The Handa Centre for Global Governance and Human Rights had been slated to be launched on Oct 25. A member of the SMU law faculty had already been identified to helm the centre and staff was being recruited. The launch was abruptly cancelled and no reason was given.
Responding to TODAY's queries, an SMU spokesperson said: "After careful re-assessment, the university has decided not to proceed with the organisation of a centre. Going forward, SMU remains committed and will continue with the study and research at the current level and scope."
The centre was named after Japanese philanthropist Dr Haruhisa Handa who is known for his active involvement in social causes around the world. He is believed to be the main person who funded the setting up of the centre, donating a few million dollars.
Dr Handa, who is the founder and chairman of Tokyo-based non-profit organisation Worldwide Support for Development (WSD), has also provided funding for Curtin University's Centre for Human Rights Education.
Dr Handa could not be reached for comment yesterday. But he was quoted by website Singapolitics as saying that, after consulting SMU, the WSD leadership "has decided not to proceed with the organisation of a new centre". He added that WSD "remains supportive of SMU and will continue to consider future projects in Singapore".
Sources told TODAY that the setting up of the centre would have raised many red flags, not least its name and the fact that it was largely funded by a foreigner.
"Human rights remain a topic that has to be carefully managed in Singapore. The Centre would lack credibility if it critiques the human rights situation in other countries but not Singapore's." a source said.
"We are not quite ready yet for foreign funding, to be matched by a matching grant from the Government, on human rights research. It is a prudent move by SMU but one wonders how things went as far as they did before the plug was pulled. There were just too many red flags. The embarrassment could have been avoided."
TODAY sent queries to the Ministry of Education (MOE) asking when it came to know of the centre and whether the Government had stepped in on the matter.
In response, an MOE spokesperson would only say: "We were informed by the SMU that it had decided not to go ahead with the launch of the centre."
|Dr Haruhisa Handa|
Nominal membership: approximately 30, 000 (No source given)
After graduating from university, he continued to pursue his religious interests while working for a construction firm in Tokyo as a member of the sales department. In 1977 Fukami met a female psychic, Kaoru Tachibana (1934-), and left the company to pursue his spiritual life with her, becoming a lodger at Tachibana’s house along with a few others. He then created his own firm and cramming schools in 1978.
He started lecturing in 1984 in his newly established religious movement, which was a Shinto study group. In 1985, with his new name, Seizan, he published a religious book which sold well. The group, now called World Mate, is categorized as a Shinto new religion and has about 20,000 - 30,000 members (World Mate claimed 41,000 members in 2003). The teaching includes the salvation of spirits, in the sense of the comforting of ancestors and other spirits that are negatively affecting the lives of humans on earth; this is believed to be the key to a better life.
World Mate is active in charity and welfare movements; it created a hospital in Cambodia (1996), offers scholarships to support foreign students and aids various research centres overseas, particularly in Australia, China and the UK, to support their research into Shinto and other Japanese religions. As a result, Fukami has been appointed to be a number of honorary positions, including an Honorary Fellowship at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) of the University of London.
Haruhisa Handa's legal tangles: tax evasion and sexual harassment
According to evidence, it is recognized that it was Cosmo World Co., Ltd. Rather than Plaintiff World Mate, an unincorporated religious body, that was assessed the \ 3.3 billion deficiency for concealment of more than \ 6 billion income.
Evidence and the tenor of the entire pleadings show that Plaintiff Handa was sued for damages on the ground of sexual harassment by his plural female followers and that in Case No. (Wa) 889/1993 of the Yokohama District Court, two female followers each claimed damages of \ 5.85 million against Plaintiff Handa and that Plaintiff Handa made an in-court settlement with the followers after three hearings and without the testimonies of himself and the followers by paying \ 5.5 million to each of the followers as a settlement money in exchange for her promise not to disclose the the settlement to a third party.
In view of these facts, the lawsuit filed by the female followers against Plaintiff Handa on the ground of sexual harassment is sufficient to raise a suspicion that Handa did sexually harass them. Thus, the aforementioned published fact is true and there is no unlawfulness in publishing the fact.
(C) Evidence and the tenor of the entire pleadings show that Plaintiff World Mate collected a large amount of money from followers as its fees for removal of evil spirits by taking advantage of the difficulties on the part of the followers.
(D) It is undisputed among the parties that Plaintiff Handa is the leader of Plaintiff World Mate and the Plaintiffs admit themselves that Plaintiff Handa has a strong influence over Plaintiff Tachibana Publishing as its Representative Director and President.
(E) As discussed above, each of the published facts in the First Part of the Article and the material part of the premised fact in the Second Part of the Article are true.