Is COC actions justifiable?

By a concerned church member of City Harvest Church

I would like to share my thoughts and views on the recent press statement released by the Commissioner of Charities (COC) on Tuesday 9th April 2013, as well as the article published on on the same day in Straits Times, on the proposal to remove the 8 City Harvest Church (CFC) individuals from their posts.

As a citizen of this country and a member of the church, I am dismayed and disappointed with the unfair, unjust and underhanded tactics employed by the COC, and the message that the COC has sent out.

The purpose of the Charities Unit is to facilitate self-regulation within the charity sector to maintain public confidence and support. However, I opine that the COC has not had sufficient consideration to the realities and differences faced by City Harvest Church vis-a-vis other charities and IPCs.

1) The Church as a Family

As members, we understood, supported and endorsed the Crossover Project. We spoke with our votes. We contributed willingly and we have seen the fruits of our leaders’ labour. We view our leaders as spiritual parents and we trust them to manage all matters and decisions pertaining to the vision, mission of the Church, and the well-being of our members. What we have given is therefore placed under the care of the Church, whose Board had been elected by us, the members, as the Trustees.

Hence I do not understand why is it then that the COC feels the need to “protect” our church’s assets? In what way, are our assets at risk that it requires protection? What exactly is the magnitude of the danger? The COC was quoted in the 9th April ST article saying, “This is not against the charity and has nothing to do with religion or religious practices”. The fact is that City Harvest is a Church. It is a religious place with religious members following religious practices.

To be fair, has the COC been with the Church since it started? Did the COC attempt to understand the workings of the Church? Why is this paternalistic treatment given? As a member, I felt that this is really an infringement of our family matters.

2) Lack of empathy and compassion

As (spiritual) family members, we have been prohibited from helping the 9 with their legal fees. These leaders have aged parents and young children to feed, medical and school fees to pay, bills to take care of. They were called to serve as staff of the Church and this is their life’s mission. It is not a random job that they have chosen.

They had been suspended since 2012 – their source of income had been cut off and will continue in this position until the conclusion of the matter (that is, when the results of the trail is determined). The jobless in Singapore can seek assistance from their MPs. However, I sincerely doubt that help from any government body would be extended to them at this point in time because of the impending trial.

I wonder if the COC is going so much by the book in it’s quest to “becoming a proactive and pre-emptive charity advisory” (one of their strategic objectives), that it denies these 8 individuals their fundamental responsibility as parent – to provide for their children, and their filial piety – to provide for their aged parents?

If their source of income is cut off and they are denied financial help from the (spiritual) family members, and restricted from financial help from government bodies, and all savings are used towards the legal fees – is it not akin to casting judgement upon their (natural) family members too?

3) Unfair, Unjust and Underhanded tactics

It was communicated to the 9 suspended individuals (Ms Ho Yeow Sun included) on 28 December 2012 that the COC would defer the next stage of any regulatory action should they collectively agree to a voluntary extension of their suspension orders until 6 months after the conclusion of the criminal trial. This proposal was (I quote from COC’s press release) “to allow the affected parties time to focus on the criminal proceedings, and also to have sufficient time to make their case during the removal process, should they decide to.”

On 14 March 2013, the premise (of the collective agreement) of the agreement to the voluntary suspension was changed.

These 9 individuals had no control over each other if the rest would accept an extension of their suspension voluntarily because this was a personal choice, which any human with a free will, has the right to decide and choose. If the COC had been able to extend the deadline for the consent twice before when a collective agreement was not reached, why is there a need to proceed to the next stage of the process (that is, removal) now when there is still a lack of collective agreement? How could COC allow the premise of the agreement to be changed? Isn’t an agreement to be honoured? Is this not considered foul play?

If it is within COC’s authority to mete out the suspension, and to grant extensions of the deadline for consent, is it not also within the COC’s ability to extend the suspension rather than to remove the individuals from office? COC claims that this move is to protect the assets of the Church. I question how does a change from “suspension” to “removal” better protect our assets? What dangers/risks did these leaders pose when they are suspended from last year till now, as compared to them being removed? If the COC is unable to produce evidence of the said dangers/risks, then there is absolutely no grounds for the removal of the 8 individuals. I do hope that the COC did not change the rules simply because of expediting the matter or for worse, to reduce any paperwork involved in another extension of the suspension.

In conclusion, I fail to understand how the COC’s intended actions are justifiable in the removal of the 8 individuals.


This letter was sent in via Readers Contribution.