, how many people will be affected?”

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CNA posted a clip featuring Prof Lim’s call for a minimum wage on their Facebook page today (10 July) and linked to a full article on its website.

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While the Facebook video is still up, the article – entitled ‘Singapore should have minimum wage, says economist Lim Chong Yah’ – appears to have been removed. The link to the article now features a ‘Page Not Found’ notice.

The Straits Times has also raised eyebrows for changing its headline on an article covering Prof Lim’s passing. The Singapore Press Holdings’ English paper first headlined its report ‘Prominent economist and father of Lee Suet Fern, Lim Chong Yah, dies aged 91’.

The headline was later edited to ‘Prominent economist Lim Chong Yah dies, aged 91’, removing the mention of his daughter, senior lawyer Lee Suet Fern.

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Ms Lee is the wife of Lee Hsien Yang, sister-in-law of Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and the daughter-in-law of founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. She could not be with her father in his last moments as she and her husband are in self-imposed exile in the latest turn of the drawn-out Lee family feud.

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The seeming amendments and omissions by the national broadsheet and national broadcaster have led to concerns about self-censorship and the state of press freedom in Singapore, as well as questions on whether history is being erased because the articles are connected to Ms Lee and her husband, given their estranged relationship with PM Lee.

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