Please Donít Mix Religion and Politics

By Kelvin Teo TH, Singapore, The Buddhist Channel, Oct 9, 2010

I refer to the article ‘George Yeo Meets Tibet’s Panchen Lama’ in The Straits Times, 14 Sep 2010. I am appalled by Mr Yeo’s meeting with China’s chosen 11th Panchen Lama, which seems to mix religion with politics.

This visit was not a personal one but as a governmental representative of Singapore. Is the Singapore government ‘dealing’ with China’s Buddhism for political reasons now? Mr Yeo should be sensitive towards Singapore’s Tibetan Buddhist community, who virtually all support His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama’s selection of the 1995 China-abducted Panchen Lama as the real one.

Just as the Singapore government would not invite His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama to Singapore due to the sensitivities of politics, the Tibetan Buddhist community would not like the Singapore government to mix politics with religion by inviting China’s so-called ‘Panchen Lama’. Just as Buddhists practise Buddhism harmoniously within Singapore without politicising it, as the Singapore government prefers, we urge the government to continue leading by example.

Noteworthy is that Singapore Buddhist Federation (SBF) is unfortunately not truly representative of the entire Buddhist community in Singapore – especially not for Tibetan Buddhists, many of whom are Singaporeans, not Tibetans. A simple check will reveal that SBF has few Tibetan Buddhist organisations as its members – though there are many of them in Singapore. The authorities should survey these organisations on their opinion of endorsing the so-called ‘Panchen Lama’ to seek better advice before further stepping onto sensitive grounds that causes religious disharmony and unhappiness. It is best for the Singapore government not to involve with other countries’ religions, since one of its vows is to keep itself secular and democratic for the good of Singapore.