Singapore body denies its members started commotion

We were roughed up, says group from Japanese Buddhist sect

The Straits Times/June 25, 1991
By David Miller

A group comprising monks from a Buddhist sect in Japan and their followers from Indonesia have claimed that after arriving by ferry at Finger Pier on Saturday, they were assaulted by about 50 people.

One member of the group of four monks and six followers said they were verbally abused and punched by local members of the Singapore Nichiren Shoshu Buddhist Association (SNSBA) [Note: Soka Gakkai Singapore].

But the SNSBA, which claims some 20,000 members, has denied that its members harmed or abused the monks and their followers.

The visiting monks -- who left for the airport on Sunday night -- are from the Nichiren Shoshu Head Temple, a Buddhist sect of about 1,000 monks in Japan.

A spokesman for the group, who wanted to be known only as Mr. Suzuki, said on Sunday that the incident could have been linked to a move three months ago by the Indonesian branch of the Nichiren Shoshu to dissociate itself from the parent body, known as the Soka Gakkai, and align itself with the Nichiren Shoshu Head Temple in Japan.

The Soka Gakkai is an international association of lay believers which oversees the administration and activities of Nichiren Shoshu branches all over the world, including the SNSBA.

The association, with about 10 million members in Japan, is one of the largest religious groups in that country.

Giving his group's side of the incident, Mr. Suzuki -- who is a member of Nichiren Shoshu Association of Indonesia -- said the visiting monks were in Singapore on Saturday on their way back to Tokyo after officiating at a religious ceremony in Tanjong Pinang near Batam.

"We had just cleared customs at about 6:45 pm when we were confronted by the protesters who shouted abuse at us," he said.

He added that when members of his group tried to make their way out, they were punched and pushed.

Several of the protestors carried banners accusing the monks of disregarding the wishes of the lay people, he said. The group finally managed to leave after friends who were waiting for them escorted them to their cars and took them to their hotel, Mr Suzuki said.

But, Mr Eddy Yue, a committee member of the SNSBA, disputed Mr Suzuki's account of the incident.

Mr Yue told The Straits Times on Sunday that several association members had gone to finger Pier to welcome the monks and to find out why only some SNSBA members, and not the association itself, were invited to take part in the religious ceremonies in Indonesia.

He said one follower accompanying the monks started a commotion by preventing some of his members from delivering a letter to the monks. He said he did not know the contents of the letter. He also said that neither the monks nor those who accompanied them were verbally abused or harmed.

Mr Yue added: "The reception by our members was not organised by the association. They wanted to talk to the monks."

Mr. Suzuki, in his account, had also said that when the group arrived at Mandarin Hotel in Orchard Road, they were jeered at by about 20 people.

Hotel security was alerted and the police were called in. Police, who confirmed they received a call from the hotel, said they were investigating the case which has been classified as an unlawful assembly.

But SNSBA's Mr Yue said his association was not aware if any of its members were involved in any incident at the hotel.

A police car was seen stationed outside the hotel on Sunday when a Straits Times team interviewed Mr Suzuki.

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