CHC Service 3-4 September 2016 / photo: CHC Facebook

Where is the sound judgment in CHC court trial? Executive member finally speaks

Calvin Ho, Executive Member of City Harvest Church speaks out on the ongoing appeal of members in his church.

“I am writing this because the whole of City Harvest Church, and all its international affiliate churches, as well as the discerning and learned public, now more than ever, need a loud, truly convincing, and totally defensible answer from the establishment to demonstrate sound moral judgment and consistency of its acts.”

“I am writing this, because as an Executive Member of CHC, I can no longer see this unprecedentedly protracted court case go so wrong in the eyes of my conscience, and so unjustified in so many aspects, and to-date still delivers an awful lack of convincing balance of sound, good-conscience judgment.”

The defense senior counsels and lawyers of the six accused had, since 2014, called for a ‘no case to answer’, which to me was reasonable and justifiable. The basis of good legal law is always to fundamentally provide good moral guidance, fairness, protection, deterrence, and sound judgment. It is never for using it as a form of the letter to bind, punish for the sake of punishing, or for personal selfish motive or political gain.

Moreover, I see a widespread inconsistency in the state of affairs in our country that makes accepting the prosecution of these six accused church leaders all the much harder.

Let me call out the obvious that is so wrong, in the whole scheme of things, and with a beholding of the state of affairs in this country I observe, as a total human-citizen-Christian-CHC Executive Member observer.

1.First, the biggest question: where is the legal basis for criminal breach of trust the State Prosecution and Media combined have sensationalized to epic proportions?

As the defense Senior Counsel Mr. Maniam stated and pointed to the then Judge See Kee Oon on the penal code of criminal breach of trust (and I am not trained in law and so pardon me if I miss a bit on academic intelligence or intellectual competence), that Section 405 of The Penal Code states, “Whoever, being in any manner entrusted with property, or with any dominion over property, dishonestly misappropriates or converts to his own use that property, or dishonestly uses or disposes of that property in violation of any direction of law prescribing the mode in which such trust is to be discharged, or of any legal contract, express or implied, which he has made touching the discharge of such trust, or willfully suffers any other person to do so, commits ‘criminal breach of trust’.”

As pointed by Senior Counsel Maniam, and with the case scenario examples presented (that I would not illustrate here), it was evident none of the six accused persons misappropriated property or funds to their personal gain, and so it was firmly established there was no clear criminal breach of trust committed, but yet the trial judge See Kee Oon did not even deal with this salient point as a matter of judgment.

How am I as a human, as a citizen of this country, as a Christian and member of CHC, accept this when it is so materially lacking?

2. Who is the State Prosecution to tell the Church, its members and its leaders if they should or should not direct their building fund money to invest in a Crossover love outreach mission, if their Church Constitution already empowers the Management Board and leaders to do so?

Of course, now in hindsight, due to the magnitude of the sum of money involved and the extent of the mission size now laid more openly to many members’ realization, the church members would have now in hindsight loved to be more consulted to decide on the merits of such risks to be taken, but why did the State Prosecution side-step the glaring fact that the CHC Church Constitution already empowered the Management Board and Leaders to make investment decisions, whether using Building Fund or not, or General Fund or not?

Where is the legal or moral basis for the State Prosecution to interfere? The citizens of the country were not even given transparent answers on why our many Town Councils invested in risky collapsing Lehman Brothers stocks during the 2008 subprime crisis period, and why they are allowed to divert large funds to invest in such instruments, and lost millions.

Has there been any investigation, much less anyone prosecuted? (And I shall stop and not go there further on this or it’s another can of worms.)

3. If the six charged and accused CHC leaders were swindlers and cheated of the Church members of their hard earned money, then why not haul all the 500 Executive Members to come testify and witness? Why were no victims called to testify? Why has even no Church Management Board Members been called to testify?

This to me is so lop-sided and absurd as it is, as I see the establishment calling out witnesses as they deem fit yet in their choice of witness not a single witness to date was convincing in their total witness testimony that any of the six accused did wrong that is worthy of criminal charge and punishing jail terms.

Did not the public know all the supposed strong witnesses called to the court stand to witness for the prosecution case build-up actually all turned out to be not entirely supportive of the prosecution’s case? Yes the general public is none the wiser because the mainstream media is more sensationalized than objective or truly informative oftentimes.

How can you only called selective witnesses when the Prosecution believes all Church members have been cheated of its money and also the Management Board were not told the truth by these six?

How could you so neglect people like me who is an Executive Member for almost 15 years (in my estimation of years) as witness, and I am just one of the hundreds?

Why no Management Board member was asked to witness if they were cheated? How could you prove a case convincingly when such vitally key witnesses are not called?

Does it not show starkly this is so lop-sided and overly selective to build a cylinder case with holes on it and water leaking from everywhere?

4. The Prosecution called this the biggest financial fraud and swindle of its kind and such lapses in administration is nothing but a con job schemed by the six leaders.

Yet every year we see government ministries having endless cases of lapses amounting to millions of dollars unaccounted for properly and all you need is one Cabinet minister to stand up in public to declare all these lapses were not result of dishonesty but genuine human errors, with media splashing all over echoing such positive statement, and then the case is closed with no one daring to question publicly otherwise.

Now, not that I claim there is dishonesty there, but what I am saying is – who is going to investigate? Are we sure no one is having private gain? Why not the State Prosecution haul up all these offenders and grill them in court to find out as much as they grill the six CHC accused leaders?

5. What is clear is there is no wrongful gain to any of the six accused leaders of CHC, as convincingly established by the defense counsels, yet the Prosecution, riding on the loud speaker engine of the state media, kept making loud, high sounding, sensationalized quotes such as “Lies! Falsehood!” – which are all so readily lapped up by the public as juicy news-bites.

The general public doesn’t always understand the background details, as bad news and juicy sound bites get all the attention, and not all the important facts are reported.

In conclusion, I seriously beseech the noble office of the State Establishment, to uphold a balanced conscience of judgment of the law, not just for the letter of it, but for the spirit of justice and morality tempered with mercy.

In a state where one is guilty as charged till proven innocent is the order of the day, the poor six accused, perhaps overly ambitious leaders for the sake of their missionary vision yet did not do anything for personal gain, have already suffered more than 5 years of public humiliation, shame, emotional trauma, psychological fear, fierce State prosecution, and jail threats.

They have already received their guilt in full. I do not see justice when they are charged and yet ultimately are still not proven beyond reasonable doubt that they committed criminal breach of trust or caused wrongful loss to the Church or enriched themselves.

They did not administrate their Crossover Project in the best way, yes even found wanting in effectiveness and efficiencies in some areas, but it is by no means a criminal breach of trust.

I peer into the State’s worth of moral standing, and weigh it on the balance as the State weigh the six on the balance. The whole Christian community watches this, as much the non-Christians.

I hope the establishment could make a convincing deliberation to end this unworthy protracted longest court case history in Singapore, where the Prosecution could go as far as the letter simply because the Church was parked under the Charity code of conduct.

It is time for a national rethink perhaps to separate religious organizations from the Charities. The Church is not a charity, period. It is caught in the Achilles heel for law argument sake simply because of the Charity code, but it is definitely a law argument without sound conscience or proper moral reasoning.