Wednesday, 27 September 2023

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Honour in Singapore – Keepers of the “gates”

Honour in Singapore” is a mini series by TOC following the recent formation of the Honour (Singapore) non-profit organisation, made up of distinguished individuals closely related to the government and a far-right Christian group. The series will explore some of their profiles, and bring to light what the group meant by “promoting a culture of honour and honouring” in Singapore.
By Ghui and Howard Lee
Following on from our write ups on Mr Lim Siong Guan and Mr Jason Wong, both board members of the controversial new non-profit organisation Honour (Singapore), we will now take a closer look at the three remaining board members – Mr Richard Magnus, Mr Khoo Oon Theam and Mr Georgie Lee – and what steers the organisation.
To be clear, profiling them should by no means be seen as an attempt to undermine their public position. In fact, our analysis indicates that all of them have contributed positively to society in their own personal capacity. Rather, it is specifically about trying to understand their public position, what possibly influences their public decisions, and how they, collectively as Honour (Singapore), might seek to extend these values into Singapore’s public policy and society.
Government and religious links
Magnus Khoo LeeLike Lim, Magnus is a high profile member of the civil service. Appointed as a member of the Public Service Commission in January 2009, Magnus is a retired senior district judge who has been awarded the Meritorious Service Award for exceptional public service by the State.
In addition, he also holds several public positions, such as chairman for the Casino Regulatory Authority, Public Guardian Board, Political Films Consultative Committee and Bioethics Advisory Committee. He is also a board member Public Transport Council, and an expert member of UNESCO’s International Bioethics Committee. He is also an Alumnus of the National Agenda Council, World Economic Forum.
Like Lim and Wong, Magnus is an active member of the Christian community. For instance, he is an active member of the Singapore Anglican Community Services (SACS) and currently sits on the SACS board. He is also an advisory council member of Full Gospel Business (FGB) Singapore, and chairman of the FGB Strategic Gatekeepers Roundtable and Circles.
Compared to Magnus, Khoo Oon Theam and Georgie Lee have fewer government credentials, but no less of religious ones.
Khoo is perhaps the most publicly vocal in terms of his religions affinities. While Honour (Singapore)’s website describes him as the senior adviser/director of Capelle Consulting, it omits to mention that he is also the President of FGB Singapore.

Combined screen capture from STOnline
Combined screen capture from STOnline
Khoo also seems to be unabashed in professing his affiliation with FGB Singapore. In fact, when Magnus was appointed the chairman of the Public Transport Council, Khoo openly commented on his Facebook page to congratulate Magnus of his public sector appointment, saying, “You are chosen for such a time as this to prevail over the gates.”
Out of the five board members, Lee is the least involved in public service. As the director of UOB Kay Hian, he would be considered a “high flyer” in the corporate world, rather than in the public service. His membership on the board lends Honour (Singapore) credentials in representing the business world.
However, it noteworthy that Lee is concurrently the vice-president of FGB Singapore alongside Khoo, the president. Like Magnus, he is also actively involved in SACS, sitting on its advisory panel for finance.
Professionally, there is very little in common among the three other board members. However, what motivates them in their personal – and to some extent, professional – lives is their common religious focus, which seems to centre on FGB Singapore, or what we know of as the Gatekeepers.
What’s with the “gates” and Gatekeepers?
Indeed, what can Khoo possibly mean when he congratulated Magnus on his PTC appointment? It should be more or less certain that he is not talking about fare gates here.
In fact, the webpage of FGB Gatekeepers outlining its identity gives an idea of what the concept of “gatekeeping” means:

“Our goal is to penetrate the marketplace with that knowledge. The place of action to fulfil this vision is the local fellowship called “Gate” that is held weekly in the workplace. A fellowship is called “Gate” because important life and business decisions take place in this sphere of influence…
Our members are called “Gatekeepers” because they are called and chosen to make a difference in the culture of the marketplace they are in so that the gates of hell shall not prevail over them. At the various Gates, the real life testimonies of our members provide encouragement to the people in the marketplace to choose to live a Spirit-directed life through Jesus Christ.”

More literature on the FGB Singapore website provides greater clarity on how this is done:

Because it is the mandate of Jesus to prevail over the Gates (7). Matthew 16:17-18 and make disciples to disciple the nations. Matthew 28:19-20
Gates and Gatekeepers directly reflect our high calling. Gatekeepers are discipled in all our Gates, namely
Strategic Gatekeepers Roundtables and Circles to transform the culture of nations
Marketplace Gatekeepers to make disciples in the marketplace
Young Gatekeepers are cultural engagers who live out the Kingdom values and culture”

The religious undertones of the Gatekeepers is to be expected, as they are clearly a Christian belief-based organisation. What is more worrying is that its members are called to transpose this belief system into everyday life, reaching into the “culture of nations”, “the marketplace” (presumably meaning the business environment) and youth (where education is implied).
Indeed, can we even avoid drawing parallels between FGB Singapore and Honour (Singapore), when members like Khoo seem to openly endorse the concept of “prevailing over the gates” into a policy arm of the government?
Unlike SACS or Focus on the Family, whose primary function is to serve the community (albeit with a Christian slant), FGB’s sole agenda is evangelistic in nature. While it is the absolute right of the board members of Honour (Singapore) to also be a part of FGB Singapore, it is important to bear in mind that Honour (Singapore) is not technically a Christian organisation.
Why then are the board members actively involved in what can be described as a hard lined Christian society, purporting values to watch over “gates” that constitute Singapore’s political, economic and social life?
As it is, we have more questions than answers about the intentions of Honour (Singapore). All we see is Lim continuing to publicly deny that Honour (Singapore) has any Christian influence, with no further revelation of the NPO’s activities, while his board members have already made clear intentions to infuse the “Christian values” of FGB Singapore into public life. What does this means for Honour (Singapore) as a vehicle in “changing” Singapore society?
Top image – Honour (Singapore) website

The “Honour in Singapore” series includes:

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