The Press Secretary to the Minister of Home Affairs, Goh Chour Thong, issued a statement in the evening of Nov. 22 in response to Facebook posts by NUSSU - NUS Students United.
He said that NUSSU had "misleadingly" quoted Minister for Home Affairs K Shanmugam in their graphic to give a "false impression" of what he said.
NUSSU is not the official Facebook group of NUS's actual Students' Union, nor its affiliates.
On Nov. 17, NUSSU shared the following graphic:
Quoted Lee Kuan Yew
They also shared a quote from the late Lee Kuan Yew, said at the 1987 National Day Rally:
"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 then continued:
"Yes, we won't hesitate to call out anyone whom we feel crosses this line, regardless of party affiliation. Consider yourselves warned."
They also tagged the Facebook pages of a number of political parties, including the PAP, the WP, PSP, and politician Lim Tean.
Rachel Ong and ROHEI
NUSSU said that Rachel Ong Sin Yen, a potential PAP candidate for Parliament, had to resign from executive positions in ROHEI before running for elections as politics and religion should not mix.
The ROHEI foundation includes a Bible verse on its website.
However, Goh's statement refuted the assertions made in the first post.
Goh clarified that Shanmugam's quote was intended to make the point that religious beliefs cannot be used as a basis for making public policy.
This is "quite different" from saying that MPs should resign from all positions in organisations with religious leanings.
Shanmugam: MPs can hold positions in religious organisations
Goh elaborated that NUSSU's ultimatum directly contradicted what Shanmugam had said in another part of his statement in Parliament.
Shanmugam had said that Ministers and MPs can in fact hold such positions:
"We have had Ministers, Members of Parliament who were lay preachers. So, they hold senior positions in a religious organisation and who are lay persons who hold other jobs and businesses.
As I have said, they can be Members of Parliament, they can be Ministers and you cannot be saying they cannot exercise their (civil and political) rights."
Goh added that Shanmugam said these issues had to be handled with sensibility, care and wisdom.
Lee Kuan Yew's quote taken out of context
Goh also said that Lee Kuan Yew's quote cited by NUSSU was taken out of context.
He explained that Lee called on religious leaders to enter the political arena as politicians if they wished to make political statements.
They are not forbidden from doing so, but they cannot do so in their capacity of a religious leader.
Goh on NUSSU: Deliberately misleading
Goh pointed out that NUSSU was not officially affiliated with NUS, and said that its name was "disingenuously chosen".
He acknowledged that the group had a disclaimer, but said that it was still "calculated to mislead". Goh said of the group:
"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.
The public ought to be discerning of those who launch such attacks from behind the anonymity of the Internet. Those who launch such attacks should:
1. Be more ethical: Do not peddle in falsehoods.
2. Be more transparent: Do not try and mislead people as to what you really are.
3. Be transparent also about your political leanings, so that readers can judge for themselves what weight to place on your views."
Shanmugam shared the statement on his Facebook page on the same evening. You can see it below:Top image from NUSSU's Facebook page.