The Commissioner of Charities (COC) is considering removing eight individuals from their positions in City Harvest Church, including church founder Kong Hee, as part of the next stage of its ongoing inquiry into the charity.
Pastor Kong Hee (R in white) holds his wife Ho Yeow Sun’s hand as they leave the subordinate courts in Singapore on June 27, 2012. (AFP Photo/Roslan Rahman)
SINGAPORE: The Commissioner of Charities (COC) is considering removing eight individuals from their positions in City Harvest Church, including church founder Kong Hee.
This will be part of the next stage of its ongoing inquiry into the charity. An inquiry into the church was instituted in May 2010.
The latest move is based on the inquiry findings of February 2011 which revealed there was misconduct and mismanagement in the administration of the charity, particularly with regard to money in the Building Fund which had been earmarked for specific purposes. Financial irregularities of at least S$23 million was discovered.
The funds were used with the intention to finance Ho Yeow Sun’s secular music career, and the inquiry found there was a concerted effort to conceal it from stakeholders.
But there is a due process which has to be observed, before any final decision on the removal can be made.
Spelling this out in detail on Tuesday, the COC said suspension orders were issued on nine church individuals in June 2012. This order is valid for 12 months.
On 28 December last year, the COC made a proposal to all nine that he would defer the next stage, should they collectively agree to a voluntary extension of their suspension orders until six months after the conclusion of the criminal trial.
This was done purely on a goodwill basis.
But there was no collective agreement on the matter. So before the lapse of the suspension order, the COC intends to proceed with the removal process against eight of them.
They are Kong Hee as well as church trustees and employees Lam Leng Hung, Tan Ye Peng, Kelvin Teo Meng How, Sharon Tan Shao Yuen, Jacqueline Tan Su Pheng, Chew Eng Han and Serina Wee Gek Yin.
As for Ho Yeow Sun, the COC says there is insufficient evidence for now to indicate she was responsible for or facilitated the mismanagement in the charity.
But before a decision on the removal can be made, those affected can make representations to the COC.
For four individuals – namely Kong Hee, Lam Leng Hung, Tan Ye Peng and Kelvin Teo Meng How – the CoC is also inviting representations from the public on the proposal to remove them.
All representations to the COC have to be made by 13 May.
The final decision on whether to remove them, would be made in consultation with the Attorney-General.
Those affected by the decision have recourse to appeal to the High Court.
Meanwhile, the COC stressed that any individual who is removed may continue with his religious duties.
These are separate from holding any governance or management positions in the charity, and that normal services of the charity can continue as usual.
Also, any action taken by the COC is separate and independent from the ongoing criminal cases.
The management board of City Harvest Church says it has been informed of the COC’s intention to remove eight individuals from their office.
In a statement, the chairman of the management board Aries Zulkarnain says it is a very challenging time for the church leaders and members, their families and the church.
He adds the church will stay united to continue serving its members and community to the best of its ability.
Also, pastors Kong Hee and Tan Ye Peng will continue to perform their pastoral duties.
Separately in a statement, the Commissioner of Charities, Low Puk Yeong, emphasised that the current COC action is independent and a separate process from the criminal proceedings against six of the suspended individuals. The public should not link the COC’s actions to the criminal trial.
He stressed that the COC’s regulatory actions are intended to protect the property and assets of the charity following an inquiry which found mismanagement and misconduct by some individuals in the charity. The actions have nothing to do with religion or religious practices.
- By S Ramesh
- POSTED: 09 Apr 2013 6:33 PM
- UPDATED: 09 Apr 2013 9:53 PM