AN Indonesian businessman who helped financed pastor-singer Ho Yeow Sun's music career said City Harvest Church leaders provided the "vision" for a firm accused of helping them to misuse church funds.
Wahju Hanafi (pic) was the director of production company Xtron Productions, which managed Ho from 2003 to 2008. He said in court of Xtron: "The vision comes from the church... They might tell us, what is their plan, when is the next concert (for Ms Ho), and then we see if we have enough finances to do what they want to do. Xtron is basically just like a financier."
However, he said he and his fellow Xtron directors made decisions on the firm's matters such as staff employment, even if various church members were shown in e-mails and minutes of meetings discussing such decisions without him.
"They can plan behind my back but the decision will still come down to me and (fellow director Choong) Kar Weng," he said when shown minutes of a meeting at which several of the accused church leaders discussed – in his absence – who should manage Xtron.
The state has been trying to show that Xtron was nothing more than a puppet for six church leaders accused of misuse of church funds.
City Harvest founder Kong Hee and five of his deputies were charged last year with misappropriating about S$50mil (RM125mil) to finance the career of Ho – who is Kong's wife – and to cover this up.
They allegedly used Xtron and another company to do this. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network
AS Singaporeans become more politically engaged, they should feel free to discuss politics and even criticise ministers and policies, provided they do not make spurious allegations they cannot substantiate, said Law Minister K. Shanmugam.
Responding to law students' questions about Singapore laws and their impact on free speech at a dialogue organised by students from the National University of Singapore Faculty of Law, Shanmugam signalled that the government was not about to soften its stance on defamation laws, even as he said the laws do not curtail political discussion.
Defamation laws, he said, are not there to stop people from criticising the government, but exist to protect personal reputations.
"If you make a personal allegation of fact, if you say I took money, I am corrupt, I will then sue you and ask you to prove it.
"But if you say I am a stupid fool who doesn't know what I'm talking about, and the government comprises ministers who don't know what they're talking about and you criticise every policy of the government, no one can sue you," he said.
"By all means challenge my competence, by all means challenge my policies, by all means put forward alternate policies. By all means argue it, no problem. That's not defamation."
For public debate to be honest and meaningful, he added, political discussions should not descend into mudslinging.
Admitting that defamation laws do impact free speech though, Shanmugam said they have to be balanced against protecting people's reputations.
During the two-hour question and answer session, Shanmugam, who is also the Foreign Minister, was asked about the government's responsiveness to popular opinion.
He observed that the government governs by popular mandate and so has to be responsive to popular opinion, but it cannot afford to be populist in order to win elections. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network
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