Open letter to Archbishop Goh on eulogy to Lee Kuan Yew

Memorial mass for Mr Lee Kuan Yew on 27 March 2015, St Joseph's Church (image - Archdiocese of Singapore)
Memorial mass for Mr Lee Kuan Yew on 27 March 2015, St Joseph’s Church (image – Archdiocese of Singapore)

By Stephen Chang

Archbishop William Goh’s eulogy on Lee Kuan Yew published on the website of the Singapore Catholic Church on 27 March under the title “The Founding Father as a Befitting Title given to Mr Lee Kuan Yew” was written in his capacity as the Archbishop of Singapore.

If the eulogy was written in Archbishop Goh’s private personal capacity I would not comment as everyone is entitled to his personal views. William Goh is the Archbishop of all Catholics in Singapore. He is within his rightful pastoral duty if he wrote to ask all Catholics to pray for the repose of the soul of LKY. However, he was seriously out of step when he, as leader of the whole Catholic community in Singapore, took the position to elevate LKY to almost a saint. Archbishop Goh must be aware, and if he is not he should be, that not all Catholics in Singapore share the adulation of LKY. Even if the majority does, is Archbishop Goh not the Archbishop of all Catholics in Singapore? Did Jesus ignore the minority?

Archbishop Goh in his eulogy referred to the Marxist conspiracy as a fact. Is the Archbishop not aware that, following Operation Spectrum (against the Marxist conspiracy) in 1987, LKY threatened the Catholic Church, resulting in the Church’s withdrawal of support to those detained without trial, including several workers from the Catholic Church, and that these people were subjected to violence and torture at the hands of LKY’s henchmen? Archbishop Goh’s predecessor, Archbishop Yong, cowered to LKY’s threat by stopping four Catholic priests, who were not among those detained, from carrying out their pastoral work at the behest of LKY who objected to their activities of social work amongst Singaporean and immigrant workers and labelled their work as communist-inspired. Yong subsequently closed down the Justice and Peace Commission and the Geylang Catholic Centre for Foreign Workers on the basis of LKY’s view, without the slightest evidence, that these organisations were infiltrated by communists and communist sympathisers.

Is Archbishop Goh not aware that the Catholic family of Vincent Cheng, who had trained to be a priest and was one of the detainees, felt totally betrayed by Yong. Nicholas Cheng, brother of Vincent, in his writing “That we may dream again” recounted their family experiences when they sought the help of Yong following the detention of Vincent: “Mum and Dad accompanied by Gerard, his wife Anita and myself, together with some of Vincent’s friends visited the Archbishop to seek his help to find out what was really happening. That happened to be the very day when the Archbishop had been summoned earlier for a meeting at the Istana. We were utterly shocked to hear him (Yong) say that he did “not know Vincent” who was working for him (Yong) at the time … one of Vincent’s friends spat on the floor to show his disgust for the head of the Church who had abandoned his sheep”.

Has Archbishop Goh not read the recently published book by Fr G Arotcarena (one of the four priests referred to above) where he recounted that the real intention of Operation Spectrum was to rein in those sections of the Catholic Church that was considered to be too unruly (i. e. critical of social injustices in Singapore through their social work) to toe the line of the authoritarian PAP state.

Is Archbishop Goh not aware that the Far Eastern Economic Review, a publication dedicated to capitalism and not a millimetre near any left wing tendencies, had its circulation restricted because of an article on LKY’s empty allegations about a Marxist conspiracy? What was LKY afraid of that could be revealed in the Far Eastern Economic Review? Every publication on the Marxist conspiracy, other than those controlled by the PAP government, at worst question and at best state that there was no basis for the allegation that there was a Marxist conspiracy. Yet Archbishop Goh in his eulogy referred to the Marxist conspiracy as a fact.

While it is understandable that the Singapore Catholic Church has to tread carefully so as not to be perceived to be on the wrong side of the Singapore government, has Archbishop Goh got to stoop so low and grovel to be a mouthpiece of PAP’s propaganda? Even the Vatican, which kept a deafening silence in the face of Nazi atrocities, some say for its own survival, did not become a mouthpiece of Nazism. So why must Archbishop Goh use his position and the website of the Singapore Catholic Church to promote LKY? Shouldn’t Archbishop Goh keep to the role as the head of an independent religious organisation and ask its faithful to pray for the repose of LKY’s soul without putting that man so very high on the pedestal? Is Archbishop Goh attempting to turn the Singapore Catholic Church into a pillar of the PAP in view of the widespread dissatisfaction of Singaporeans with the PAP in recent years? You would think so if you read Archbishop Goh’s eulogy.

Is Archbishop Goh not aware that LKY detained without trial for 32 years Dr Chia Thye Poh who was not a member of any communist party (5 years longer than Nelson Mandela who at the time of his detention was a member of South Africa Communist Party)? Did the Singapore Catholic Church publish a eulogy on its website following the death in 2012 of Dr Lim Hock Siew who was detained by LKY for almost 20 years? Was not Lim a man of principles, courage, integrity who sacrificed his life for the greater good? Was he not acting in accordance with his conscience? Would not Lim or Chia and many other towering figures of the 1960s, who were ruthlessly and mercilessly crushed by LKY using the full force of the state, have made Singapore a better place for all Singaporeans?

Archbishop Goh, in his eulogy of 1,844 words on LKY, devoted a mere 139 words in one paragraph to LKY’s morally depraved, ruthless persecution of political opponents outside the norm of civilised rule of law. Included in the 139 words, 48 words were devoted to justifying LKY’s ruthlessness on the grounds that it was done “out of his (LKY’s) conviction that that was needed to protect and ensure the survival of” Singapore and that “he (LKY) did what his conscience led him to do for the good of the nation”.

So Archbishop Goh on behalf of the Singapore Catholic Church would condone vile actions of the state and its leaders if the leaders were acting in accordance with their convictions and conscience that tell them such vile actions are good for the nation? So the brutal invasion of Singapore by fascist Japan during the Second World War could be justified because its leaders were acting in accordance with their convictions and conscience and their action was needed to protect the survival of Japan?

I was a Catholic but I have not participated in the Catholic rituals since 1970. However, I have not abandoned the moral principles and values taught by Catholicism. I value the selfless good work done by Catholics. I still have regular dinners, as a small gesture of appreciation and thanks, with Catholic missionaries who were my teachers in the 1950s and 1960s and are now in their eighties.

I am not anti-Catholic, but I am deadly anti those Catholic establishments that choose to side with those who persecute others especially the minorities. Thankfully the present Pope Francis seems to be attempting to expose the hypocrisy of the decadent part of the Catholic Church and lead that part of the Church out of its medieval mindset.

Stephen Chang is currently based in the UK.

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