EXPLANATORY NOTE FOLLOWING RECENT COMMENTS ON HONOUR (SINGAPORE)
Dear Donors and Friends of Honour (Singapore),
Yawning Bread, a social commentary website, published a blog on 1 April 2016 titled “Cup of honour runneth over.” The blog cast doubt on various aspects of Honour (Singapore), raising again presumed connections with FGB Singapore, and especially referencing our accounts which we recently published. I have been writing quarterly letters to you to keep you updated on what Honour (Singapore) has been doing, the latest letter having only just been sent on 1 April 2016. Nevertheless, I feel it necessary to write this special note to address the main issues raised in the Yawning Bread blog so that you can be no doubt that Honour (Singapore) will always act honestly, sincerely and honorably in all its doings. Ours is not a Christian agenda: it cannot be, if we are to do good for everyone in Singapore, irrespective of race or religion.
While I can understand why the blog raised the particular issues it did, it clearly was written with a heavy dose of scepticism and mistrust. Even so, it is appropriate that I try to explain as much as I can. As a starting point, however, I should say that it would be a very sad day for Singapore if a Singaporean is thwarted, shouted down or discouraged from doing good for the country because he happens to be a Christian. We are a multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-religious society in which all Singaporeans, regardless of background or belief, should actively seek the well-being of the nation. It is truly remarkable that social harmony has been maintained despite our diversity. Indeed a recent Pew Research survey found Singapore to be the most religiously diverse country in the world.
Honour (Singapore) is focused on the nation. Its purpose is to promote a culture of Honour and Honouring for the well-being of the country, in the two dimensions of being a people who Honour Our Word, and who Honour Each Other despite the diversity and, possibly, even sharp differences in our views on various issues. We should at least be united in our desire to do whatever good we can, within our own understanding and in our own way, for the long-term interest of Singaporeans.
Honour (Singapore) began as an effort among a group of friends who believed that Honour is a virtue critical for the sustained success of the country. It is true the initial Board of Directors of Honour (Singapore) Ltd were my friends who were all members of FGB Singapore, and that, in order to get the process moving quickly, Honour (Singapore) began with administrative support from FGB Singapore. The support, including office space, from FGB Singapore was rightly paid for by Honour (Singapore) as Honour (Singapore) is not an activity of FGB Singapore. Our payment to FGB Singapore for this support is shown in our accounts. The support went on until Honour (Singapore) moved to its current office in Central Square in May 2015 at which point all administrative support from, and payments to, FGB Singapore ceased.
As for the Board of Directors of Honour (Singapore), Mr Khoo Oon Theam, Mr Georgie Lee and Mr Jason Wong, who were all members of FGB Singapore, resigned in February 2016. I had informed you of this in my letter of April 2016, as well as introduced the new members of the Board.
The Board of Honour (Singapore) today comprises four persons: Haji Mohamad Alami Musa, Head of Studies in Inter-Religious Relations in Plural Societies Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, and also non-executive President of the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS); Mrs Fang Ai Lian, who chairs the Board of Trustees of the Singapore Business Federation besides holding a number of other board and public appointments (Both Ambassador Alami and Mrs Fang were previously members of the Panel of Community Advisors of Honour (Singapore)); Mr Richard Magnus, who has been a Board member from the beginning and was previously Singapore’s Senior (now termed Chief) District Judge; and me as the fourth member and Chairman of the Board.
The Yawning Bread blog pointed out that Honour (Singapore) had received (just) over a million dollars in donations. To us, this represents the breadth of support for the message of Honour to be promoted for the well-being of Singapore. It also underlines the deep responsibility we now have to deliver on the hopes and wishes of friends and donors like you.
The blog asks what work has been undertaken by Honour (Singapore). I have kept you apprised of what we have been doing, and I refer you again to my letter of April 2016 for a comprehensive description. The letter, as also previous quarterly letters, is pubIished at www.honour.sg.
Our most important activity this far has been supporting the production of short films centred on the theme of “Honouring the Invisible People”, these being people whose work we benefit from e.g. construction workers, nurses, bus drivers, lift attendants, domestic helpers, and so on, people who are around but whom we often do not notice or even express appreciation to. The films which are ready are available from the honour.sg website, while some more are in production. The stories are, by and large, easy to understand by themselves, and we have been showing them to various audiences. The purpose is simple – if the films sensitize us to honour and appreciate the good work of everyone around us, Singapore will be a better place for all of us and this would be another step to being the gracious society so many Singaporeans yearn for. Honour (Singapore) is happy to share these films with anyone who may find it useful for making us all better as human beings.
My letter next described the Honour International Symposium which will be held on 19 and 20 May 2016. This will feature up to 15 speakers, both Singaporean and international, who will share their views on why Honour is important for winning in business, leadership, family, relationships and life. It is right and fair to charge for participation in a conference of international standard given the quality and diversity of the speakers and content. We also see advantage in participants staying in as the programme is very tight and there is also benefit in informal interaction among them. Our target are the influencers in businesses and organizations who have the “position power” to initiate change in their organizations should they find the message of Honour useful for the success of their respective enterprises. We have decided to organise it on a “by invitation only” basis so that participants may be assured of the experience and background of others who may be attending. Our invitations have included civil servants, as the message of Honour is as relevant for government as for other aspects of life and business, though we would fully understand it if they do not consider it worth their attending. Honour has been a central reason for Singapore’s success over the last 50 years, and the government has been a critical part of this. Nevertheless, our invitations have overwhelmingly gone to business leaders.
My letter to you had next described a “toolkit” which we will be ready to make available in a matter of months for the use of businesses and organizations who think they can benefit from materials we have put together to explain and communicate Honour for life and work.
We continue to hold talks and discussion sessions with CEOs and civil society and other leaders, on what we believe about Honour and to express our willingness to work with them if they feel that we can be of help in convincing their employees and members about the matter. As the Yawning Bread blog has pointed out, we do not appear to have done a lot. We indeed want to do more, but our resources are limited and we, unfortunately, are able to focus on just a few major activities at this time. Our manpower resources are extremely small, and we use supporters, contractors and consultants to help us meet our multiple needs, like producing the toolkit, planning and organising the Honour International Symposium, designing and maintaining our website, reaching out to multiple audiences, and so on.
We would be happy to respond to specific questions and issues. It would be much better if those who write the blogs or have other views would communicate with us directly, rather than simply write on the basis of assumptions and presumptions which may not be true. For example, I notice one of the comments responding to the Yawning Bread blog stated “his bible study group is well attended, with cars parked chock a block on the street where he lives on such evenings.” The fact simply is that I do not host bible study meetings in my home at all.
Thank you for your patience in reading through this long letter. I had simply felt an obligation to at least explain the true situation to you, our donors and friends, in view of the scepticism and innuendos contained in the Yawning Bread blog.
With best regards,
Lim Siong Guan