Monday, 24 September 2012

Truth to be established & Justice to prevail

And the mine explodes!

In my previous post, (http://article14.blogspot.hk/2012/09/mha-walks-into-minefield-when-didnt.html) I was questioning the wisdom of MHA wading into the saga of the Archbishop's letter. They could have stayed away and avoided embarrassment. They didn't. And now they have stepped on a mine.

Function 8 (evidently riled up by MHA's press statement) has released a letter written by them to the Archbishop after the latter's withdrawal of his first letter. This is Function8's letter:

So, that first sentence might have read as follows: "May we first say that we were very happy to receive your letter of 25th May 2012 in support of the commemoration event of Operation Spectrum to be held on 2 June 2012 and your wish for truth to be established and justice to prevail."

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The Government should not get involved in the row between Archbishop Chia and Function 8 

There is ongoing debate between Archbishop Nicholas Chia and Function 8 on the retraction of a letter given by Archbishop Chia in support of an anti ISA rally. To muddy the waters, there is also argument on whether or not these letters should have been made public in the first place.

Given that there is a sizable number of Catholics in Singapore and the many questions in relation to Operation Spectrum that still remain unanswered, this whole saga is unsurprisingly generating great public interest.

Each party has its side to the story and Singaporeans have the right to discuss, comment and question. However, what I do not understand is why the Ministry of Home Affairs sees the need to chastise Function 8 for being “disrespectful” to Archbishop Chia?


DPM Teo must explain meeting with Archbishop

The dispute over the the letter by Archbishop Nicholas Chia to Function8 (F8) over the 1987 Internal Security Act (ISA) detentions raises serious questions about the PAP Government's involvement.

Whether the Archbishop had given the letter to F8 in support of the detainees' efforts to clear their names and to call for the abolition of the ISA, and why he subsequently withdrew it, is not of importance as far as the country is concerned. It is a matter for the Church and F8 to resolve.

What is important is that after the letter was issued, the Government intervened with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affiars (MHA) Teo Chee Hean summoning the Archbishop for a lunch meeting, a meeting which the MHA has not denied.

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Between MHA, the Church, Function 8 and a whole bunch of “if”s

Much ink has been spilt over the recent disagreement of opinion between the Catholic Church, headed by Archbishop Nicholas Chia and Function 8, a civil society group that champions critical thinking.
I will not go into the details, which can be read here, here and here.
In brief, the archbishop wrote a letter to Function 8 supporting a commemorative event for Operation Spectrum held in June 2012, but later withdrew the letter due to alleged coercion by the Ministry of Home Affairs. The story was leaked to blogger Alex Au, and the rest is online history.
The current stalemate rests uneasily, it would seem, between Function 8 and the archbishop, with Function 8 openly asking for His Grace to reveal the contents of his letter. Accusations are also rife between the archbishop, MHA and Function 8, with the first two accusing the later of leaking the content of the archbishop’s first letter to Au. Function 8 has denied this, and both Function 8 and Au have called for more transparency about what transpired between the archbishop and MHA Minister Teo Chee Hean, which has allegedly sparked the retraction.

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MHA walks into a minefield

When I read Alex Au’s blog post on the letters written by Archbishop Nicholas Chia to Function 8 (one of the organisers of the Speakers’ Corner event to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the detention of the so-called Marxist conspirators), my eyebrows were raised a little.

But, I wasn’t too surprised at the possibility raised by Alex that some ‘friendly’ visit from the state might have persuaded the Archbishop to reconsider the wisdom of his original letter. http://yawningbread.wordpress.com/2012/09/18/lunch-menu-a-4-point-letter/

All the usual suspects (including myself) that would normally read Alex’s blog would have gotten wind of this information. Very few would have bothered to discuss this beyond a few casual conversations. Perhaps, one or two blogs might have picked up on it and repeated it. After a short while (perhaps a couple of days), any interest in the subject would have died out.

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Three statements from the government, Function 8 and Maruah on the archbishop affair

Three press statements were issued on Thursday, 20 September 2012, and I am archiving them here for the record. However, I will begin with a short commentary on the statement issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs. This ministry includes within it the Internal Security Department. Teo Chee Hean (mentioned in Lunch menu a 4-point letter) is the minister with oversight of this ministry.

The first thing you would notice is that the second paragraph of this statement is consistent with my account of events that mentioned a lunch meeting with the Archbishop. In fact, with so many statements flying around, it is indeed notable that none deny the sequence of events that I have published.

This Home Affairs statement makes an accusation — a “deliberate breach of the Archbishop’s trust” by Function 8 — that is clearly illogical. As Function 8 points out in its statement (below) the original letter was not marked “private” or “confidential”.

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Function 8 and Archbishop Nicholas Chia: Truth Murdered

I am saddened and disappointed by the recent events around Function 8 and Archbishop Nicholas Chia.

Alex Au has written at length about this issue and has stated categorically that “the chief point of my exposé of the events was to draw public attention to “the Government’s ‘arm-twisting’ of Archbishop Nicholas Chia. I urge my readers to be very clear about this: The issue is not Function 8 or even Nicholas Chia.
I am disappointed because the sanctity of religion has been disfigured and manipulated through and through in the recent events. And I no longer know what the truth is.
From the statements of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Archbishop Nicholas Chia, Function 8 and Maruah, the only thing that is clear to me is that Archbishop Nicholas Chia had initially said something in a letter which he retracted because of a “closed-door meeting” with the government, and because this “something” isn’t known to the wider audience at all, we are now made to be part of a charade of words by those involved to second-guess everything else that is unravelling

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The function of religion and the Archbishop’s letter


Praying for safety at the Singapore Grand Prix

The image of religious leaders from 10 different faiths praying together, for the safety of the F1 race in Singapore, may have conjured a sense of social harmony for the naïve among us. But surely one cannot be too gullible not to see what they are giving blessings to. The true picture is, religions have always serve a subordinate role under Singapore’s authoritarian regime, which knows how to play the ‘harmony’ card as and when it suits the purpose.

Under the secular but at the same time communitarian model here, every religion is supposed to be kept out of the public sphere of politics, while making a deal with the government to legitimise the authority of its institution over the followers. This may seem like a perfect model for social equilibrium, for each religion is like a tenant that gets to operate within its private space, and people maintain ‘harmony’ by minding their own business, keeping comments on their neighbours within their own walls.

However, the government is in fact more than a landlord, for it not only reserves the right to step in when a religious movement is not in line with ‘national’ interest, it has the state-monitored media as its organ to set off security alarm now and then, as if it is the police protecting one neighbour from another. It creates an atmosphere of fear and distrust among religions and civil society, like in a detention centre. Instead of heart-and-heart intercultural and interfaith dialogue, you should only have ‘national conversation’ with the government.

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Archbishop, blogger clash over report on ISA letter

Archbishop Nicholas Chia is in a war of words with a local blogger over a report that the religious leader had earlier backed a call to abolish the Internal Security Act (ISA), which allows detentions without trial.

On his blog on Thursday, blogger Alex Au defended his post two days earlier where he cited second-hand reports that Chia, who heads the Catholic Church in Singapore, had sent and later retracted an unsolicited letter of support to a group organising an anti-ISA rally.

In a media statement carried on the Straits Times on Wednesday, Chia confirmed he had sent such a letter to an activist group called Function 8, but he explained that he decided to withdraw it as the “contents did not accurately reflect my views on the subject” and “may inadvertently harm the social harmony in Singapore”.

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OPINION: Mainstream media endeavour to make a villain out of whistleblower Alex Au?

Raviphilemon.net, 22 Sep 2012
The same reporters who hounded Alex for a response when they got wind that the Archbishop was going to release a statement in response to Alex's blog post, became timid pussy cats when the Ministry came out with its press statement.

Why didn't anyone from the mainstream media, who have access to the Minister, hound him for answers to obvious questions...... Full story
Related:
  1. Did the government intervene in Archbishop's support to human rights group? - inSing.com
  2. Three statements from the government, Function 8 and Maruah on the archbishop affair - yawningbread.wordpress.com
  3. What the archbishop did not intend - yawningbread.wordpress.com
  4. Lunch menu a 4-point letter - yawningbread.wordpress.com
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The word respect

So it’s Church and State and Civil Society in this letters saga. Each earnestly using the word “respect’’. I will too.

a. I think we should respect the Archbishop’s decision not to make his letters public. Evidently, he has changed his mind about what he has written – and he is entitled to.

b. I don’t think Function 8’s decision to release its own letter to the Archbishop, despite the redacted parts, respects the Archbishop’s wish to make the communications private. There were phrases would seemed to imply that he agreed with its position on the detentions of the Marxist conspirators. This puts the Archbishop in a bind since he has said he won’t make his own letters public.

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Archie goofed? Saboed? Tea cup storm ensues with credit to no one

I must say the Archbishop has no brains. Otherwise why would he write the original letter. None of church’s biz who the state locks up without trial. And there is the back story of liberation theology and the 1987 “Marxists”. Why get involved? What was he thinking or not thinking? Was he on a high after communion, what with the wine and incense?

Or was he misled into signing the letter? Some liberation theology, Marxist subversive friend of Function 8 and the SDP could have slipped the letter in among other letters to be signed. If so church shld root out the subversive. Call in ISD if nec. Even so shows Archie was careless. And a bad judge of character.

If anyone doesn’t know what I’m talking about, read this summary: http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/1227305/1/.html
And waz this other rubbish Archie?

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Did the government intervene in Archbishop's support to human rights group?

inSing.com, 22 Sep 2012
STATE INTERVENTION?
When asked if the “media” in its statement refers to the blog by Mr Au or the mainstream press, Ms Braema Mathi, president of Maruah, said: “We meant online media, which, yes, would refer to blogs as well. It is immaterial how the news leaked. The leak was not the fault of the recipient of the news, whether the party is the traditional print and broadcast media or alternative media. We have to respect that space and not say we love it when it suits us, and hate it when it doesn’t.”

Maruah said in its statement that it is “still clueless as to whether there was intervention by the State” in making Archbishop Chia take back his letter “and if so, on what grounds and to what extent”.

Ms Mathi said: “The matter has come out in public and we have to deal with it and move on. We still want to have an internal dialogue with the relevant authorities. There are so many minefields around us and we want to understand and find out why. It has been what we wanted in the first place. The work of our group goes on, such as proposing a commission of inquiry to review the detentions under the ‘Marxist conspiracy’.” Full story
Related:
Activist group denies it was ‘disrespectful’ to Archbishop - Yahoo! News Singapore

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What are the real reasons behind Archbishop Chia retracting his letter of support for human rights group?

Yawningbread.wordpress.com, 21 Sep 2012
Three press statements were issued on Thursday, 20 September 2012, and I am archiving them here for the record. However, I will begin with a short commentary on the statement issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs. This ministry includes within it the Internal Security Department. Teo Chee Hean (mentioned in Lunch menu a 4-point letter) is the minister with oversight of this ministry.

The first thing you would notice is that the second paragraph of this statement is consistent with my account of events that mentioned a lunch meeting with the Archbishop. In fact, with so many statements flying around, it is indeed notable that none deny the sequence of events that I have published. Full story
Also read:
Related:
  1. Archbishop, blogger clash over report on ISA letter - Yahoo! News Singapore
  1. Church and govt respond to blogger's claims of "hidden events" - inSing.com
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Press Release on MHA Statement

We refer to the press release of MHA of 20 Sep 2012. MHA alleged that Function 8 is disrespectful towards Archbishop Nicholas Chia of the Catholic Church. This is untrue. The allegations have attempted to set F8 against the church. The Archbishop had withdrawn the letter sent to the organisers of the commemoration event of Operation Spectrum. To date, as far as we know, this letter has not surfaced in public. We have obviously respected the wishes of the head of the Catholic Church by not publicizing the contents of his letters.

In our response dated 1 June 2012 to the letter of withdrawal by His Grace, we sought his clarifications over several questions: How did he come to the conclusion that there is an ulterior motive to use his unsolicited letter outside of the event? Doesn’t justice require a hearing from all sides? And should we copy our letter to the person who was copied in his letter of withdrawal?

More than three months have passed and we have not heard from the Archbishop.

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Archbishop Nicholas Chia: I withdrew letter for social harmony's sake

The head of the Catholic Church confirmed last night that he had written to an activist group backing its call to abolish the Internal Security Act – but withdrew the letter later fearing it could affect Singapore’s social harmony.

Archbishop Nicholas Chia told The Straits Times that he had retracted the letter sent to the group Function 8, as he was concerned that it would be used “in a manner that I did not intend”.

The response came a day after blogger Alex Au said on his site Yawning Bread that the Archbishop had written to Function 8 ahead of a June rally against the ISA.

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What the archbishop did not intend

Sometimes, people respond to a hole by digging a deeper one. Archbishop Nicholas Chia of the Catholic Church issued a press statement at around 10:30 pm last night in response to my post Lunch menu a 4-point letter. I only heard about it from reporters, and at the time of writing this, have not seen a copy of the press statement he issued.

According to the Straits Times: The head of the Catholic Church in Singapore has confirmed that he wrote to an activist group backing its call to abolish the Internal Security Act (ISA) – but withdrew the letter later fearing it could affect the country’s social harmony.

Archbishop Nicholas Chia, 73, yesterday said he had retracted the letter to Function 8 after he reflected on it and became concerned it could be used “in a manner that I did not intend”. [snip]

Last night, Archbishop Chia sent The Straits Times a one-page response, saying the fact that the incident had come to light confirmed his fears. “Au’s article confirmed my fear that the group would use my letter in a manner that I did not agree with, and make use of the Office of the Archbishop and the Catholic Church for their own ends,” he said.

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Forum 8 and Alex Au sabo Archbishop Nicholas Chia

Marxist Plot 1987 redux. Then Catholic Archbishop was summoned by Big Bro to have a tea session over his wayward sheep, The Marxist Conspirators. Fast forward to 26 years later, it is another Catholic Archbishop, Nicholas Chia, who got summoned. Alex Au reports in his blog - Lunch menu a 4-point letter

Here's the Archbishop's side of the story. As reported by the Straits Times. Catholic Archbishop withdraws letter to abolish Internal Security Act


Note that the letter from the Archbishop was supposed to be a private matter and only two groups (Forum 8 and Maruah) knew about it. So who leaked it to Alex Au, and why did Alex make it public, when he knows it was a private letter not to be made public?

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Archbishop slams blogger Alex Au, Function 8 and MARUAH over article

The head of the Catholic Church has criticised a prominent blogger Alex Au and the organisers of a rally against the Internal Security Act (ISA) over a blog post which suggested that he was pressured by the Government into retracting a letter he had previously sent to the event organisers – expressing support for the event.

Alex Au had on Tuesday, wrote a lengthy critique on his blog of what he described as the Government’s “arm-twisting” of Archbishop Nicholas Chia.

Mr Au wrote that based on “second-hand” accounts, Archbishop Chia had sent a “warmly-worded” letter to the event organisers – civil society groups Function 8 and Maruah – only to later send a second letter to withdraw his statements, supposedly after pressure from the Government.

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I support ISA, I don’t support ISA

This new controversy now has four members in the ring, Function 8, Maruah, the Catholic Church and the MHA. Apparently the Archbishop had sent two letters to Function 8 and Maruah in support of abolishing ISA sometime in June this year before the small rally in Hong Lim.

Now the Archbishop’s letters, content not disclosed yet, is mentioned in the open by Alex Au after the former retracted his letter, and presumably the support for the cause. One side is saying that the Archbishop was pressured by MHA to withdraw. The Archbishop is saying that he feared his letters could be misused for the wrong reasons or causes.

Now we have a new dispute on top of abolishing the ISA. What is happening behind closed door that is leading to this controversy? I believe the truth would slowly creep out and there will be more red faces.

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Maruah-Alex pair, the devil between Function 8 and His Grace

While two parties within the Catholic Church slug it out, accusing each other who's the guy who betrayed the trust and leaked Archbishop Nicholas Chua's letter, the devil who did it slides away, sniggering and laughing from the sidelines, enjoying the show.

That's how evil works. It slips into society, causes mayhem and confusion, then slides away when the job is done, rejoicing his works from afar.

Members of Function 8, wake up! Know who are the real backstabbers who did you in. They are:

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Alex Au is irresponsible and disrespectful by that logic
"It is also well within Alex Au’s right to surface the issue though it was disrespectful to the Archbishop." - Dr Gillian Koh/Senior Research Fellow - Institute of Policy Studies (link: http://bit.ly/OIBAZh)
"I am not sure transparency is the key element that should be respected in this tangle." - Bertha Henson - Former Associate Editor - The Straits Times (Link: http://bit.ly/UAm0yC)
What?! It's within Alex's right to surface the issue even if it was disrespectful?! Transparency may not be the key element in this tangle?! I can't believe what I had read from the senior researcher of a government think tank and the former editor of the mainstream media. But should I have expected anything else?

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