Cup of honour runneth over

The Initiatives landing page of its website has a picture of a man with outstretched arms, forming a figure not dissimilar from a crucifix. The pose resembles Christ the Redeemer, the icon of Rio de Janeiro.

Screengrab of Honour Singapore's website landing page, 1 April 2016

Screengrab of the Initiatives page of Honour Singapore’s website, 1 April 2016

 

Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro

Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro

The non-profit company called Honour Singapore was in the news in August 2014 when questions were asked whether it was yet another religious group in wolf’s clothing, you know, like Focus on the Family Singapore, which claims it is a secular organisation with no “Christian” agenda. Certainly, Honour Singapore’s very name contains a dogwhistle word (“honour”) beloved by devotees and modern crusaders of conservative evangelical Christianity — which, by the way, I consider a misnomer. I prefer to call this religion American Pseudo-Christianity, for a simple reason: there’s nothing very Christian about its belief system, worldview, and desire for power.

In August 2014, Kirsten Han wrote a searching piece for Yahoo, worth reading again, Not religious? Honour (Singapore) still has much to prove:

It was quickly pointed out that Honour (Singapore) had some interesting connections: four out of five of the members on Honour (Singapore)’s board are also on the board of Full Gospel Business (FGB) Singapore. The fifth member of the board is Jason Wong from Focus on the Family, the Singapore branch of a conservative evangelical Christian organisation from the United States.

Honour (Singapore) is also registered to the same address as FGB Singapore.

According to its website, FGB Singapore’s goal is to “penetrate the marketplace” with the knowledge of God and Jesus Christ.

— Yahoo news, 20 Aug 2014, Not religious? Honour (Singapore) still has much to prove

A few days before Kirsten’s piece was published, the Straits Times helpfully carried Honour Singapore founding chairman Lim Siong Guan’s denial.

The people behind a new group lobbying for a culture of honour came together as friends, said its chairman Lim Siong Guan, downplaying their common Christian ties.

Mr Lim, who is also the group president of Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC, said: “A group of us who have known each other for many years and who all think the same way about wanting Singapore to be a place of peace and stability, decided to set up Honour Singapore.”

“Honour Singapore is not a Christian or religious organisation…

“We are not an advocacy group on issues of Government or public policies,” he added, in response to queries from The Straits Times.

— Straits Times, 15 Aug 2014, Honour Singapore addresses online flak for its Christian board members

Kirsten’s Yahoo story also carried Lim’s denial,

“Honour (Singapore) is not a Christian organisation or a religious group. We have to be judged by what we do…”

— Yahoo news, 20 Aug 2014, Not religious? Honour (Singapore) still has much to prove

* * * * *

“Judged by what we do” have the ring of famous last words. To begin with, there was a huge launch party held at the Fullerton Hotel. As Kirsten Han had pointed out, what real-life NGO starts with such chandeliered hobnobbing? (my words, not hers)

I don’t have the time to monitor their every move, but a look at their audited accounts can be quite revealing nonetheless. Here are the key numbers:

pic_201604_01

What’s salient about these numbers? In the first year of operation, Honour Singapore raked in over a million dollars in donations. Many real-life NGOs, doing valuable work saving animals, tending to disabled children or the terminally ill, or looking out for injured and abused foreign workers, would weep with joy if they had such money.

The cup runneth over

The cup runneth over

Secondly, their expenditure items show nothing much that indicates charitable work. This despite the fact that it is a registered charity enjoying tax exemption. Nor does the website list much. It has a few vague mentions about civil society forums and short films, but no specifics about any particular project or event.

$50,000 in ‘Administrative support fees’ was paid to FGB Gatekeepers Singapore. The notes to the accounts explain it this way: “Administrative support fees paid to FGB Gatekeepers Singapore where the directors are the management committee” — a sentence not altogether easy to parse. The most likely meaning is that the directors of Honour Singapore also constitute the management committee of FGB Gatekeepers Singapore. In other words, money flowed from Honour Singapore to the overtly evangelistic group called FGB, both run by the same people. How does that sound to you?

FGB Gatekeepers Singapore is also a registered charity (UEN number S75SS0053H). However, I cannot find any financial report from its website.

The $50,000 ‘Administrative support fees’ is not the biggest item in Honour Singapore’s accounts.  ‘Consultancy fees’ of $104,000 is twice as large. However, for this item, there were no explanatory notes in the accounts. We cannot see what services were supplied that merited this amount, or who the paid parties were.

At the end of the financial period (31 May 2015), Honour Singapore had a net surplus of three-quarters of a million dollars. It was raking in all this money with no evident use for it.

* * * * *

pic_2016041_02

On 19 and 20 May 2016, Honour Singapore will be back at the Fullerton Hotel. I don’t think you’ll be able to know about this event by surfing the organisation’s website. It can only be seen at a separate domain name, honourinternational.sg. There doesn’t appear to be any hyperlink from the main website. Why? I wonder.

As you can see from there, it’s a one-evening and one-full day symposium with vaporous themes like

  • The importance of honour for the well-being of nations, organisations, families and individuals across cultures and religions
  • Winning with honour in business and leadership
  • Winning with honour in family
  • Winning with honour in life

(no prizes for spotting more dogwhistle words in there)

The fee to attend is S$3,800. It includes a gala dinner  — more champagne under chandeliers? — and two nights’ stay at the Fullerton. Why is accommodation necessary? The Fullerton is barely 200m from Raffles Place MRT station. Perhaps Honour Singapore is thinking of attracting foreigners. But that would be strange since its own mission statement is “To seek the well-being of the nation by promoting a culture of Honour and Honouring” where ‘nation’ presumably means Singapore. Why should it be running an event targetted at foreigners (if indeed the Fullerton event is) if as a charity its work is focussed locally? In any case, if a local guy attended, shouldn’t the cost of the Fullerton stay be a detachable option?

I went to Booking.com, and checked out its price for two nights (19 and 20 May) at the Fullerton. It quoted me S$933 for two nights. That still leaves $2,867 of the $3,800 symposium fee for other things. Like what, I wonder?

pic_201604_05

We may be tempted to laugh it all off. If people want to spend this kind of money, let them — we might say.

But consider this: Lim Siong Guan, the chairman of Honour Singapore and whose name is featured prominently on the symposium site, was the former head of the civil service. He is the current group president of sovereign fund GIC. Should the invitation be sent to various ministries and government agencies to attend, it may prove extremely hard for these departments to decline. Never underestimate the old boy network.

And for each civil servant who attends, where do you think the $3,800 fee will come from? Taxpayer money of course!

 

 

14 Responses to “Cup of honour runneth over”


  1. 1 yuenchungkwong 1 April 2016 at 11:44

    i can think of two analogies: isis, supposedly fighting for muslims, does many things contrary to their religious teaching; “civic organizations” whose main mission being to oppose the government

    • 2 You slut! 1 April 2016 at 23:11

      Actually the kind of things IS does is more or less the kind of thing the protagonists (the Israelites) of the Old Testament (whose stories are also part of the Islamic tradition) do.

      Kill non-combatants after victory (even babies)? It’s there,

      Forcible marriage of girls from vanquished peoples – the ancient Israelites would say “been there done that”.

      Slavery? Regulated, not prohibited.

      It’s not contrary. It’s just not attenuated by modern values – some of which is the fruit of struggles against religious and traditional authority.

    • 4 You slut! 1 April 2016 at 23:16

      If your organization is “civic” and your government is “authoritarian”…well…duh!

  2. 6 Anon aIgG 1 April 2016 at 13:09

    American Pseudo-Christianity.
    They managed to get Africa to introduce the death sentence for homosexuality. Let’s see what they can get away with here.

  3. 7 george 1 April 2016 at 16:51

    Lim Siong Guan has always been a covert elitist. Personally, he is actually quite a nice guy with little air and just that not easily discernible whiff of being ‘sikit atas’. I also heard that his bible study group is well attended, with cars parked chock a block on the street where he lives on such evenings.

  4. 8 Hawking Eye 1 April 2016 at 18:14

    Honour can become a nebulous term when it comes to bestowing it on the undeserving. Many Tan Sri’s and Datuks have been stripped of their titles for their dishonourable conduct in Malaysia. When conferment is one of political in nature in particular, such gaffes can be expected. Fortunately for Singapore the bar is set very high, hence “honour” remains honoured.

    I wonder if a Cabinet Minister would attend the chandeliered Fullerton function to give it added respectability?

    • 9 Anon Lm6k 2 April 2016 at 13:29

      What is your point?

      Teh Cheang Wan was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal. Singaporeans need to do something about their superiority complex. People are laughing behind our backs,

      And why wonder? Read the Kirsten Han article referenced. Heng Swee Keat was a speaker at the function.

  5. 10 eqwebsg 2 April 2016 at 20:30

    In our exciting virtual Internet everywhere era, two oldest practices are still hot sell, namely organised religion and pornography. Eh…. but not Playboy Mag style bunnies anymore …. it’s for sale: )

  6. 11 Fair Rassy 3 April 2016 at 06:19

    Highly cringeworthy. H is for hypocrisy.

  7. 12 Rajiv Chaudhry 3 April 2016 at 12:31

    “‘Consultancy fees’ of $104,000 is twice as large. However, for this item, there were no explanatory notes in the accounts. We cannot see what services were supplied that merited this amount, or who the paid parties were”.

    Fundraising is a very big industry and many professionals make a full time living out of it. The fee is just over 10% of the sum raised as donations and, in all probability, went into the pockets of those who brought in the money.

    Likewise, the surplus of $2,000 from the two-day event (after defraying cost of meals and other expenses) will go into its kitty as income. If 100 people attend, that’s $200,000 raised in two days. Welcome to US style fundraising galas!

    • 13 yawningbread 5 April 2016 at 09:41

      Fundraising fee as Consultancy fees is one possibility, but one out of many possibilities. In any case, it is likely that there were several different consultancy fees, not just one vendor.

      That the auditors left it without notes suggests that it appeared legit to them; unlike the Administration Service Fee where they went out of their way to add those notes to the accounts.

      So perhaps there were Consultancy fees for e.g. website development, accounts set-up, etc (I’m just guessing). What I think might be pertinent is whether the consultants so engaged were from FGB circles. There’s a whole trope in American Pseudo-Christianity about keeping commercial relations within like-minded co-religionists. This in turn raises questions like: were there competitive tenders? Why are the governing instruments of the charity not public, so that the public can see what the threshold is for competitive tendering?

      Interestingly, the accounts do not show a separate item for ‘audit fee’. Was it lumped together with ‘Other expenses’ or was audit free? If so, why?

  8. 14 The Road To Hell 4 April 2016 at 07:22

    The time honoured Trojan horse is well and alive in Singapore, with the government and MSM implicitly indicating to us not to look at the gift horse in the mouth.


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