Dear Pope Francis,
My name is Roy Ngerng from Singapore.
A 16-year-old boy, Amos Yee, has been charged by the Singapore government, in relation to a video which he had made where he said that the late first prime minister of Singapore “Lee Kuan Yew was a horrible person”. He also compared Mr Lee to Jesus.
Because of that, he is now facing three charges. For one of the charges, he was said to have made the video with the “deliberate intention of wounding the religious feelings of Christians in general”.
Another charge was because supporters of the first prime minister said that the video “contained remarks about Mr Lee Kuan Yew which was intended to be heard and seen by persons likely to be distressed”.
Amos was also charged with “allegedly transmitting electronically an image showing obscene figures” after he posted a “satirically sexual image of a political leader” on his blog.
Most importantly, Amos has been charged as an adult even though he is only 16 years old.
Inside his video, Amos also spoke about the income inequality in Singapore but this message has been largely sidelined since he was charged.
Inside his video, Amos pointed out that, “Most people in Singapore are struggling to make ends meet. And it is reported that Singaporeans work the longest hours in the world. We are one of the richest countries in the world, but we have one of the highest income inequalities, highest poverty rates, and our government spends one of the lowest on healthcare and social security.
“The money spent on the public is so low, it’s more representative of a third world country. And yet the amount of taxes is one of the highest in first world countries. And political leaders in Singapore earn more than quadruple the amount earned by political leaders in the United States. They are acquiring so much money — why aren’t they spending it on the people? What are they actually spending it on?”
Amos also said, “Ultimately, how do you quantify a great leader?
“It is by how he creates a place where people are able to live happily and prosper, based on their own unique attributes. And he hasn’t. So no matter how rich the country he made is, it doesn’t mean a thing.”
Dear Pope Francis, in 2013 you had said, “Today’s economic mechanisms promote inordinate consumption, yet it is evident that unbridled consumerism combined with inequality proves doubly damaging to the social fabric.
“Inequality is the root of social ills,” you also said.
Last year, you also called for “worldwide ethical mobilization” with the poor.
“Specifically, this involves challenging all forms of injustices and resisting the economy of exclusion, the throwaway culture and the culture of death which nowadays sadly risk becoming passively accepted,” you said.
And earlier this year, you also called on the “co-operative movement to join the global economy to promote “an economy of honesty” and “a healing economy.”
You also said for us to have “the courage and the imagination to build a just path, so as to integrate development, justice and peace in the world.”
Dear Pope, Singapore today has become the most unequal country among the developed countries. The rich-poor gap is also the widest. The Singapore government has also fudged the income statistics to make them look lower.
Today, Singapore is one of very few countries which still do not have minimum wage and relative poverty is estimated to be at 30% in Singapore.
Last year, I have also been sued by the Singapore prime minister for an article that I had written on my blog where I had detailed how Singaporeans have one of the least adequate pension funds in the world but where the Singapore government takes our pension funds to give two of its investment firms for them to use, and where they have become the two largest sovereign wealth funds in the world, on our pension funds.
Dear Pope, the situation is urgent in Singapore. Amos is a 16-year-old boy. He spoke up against the injustices which he saw in Singapore and for that, he has been persecuted.
In his youthful impetus, he also made some unwise remarks.
I am writing to you in the hope that I could seek your guidance in this matter and hope that you might be able to share your thoughts on this.
If you could share some words of wisdom on this matter and allow us to move on to heal in these difficult times, I would be very grateful.
Singapore today has become very divided because of the political economic inequalities that have become entrenched in our system. If Your Holiness can enlighten us with your words, we might have a chance to heal as a nation and move towards justice and peace.
I look forward to hearing from you.