Like many Singaporeans, I too was upset that City Harvest Church (CHC) got a light sentence for the millions which they have obtained improperly.
However, it heartening to know that the Law Minister, Mr Shanmugam is taking concreate measures to ensure that legislation will provide for higher penalties for directors and other senior officers who commit criminal breach of trust
Although there has been much disquiet over the CHC case, I agree wholeheartedly with Mr Shanmugam that the ruling on the Apex court’s decision has to be respected and that there should be no personal attacks on the judges and the defence counsel (“Govt disagrees with court decision on City Harvest case, will amend CBT law: Shanmugam, 5 Feb, Today newspaper)
Possibly, most people are upset because after Pastor Kong Hee and the five others who abused the trust given to them serve their sentences, they will be able to enjoy the money they took improperly and have luxurious homes to live in.
There are thousands of Singaporeans, mainly the marginalised who are struggling with daily living and the high cost of medical expenses.
Perhaps as a strong deterrent to prevent others from siphoning money, it would be timely for the law ministry to implement civil forfeiture laws whereby upon conviction, the authorities can seize the assets and money obtained through CBT.
Thus, the next step is for the government to study and consider whether the monies /assets obtained by CHC or anyone in the future who obtains money through improper means can be placed in a state general fund. Through this state general fund, financial support could be offered to some of our needy Singaporeans and the voluntary welfare organisations who are in dire need of funds to carry out their various programmes and to support their clients.
It’s somewhat of a bold suggestion, but worth considering.
RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO