NUSSU spoof page misquotes Shanmugam on religion and politics; bent on sowing discord and hatred, says minister's press secretary

The Nov 17 post on the NUSSU - NUS Students United Facebook page. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE - A post by a Facebook page spoofing a local university group has misleadingly quoted Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam, his press secretary said on Friday (Nov 22).

Mr Goh Chour Thong, press secretary to the Minister for Home Affairs, also said that those behind the NUSSU - NUS Students United page have no integrity and are "bent on sowing discord and hatred".

In its post on Nov 17, the page had quoted Mr Shanmugam as having said in Parliament on Oct 7: "If we do not separate religion from politics, then whose religion comes into politics?"

The post goes on to say that People's Action Party member Rachel Ong should "resign ALL executive positions with ROHEI, an organisation with religious leanings" if she wants to run for elections.

This is a false assertion and a misuse of Mr Shanmugam's words which directly contradicts what the minister had said in Parliament, said Mr Goh.

He cited what Mr Shanmugam had said - that there have been ministers and MPs who were lay preachers, or hold senior positions in a religious organisation, as was within their rights.

"The minister did not say that a political candidate running for elections, or an MP, must resign from all executive positions in organisations with religious leanings," said Mr Goh.

"In fact he said the very opposite, that they can continue to hold such posts, and as he said, these things must be dealt with wisdom and common sense."

Mr Goh noted that the quote on separation of religion and politics relates to different point that the minister had made, on the fact that religious beliefs should not and cannot be the basis for public policymaking.

The press secretary also said the post had quoted late founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew misleadingly.

At the 1987 National Day Rally, Mr Lee had said: "Churchmen, lay preachers, priests, monks, Muslim theologians, all those who claim divine sanctions of holy insights, take off your clerical robes before you take on anything economic or political. Take it off."

The post misuses Mr Lee's quote to falsely assert that he had meant that religious leaders have no political rights, said Mr Goh.

"Mr Lee was actually saying that religious leaders who wanted to make political statements should not do so in their capacity as religious leaders," he said. "Instead, they should enter the political arena as politicians, and give their views."

In his statement, Mr Goh said that while Singapore is a secular state, it is not anti-religion. He also noted that the Facebook page is not the official page of the National University of Singapore's student union, and the name "appears to have been disingenuously chosen" and could mislead readers.

Those who launch attacks from behind the anonymity of the Internet should be more ethical, transparent and not mislead and peddle in falsehoods, he said.

"Be transparent also about your political leanings, so that readers can judge for themselves what weight to place on your view."

"The name as well as its deliberately misleading posts shows the site is run by people with no integrity, bent on sowing discord and hatred," added Mr Goh.

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