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No disrespect meant to Archbishop: Function 8 group

Posted on Sep 21, 2012 3:50 PM Updated: Sep 24, 2012 2:01 PM
The anti-ISA group Function 8 said that they were not disrespectful to the Archbishop. ST PHOTO: Mark Cheong

ACTIVIST group Function 8 has denied the charge that they acted disrespectfully against Catholic Archbishop Nicholas Chia, and have accused the Government of making allegations attempting “to set F8 against the church”.

In a statement released to Singapolitics on Friday afternoon, Function 8 pointed out that the letter which the archbishop withdrew has not yet surfaced in public.

Accompanying their statement was a copy of a letter which the group had written to the archbishop shortly after he withdrew his letter.
They said they were releasing it “reluctantly” to clear the air over the Ministry of Home Affairs’ “unwarranted allegations” against them.

Function 8 sent the letter to the Archbishop a day before their June 2 rally commemorating the 25th anniversary of the 1987 Marxist conspiracy arrests.

In it, Function 8 sought clarification from the archbishop on why he retracted his letter. It also stated that they had not solicited the archbishop’s first letter. Parts of Function 8’s letter are redacted as they contain references to the archbishop’s letter.

The press statement said that “Out of respect for His Grace, we had voluntarily not publicized our letter of response to his letter of withdrawal, and had hoped for the courtesy of a reply from him in due course”.

Function 8 also took issue with the MHA’s claim that they had publicised the matter through blogger Alex Au.

On Tuesday, Mr Au had kicked off the controversy when he blogged that the Archbishop had written a letter to Function 8 supporting its campaign to abolish the Internal Security Act, only to retract it after a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean.

Both MHA and the archbishop later accused Function 8 of leaking the story to Mr Au.

But on Friday, Function 8 said that they and their partner, human rights group Maruah, had decided on Sept 3 to arrange for a private dialogue with MHA and other organisations.

“We were in the process of drafting letters. There is no conceivable reason why we would choose to trip ourselves up by having the matter aired in public.”

“Why has MHA made publicity of this matter the focus of conversation when the more pertinent question is one of transparency in executive action in engaging civil society?” it asked.

Function 8 said they would continue requesting a dialogue.

They ended their statement by saying: “We state categorically that we continue to applaud the Catholic Church for her good work carried out in our society to uphold social justice, caring for the poor and the weak. At no time will we allow ourselves to be set against the Church by inappropriate and unjustified allegations by any party.”

Read the full statement from Function 8 and the letter on the following pages