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Ex-politician Vincent Wijeysingha claims priest molested him at 15

Activist claims he was molested by Catholic priest, slams Church's statement on LGBT in Singapore

It is shaping up to be a fight between the whites and the pinks.

On one side: Christian leaders like Archbishop William Goh and his view on what the family unit should be.

The basic model: A father, mother and children.

He adds in a statement that was read out during mass at the 30 Catholic churches in Singapore last weekend: "Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) sexual relationships are not in accordance with the plan of God."

Archbishop Goh was restating the Church's position on the family unit after some people were confused, said the statement.

On the opposite side: LGBT activists, including Dr Vincent Wijeysingha, who criticised the statement as being "entirely at odds" with the teachings of the church government at the Vatican.

He said the Church had no authority to comment when the Catholic leadership had remained silent on real problems, citing the child-sex-abuse scandals that have embroiled the Church in recent years.

In making his comments on Facebook yesterday, Dr Wijeysingha, 44, also made an explosive allegation - a priest had tried to molest him when he was 15.

"I came into unfortunate contact with a priest who would engage me in play wrestling and attempt to touch my crotch in the process," he wrote.

"He once brought me to his bedroom and took a stack of pornographic magazines from his wardrobe to show me."

When contacted last evening, he said he had no further comment.

In response to media queries over Dr Wijeysingha's claim, the Catholic Church said in a statement that its stand on sexuality "should not be distorted".

The intent of Archbishop Goh's message was to clarify the Church's position on family, "and not to engage in a debate on the issue of LGBT purely on the level of reason, because faith, while not opposed to reason, transcends reason", it added.

The statement did not comment directly on Dr Wijeysingha's allegation.

Lawyer Chia Boon Teck of Chia Wong LLP said that since Singapore does not have a statute of limitations, victims can still make a report years after the offence.

NO MIDDLE GROUND

Can both sides bridge the divide?

Not likely, opined social worker Jolovan Wham: "There is no middle ground. As long as gay people cannot get married, that is discrimination."

A retired civil servant and Catholic who wanted to be known as Janice said: "Both sides don't see eye to eye. Each will just defend its stand. How do you expect to find a middle ground?"

Disagreements are inevitable, said executive director Bryan Choong of Oogachaga, a counselling agency whose clients include gay and transgender individuals.

"They will happen because we have different backgrounds and views," he said.

"But there's a need to have honest conversations about the disagreements and maintain open communications. At the end of the day, we're still living in the same space."


I came into unfortunate contact with a priest who would engage me in play wrestling and attempt to touch my crotch in the process.

- Dr Vincent Wijeysingha

Who is Vincent Wijeysingha?

Dr Vincent Wijeysingha was unveiled as a candidate for the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), contesting in the Holland-Bukit Timah GRC in the 2011 General Election.

The 44-year-old civil activist, whose father Eugene Wijeysingha was a former principal of Raffles Institution, had lived in England for 16 years studying social policy and practising social work.

Dr Wijeysingha returned to Singapore in 2009 and in the following year joined Transient Workers Count Too, an organisation that helps migrant workers, as executive director.

He made waves by being the first Singaporean politician to come out as gay last July.

He had posted on Facebook that he will be attending the Pink Dot SG event that year, and added: "And yes, I am gay."

His sexuality and SDP's stand on homosexuality became an issue during the election with the People's Action Party (PAP) questioning if Dr Wijeysingha or the SDP had a gay agenda.

His move had been taken to be a sign that Singaporean society is progressing to be more liberal, with even PAP MP Baey Yam Keng praising Dr Wijeysingha for his courage. However, Dr Wijeysingha soon announced his retirement from politics via Facebook in August last year.

Tensions show as LGBT event looms

Tension between religious groups and the LGBT society here has been simmering.

But things began to really heat up over the past weekend as Pink Dot, due to be held at Hong Lim Park this Saturday, draws closer.

On June 20, Islamic religious teacherNoor Deros started the Wear White campaign online in response to the event, stating that holding Pink Dot on the eve of Ramadan showed "disdain for Islam and the family".

The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore weighed in immediately, sending a memo to mosque staff, advising against being confrontational towards LGBT advocates or those who attend Pink Dot.

Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim and Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam also weighed in, urging Singaporeans to be big-hearted and to "exercise a sense of balance and restraint".

Then the Catholic Church's Archbishop William Gohissued a statement on Sunday, stating that LGBT sexual relationships are "not in accordance with the plan of God" while discouraging discrimination at the same time.

Archbishop Goh's statement was followed by Dr Wijeysingha's Facebook confession, generating more heat in this LGBT debate.

- OH MING XUAN