'NUSSU' FB page misquotes me on religion and politics: Shanmugam

Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam addresses Parliament on 4 November, 2019. (PHOTO: Parliament screengrab)

SINGAPORE — Minister for Home Affairs and Law K Shanmugam has blasted a social media post made by a Facebook page named after a local university group, for misleadingly quoting him.

In a statement on Friday (22 November), Goh Chour Thong, press secretary to the minister, also noted that the page’s name, NUSSU - NUS Students United, appeared to have been “disingenuously chosen” and run by people “with no integrity, bent on sowing discord and hatred”.

The post, published last Sunday, had quoted Shanmugam as having said in Parliament on 7 October during his wrap-up speech for the second reading of the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Amendment Bill, “If we do not separate religion from politics, then whose religion comes into politics?”

The quote was posted along with a call for Rachel Ong, a member of the ruling People’s Action Party, “to resign all executive positions with ROHEI, an organisation with religious leanings”.

Goh said that the quote was misused and that the minister had said Members of Parliament (MPs) and even ministers can hold positions in religious organisations, while addressing concerns raised by Workers’ Party chief Pritam Singh on 7 October.

“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,” said Goh.

The quote used in the Facebook post was made by Shanmugam to point out that “religious beliefs should not and cannot be said to be the bases for public policymaking”, he added.

The post also quoted former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew “out of context to further mislead” readers, said Goh.

The quote, made at the 1987 National Day Rally, did not mean that religious leaders had no political rights but rather that when they want to make political statements, they should not do so in their capacity as religious leaders, he explained.

“Singapore is a secular state. We do not have an established or official religion. Nor do we allow anyone to use his or her religion for political purposes or any group to promote a religion in the political arena,” Goh added.

But that does not mean Singapore is “anti-religion” or that the city-state “disallows” people of faith to participate in politics, he said.

A copy of Goh’s statement was shared on Shanmugam’s Facebook page.

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