Honour (Singapore), a non-profit organisation (NPO) set up in 2014, says that a speech by one of its directors in a forum in Taipei last year was not made on its behalf.
In response to queries from The Online Citizen (TOC) about Mr Khoo Oon Theam’s speech, Honour (Singapore)’s general manager, Tan Nam Seng, said the NPO was “not aware" of Mr Khoo's speech "until we read of it in The Online Citizen.”
Mr Tan added that Mr Khoo “was obviously not speaking on behalf of Honour (Singapore)”, and “was speaking in his capacity as President of FGB Gatekeepers Singapore.”
Mr Tan was referring to Full Gospel Business (FGB), a Christian organisation of which several founding members of Honour (Singapore), including Mr Khoo, are also involved and who sit on its board.
TOC had earlier reported on the controversial speech which Mr Khoo made in Taipei last year at the “Leadership Forum of Global Chinese Christian Entrepreneurs”.
The theme of the forum was, “Marketplace and Church, Fulfilling Kingdom Mission in Partnership”.
A video of the forum was uploaded online in May 2014, several months before the official launch of Honour (Singapore) in August last year.
In his speech in Taipei, Mr Khoo spoke of how FGB Gatekeepers Singapore has been engaged in what he described as “national landscaping” in Singapore.
This was based on “kingdom principles” and it consists of “two levels” – “one is faith-based, that's like commandos; and the other one is values-based that involve the whole nation and government also."
Mr Khoo also mentioned the “seven gates”, which is a reference to the seven areas of the “marketplace” which followers are urged to “prevail” over.
These are namely: "Arts and Entertainment", "Business and Finance", "Church and Religion", "Distribution and Media", "Education", "Family", and "Government".
Mr Khoo said that “people of stature, head of civil service, judges, richest man in Singapore, people of real influence in society” were involved in the effort.
Mr Khoo explained, in an apparent reference to the “national landscaping” effort:
"The chairman of this is the former senior servant.. chief.. what you call that?.. civil service in the government and today he is the chairman of our Singapore, our government investment funds.”
The “former senior civil servant” which Mr Khoo was referring to is apparently Lim Siong Guan, the former head of the Civil Service and current Group President of the Government Investment Corporation of Singapore (GIC).
Mr Lim is also chairman of Honour (Singapore).
“And these are men who are appearing,” Mr Khoo continued, “people who are head of civil service, head of banks, they are all appearing, the head of the biggest company in Singapore. The richest man in Singapore is being disciple to disciples of nations. And they are humble people. All of a sudden, they say that is a high calling in their lives. And they prevail over all these seven gates. Amen.”
In his entire 19-minute speech, Mr Khoo made reference to FGB Gatekeepers as “we”.
When asked to clarify if he was speaking on behalf of Honour (Singapore) instead, Mr Khoo told TOC:
“I was clearly speaking in Taipei in my capacity as the President of FGB Gatekeepers Singapore. I was invited to speak in that capacity, and could only be speaking in that capacity.”
However, Mr Khoo’s reference to Honour (Singapore) has raised questions of whether he was in fact just speaking as the president of FGB Gatekeepers.
After explaining how this “national landscaping” was being done in Singapore, Mr Khoo then referred to Honour (Singapore) and described it as [the] “foundation” on which such effort is based.
Presenting a slide showing the roles of FGB Gatekeepers and Honour (Singapore) in this “national landscaping” effort, Mr Khoo explained how FGB Gatekeepers were “faith-based commandos”, while Honour (Singapore) was the “value-based” “foundation” for a “national agenda”.
“Gatekeepers, we are the commandos,” Mr Khoo told his audience. “Gatekeepers are faith-based. We cross over Jordan in order to possess the seven nations. Amen. We are the commandos. We are faith-based.”
Mr Khoo then explained the role of Honour (Singapore), using once again the word “we” when he explained the creation of Honour (Singapore).
“We just launched, by the way, what you call Honour (Singapore),” Mr Khoo said.
“This is [the] foundation,” he added.
“I tell you it's a miracle. This is a whole agenda to deal with the whole issue of Singapore. What is the vision for Singapore? What are the values for Singapore to succeed over the next 20, 30 years? What is the moral leadership that we need?”
Mr Khoo made reference to the “seven gates”, and again Honour (Singapore) which, he said, received its Institute of Public Character (IPC) in "one month":
“And we addressed all the seven gates, by the way. And God blessed it, by the way. Many people take one year to get IPC... we got it in one month, by the way. Isn't that wonderful? And the people of stature, the government leaders, the top business people are all into this. And we are [beginning to say] this is a national agenda.”
And this “national agenda” included the belief that “a family is mother and father, man and woman”, Mr Khoo said.
“Not father-and-father-and-son, no. Not mother-and-mother-and-son. It’s father and mother. Amen.”
"And so we declare to the nation, the kingdom of god, in terms of what is kingdom principles over the nations, in Jesus' name,” he said.
In response to TOC’s query on who he was referring to when he said, “We just launched, by the way, what you call Honour (Singapore)”, Mr Khoo explained:
“I must admit this was a rather loose use of the term ‘we’. I meant, in this instance, ‘we’ as meaning ‘Singapore’, the sense of the sentence being that in Singapore, there is a charity foundation called Honour (Singapore) which has just been registered.”
Still, Mr Khoo’s juxtaposition of the roles of FGB Gatekeepers as “commandos” and Honour (Singapore) as a “foundation” for the “national landscaping” effort, in the same slide he presented in the same speech, does cast some doubts on Honour (Singapore)’s claim of being a non-religious or non-faith-based organisation, or that Mr Khoo was speaking only as president of FGB Gatekeepers in Taipei.
It is strange that while Mr Khoo's use of the term "we" throughout his speech had referred to FGB Gatekeepers, he claims that in this instance of how Honour (Singapore) was launched, he was in fact referring to "Singapore" as a whole and not to FGB Gatekeepers.
“We just launched, by the way, what you call Honour (Singapore)." - Was Mr Khoo really referring to "Singapore" when he said "we"?
It would seem that both FGB Gatekeepers and Honour (Singapore) are parts of the same agenda, and their roles complement each other's.
Indeed Mr Khoo himself explained this in his speech;
"So we have got two levels: one is faith-based, that's like commandos; and the other one is values-based that involve the whole nation and government also, in Jesus' name. Amen."
When TOC pointed out to Mr Khoo that his speech may cause members of the Singapore public to have a different impression of Honour (Singapore) than what it claims to be, Mr Khoo said, “I can understand how members of the Singapore public can mistake the context of my remarks.”
As to why he had said in his speech that “god” had “blessed” Honour (Singapore), for example, in its gaining IPC status in “just one month”, Mr Khoo explained that he “[saw] everything in my life as being subject to the sovereignty, direction and blessing of my God.”
“So if Honour (Singapore) makes good progress, I thank God for it,” he said. “This does not make Honour (Singapore) a faith-based organisation or to have a faith-based agenda. It is simply a reflection of how I see my life and all I do in terms of my God.”
Honour (Singapore) itself reiterated that it was not a faith-based organisation.
“Singapore is a secular state,” Mr Tan told TOC. “It can never be appropriate for Honour (Singapore) to approach Singaporean politicians or the government to push a faith-based agenda. Our belief in the value of honour and honouring applies to everyone, irrespective of race, language or religion. Whether one is Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, Taoist, Atheist, or has some other religion, we should be encouraging everyone who seeks the collective and long term well-being of the country.”
All five board members of Honour (Singapore) are involved in and hold various senior positions in FGB Gatekeepers:
Chairman, Lim Siong Guan, Honour (Singapore) - Member of Advisory Council, FGB Gatekeepers
Director, Khoo Oon Theam, Honour (Singapore) - President, FGB Gatekeepers
Director, Jason Wong, Honour (Singapore) - Member of Advisory Council, FGB Gatekeepers
Director, Richard Magnus, Honour (Singapore) - Chairman, Strategic Gatekeeper Roundtable & Circles, FGB Gatekeepers
Director, Georgie Lee, Honour (Singapore) - Director, Strategic Gatekeepers, FGB Gatekeepers
We leave readers to view the 19-minute video of Mr Khoo’s speech and to decide for themselves, and the full email correspondence between TOC and Mr Khoo (please see below).
Email correspondence between TOC and Mr Khoo:
Khoo: I am replying to you on the understanding that you will reproduce my replies in full. Otherwise, we run the danger of quotes and ideas being taken out of context, and instead of your readers understanding the issues better, they end up more confused.
TOC: In that speech in Taipei, you made reference to Honour (Singapore) and how "god blessed it". Could you explain if Honour (Singapore) is a faith-based organisation?
Khoo: To understand my responses to your questions, you must first need to understand my worldview as a Christian. I believe in a personal God, as meaning a God who is interested in my welfare and well-being, and a God who is interested in what is going on in the world and in the welfare of nations. Thus if I am sick, I will pray to Him to heal me. And when I get well, I give Him my thanks and gratitude. Similarly, if my friend were to be sick from a terminal illness for which his doctor says he cannot do anything more, I would still pray for my friend’s recovery. If he is healed, I would consider it a miracle, whereas the doctor may consider him to be simply one of the very rare statistic who recovered for reasons unclear, and the atheist may consider it to be a totally random event. Because my God is interested in everything that is going on in my life and in the world, I would attribute to God everything that happens in my life. Everything is for His praise and my thanks. Thus when things go well with Honour (Singapore), I see it as God blessing it because I believe the virtue of Honour is a critical reason for the success and survival of Singapore since its independence 50 years ago and God has blessed Singapore all these years. This does not at all make Honour (Singapore) a faith-based organisation. What it shows is me living a faith-based life.
TOC: As you are a member of Honour (Singapore) and the president of Full Gospel Business (Singapore), which capacity were you speaking in when you made that speech in Taipei?
Khoo: I was clearly speaking in Taipei in my capacity as the President of FGB Gatekeepers Singapore. I was invited to speak in that capacity, and could only be speaking in that capacity. The reason I know of the happenings with Honour (Singapore) is that I am a member of Honour (Singapore), and I cannot expunge Honour (Singapore) from my memory or my consciousness.
TOC: How shall a member of the public be able distinguish which capacity you are speaking in?
Khoo: I fully appreciate how members of the public may be confused over what I say. I ask for them to understand my worldview as I explain in my answer to your Question (1), a worldview which makes me link everything I do and everything that happens in my life to the work of God. As I have stated in my answer to your Question (2), I could not be speaking in Taipei on behalf of Honour (Singapore).
TOC: Frequently in your speech, you made reference to "we". For example, you said:
"We have got Singapore conversation with the government. We asked the Holy Spirit: what do you want Singapore to be, over the next 20 years? And we asked the Holy Spirit and we wrote to the government: this is what Singapore should be, as led by the spirit of God. Amen."
Khoo: The “we” refers to various members of FGB Gatekeepers Singapore. We have taken the initiative from time to time to approach various government departments and ministers to express our views and offer suggestions on government policies. We do this as citizens of the country who want to see Singapore strong and successful, not only for the present but also for the generations to come. Our access to the government is as citizens, and not by way of special privilege.
TOC: "Engagement with politicians. They want to talk to you. They want to talk to you. So, we meet up with politicians, and we share with them the kingdom values. Amen. And so that is a different values."
Khoo: In our meetings with government departments and ministers, we have been told that the government welcomes our views. This does not mean they always agree with our views, but they have explained that their being aware of the variety of views among Singapore citizens allows them to better formulate or fine-tune their policies to best meet the needs of the country.
TOC: "We just launched, by the way, 'Honour (Singapore)'. This is a foundation.” May I ask who is this "we" which you refer to in these remarks?
Khoo: I must admit this was a rather loose use of the term “we”. I meant, in this instance, “we” as meaning “Singapore”, the sense of the sentence being that in Singapore, there is a charity foundation called Honour (Singapore) which has just been registered. Honour (Singapore) is distinct from FGB Gatekeepers. It is not a Christian organization, unlike FGB Gatekeepers which is a fellowship of Christian believers. Honour (Singapore) is multi-racial and multi-religious, and has an advisory board that has many non-Christians. Everyone associated with Honour (Singapore) believes in its mission of promoting a culture of honour and honouring for the well-being of the nation, and it is purely around this mission that everyone associated with Honour (Singapore) is united.
TOC: Honour (Singapore) has told TOC that "Mr Khoo was obviously not speaking on behalf of Honour (Singapore)" in your speech in Taipei. May we have your response to this?
Khoo: Indeed I was speaking as President of FGB Gatekeepers and not on behalf of Honour (Singapore) or in my capacity as a member of Honour (Singapore). I have explained this in response to your Question (2) above.
TOC: Honour (Singapore) also told TOC: "It can never be appropriate for Honour (Singapore) to approach Singaporean politicians or the government to push a faith-based agenda." Do you think that your speech, in which you also mentioned Honour (Singapore) and used it as an example of how "god" had "blessed" your work, would give members of the public a different impression of what Honour (Singapore) claims to be?
Khoo: I can understand how members of the Singapore public can mistake the context of my remarks. As I have explained in my response to your Question (1), it is important to understand my worldview as a Christian. I see everything in my life as being subject to the sovereignty, direction and blessing of my God. So if Honour (Singapore) makes good progress, I thank God for it. This does not make Honour (Singapore) a faith-based organisation or to have a faith-based agenda. It is simply a reflection of how I see my life and all I do in terms of my God.