SINGAPORE: President Halimah Yacob made former Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) editor Warren Fernandez a member of the Public Service Commission (PSC) on Monday (5 June), triggering speculation on WhatsApp and Telegram chat groups that the 57-year-old’s new appointment may be a precursor to a potential entry into politics.
Mr Fernandez, who joined SPH in 1986, quickly became a rising star within the media conglomerate after becoming the first recipient of the SPH Undergraduate Scholarship in 1987 and the first SPH Master’s Scholarship holder in 1999. Over the next several decades, he held various positions within the organization, steadily climbing the ranks.
The three most significant years in Mr Fernandez’s career at SPH could be 2002, 2012, and 2022.
In 2002, he was made Foreign Editor at The Straits Times and managed a team of correspondents stationed worldwide. Three years later, he was appointed Deputy Editor of The Straits Times, further solidifying his position within the organization.
In 2012, Mr Fernandez was appointed Editor-in-Chief of The Straits Times. He was also named editor-in-chief of Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) English, Malay and Tamil Media Group. He served as Chairman of the World Editors Forum and the Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund.
His leadership position is said to have ruffled some feathers within SPH. In 2017, veteran SPH journalist and editor Bertha Henson revealed in an interview with PN Balji that she left SPH after nearly three decades because she was unsure of how well she could work under the new chief.
She said, “I left the Straits Times because there was going to be a change in leadership and I wasn’t so sure I could work under the new leader. So I thought I should get out when the going is good and that’s what I did.”
When Mr Balji pressed her to identify the new leader, she responded: “It’s very obvious – it’s Mr Warren Fernadez.”
While Ms Henson declined to specify the issues she had with Mr Fernandez, she was more forthcoming when Mr Balji asked her whether she thought Mr Fernandez was the right editor for the paper. She said:
“I think the proof of the pudding is always in eating. The proof is the quality of the Straits Times, which I’m not so sure has maintained its previous high standards. The quality is suffering from a dearth of experience, in terms of the kinds of answers that they are getting. You can sort of see some lack of depth.”
Asserting that ST needs to improve their quality control measures, Ms Henson pointed out issues in simple things like grammar, language and accuracy. She added: “I know that a lot of people have left and the people who have left are experienced people.”
After ten years as chief, Mr Fernandez left SPH in 2022. On 11 Oct, SPH announced that he will be “leaving the company to pursue other professional opportunities.”
A week later, it was announced that Mr Fernandez had been made CEO of global communications firm Edelman’s Asia-Pacific region and would oversee over 1,300 Edelman employees across the firm’s 21 offices in the Asia-Pacific region.
The ex-editor is back in the public eye with his new post as a member of the PSC.
The PSC is a constitutional body responsible for selecting and appointing suitable individuals for key positions in the public service of Singapore, including the civil service, statutory boards, and government-linked companies.
Aside from selecting public service officers, members of the PSC make promotion recommendations, administer scholarships and awards, oversee talent development, and contribute to policy discussions, among other roles.
Mr Fernandez’ appointment to the PSC has fueled rumours that he will enter politics and be fielded as a ruling party candidate ahead of the next general election, which may be held as soon as mid-2024.
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