Spoof Facebook page misquotes Shanmugam, says press secretary

Those behind Nussu-NUS Students United bent on sowing discord and hatred, he adds

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

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 yesterday.

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".

The page, in a July 5 pinned post, says it is one of several pages parodying the National University of Singapore Students' Union, or Nussu.

The union's real Facebook page is called NUS Students' Union.

In its post on Nov 17, the page 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?"

Mr Goh said the post misused this quote to falsely assert that if People's Action Party member Rachel Ong wants to run for elections, she should "resign ALL executive positions with ROHEI, an organisation with religious leanings".

Mr Goh said this directly contradicts what the minister had said in Parliament.

The minister had said that Members of Parliament and even ministers can hold positions in religious organisations.

He said that Mr Shanmugam had said that there have been ministers and MPs who were lay preachers or who held 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 the quote on separation of religion and politics relates to a different point the minister had made, on the fact that religious beliefs should not and cannot be the basis for public policymaking.

He also said the post had taken a quote of the late founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew out of context to mislead people.

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."

Mr Goh said that while Singapore is a secular state, it is not anti-religion or disallows people of faith to take part in politics.

He also noted that the Facebook page is not the official page of the National University of Singapore's students' 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.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 23, 2019, with the headline 'Spoof Facebook page misquotes Shanmugam, says press secretary'. Subscribe