By Ghui

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?

Surely this is an issue between the Archbishop (or more broadly the Catholic Church) and the activist group. What is the government body’s role in this debacle?  Individual employees of the Ministry of Home Affairs have every freedom to express their opinions in their personal capacity but an official chastisement is certainly unnecessary. Why the government should get involved in what is essentially a private dispute boggles the mind!

Of course, this issue is now one of public concern and the government will no doubt want to be kept apprised of the situation. Be that as it may, is it the government’s role to take sides? This is not some schoolroom fight where the teacher has to step in to tell one party off for being “disrespectful”.

I can understand why the Ministry of Home Affairs would be concerned with events that could upset the religious balance in our city-state but this is hardly one of those! No religious groups are expressing inflammatory remarks nor is any party inciting religious unrest! The only tenuous connection to religion is that one of the parties is an archbishop! This is hardly about religion and raises the question of whether politics have crept into the domain of religion in what is supposed to be a secular system.

To avoid that suspicion, the Ministry of Home Affairs should not get directly involved.