The Sorry State of Human Rights in Singapore

5 December 2016

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Human Rights Day is observed every year on 10 December. It commemorates the day on which, in 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In Singapore, MARUAH, a human rights organisation, will mark the day with a public meeting at Hong Lim Park to draw much needed attention to the state of Human Rights in our country. Speakers at the event include: Teo Soh Lung; Paul Tambyah; Terry Xu; Sean Francis Han; Jolovan Wham; Han Hui Hui; Gilbert Goh; M Ravi; Tan Kin Lian and Leong Sze Hian.

As highlighted by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, ‘Many of us are fearful about the way the world is heading. Extremist movements subject people to horrific violence. Conflicts and deprivation are forcing families from their homes. Climate change darkens our horizons – and everywhere, it seems, anxieties are deepening. Humane values are under attack, and we feel overwhelmed – unsure what to do or where to turn.’

‘Join us. Help break the toxic patterns of a fearful world and embark on a more peaceful, more sustainable future. We don’t have to stand by while the haters drive wedges of hostility between communities – we can build bridges. Wherever we are, we can make a real difference. In the street, in school, at work, in public transport; in the voting booth, on social media, at home and on the sports field.’

‘Wherever there is discrimination, we can step forward to help safeguard someone’s right to live free from fear and abuse. We can raise our voices for decent values. We can join others to publicly lobby for better leadership, better laws and greater respect for human dignity.’

Event details
Date : 10 December 2016
Time : 4.00pm to 7.00pm
Venue : Speakers’ Corner
Hong Lim Park
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The role of the press in Singapore

5 December 2016

Please see below for a research paper written by Ms Elsy Byuma, a law student from Belgium, on the role of the press in Singapore.

the-role-of-the-press-in-singapore


MDA censorship of Les Miserables

15 June 2016

MARUAH notes with concern the recent Media Development Authority’s (MDA) censorship on a same-sex kiss in the musical Les Miserables. This, together with the Ministry of Home Affairs’s ban on foreign corporate support of Pink Dot, panders to narrow minded prejudices. It limits freedom of expression and wrongly presumes that Singaporeans are not mature enough to make up our own minds on such issues.

The tragic events in Orlando, Florida remind us of the prejudice, discrimination and even hatred the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community often faces.

Smothering discussion of issues just because someone may be offended does not advance tolerance and understanding. Civilised and robust debate does. We are a diverse society with multiple races, religious groups, languages and sexual orientations.

Tolerance makes difference possible, difference makes tolerance necessary. And yet tolerance and/or accommodation are all not great steps. We ask that Singapore engages on the issues of same sex expressions by providing equality. 

MARUAH Singapore


Police investigation of Teo Soh Lung and Roy Ngerng

7 June 2016

MARUAH Singapore, in support of fair police process and procedures in carrying out their duties in upholding the law and in this case regarding the Parliamentary Elections Act, sent the appended letter to Straits Times’ Forum pages on 2 June 2016. The letter was to date not published. 

——————

The Forum Page Editor,
The Straits Times

Dear Sir/Madam,

MARUAH is writing to express our disappointment and concerns at the manner and the process in which suspects, Ms Teo Soh Lung and Mr Roy Ngerng, were treated during police investigations that were held on 31st May 2016.

Read the rest of this entry »


Letter to President Tony Tan on Jabing Kho

18 May 2016

17th May 2016

Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam
President
Republic of Singapore
istana_feedback@istana.gov.sg

Dear President Tan,

We from MARUAH, a human rights organisation, would like to lodge with you, our concerns and also ask that we stay the order to execute Jabing Kho, who is sentenced to be hanged on 20th May 2016, based on the letter received by his family.

We ask for this stay order and a review of the sentencing for the following reasons: – Read the rest of this entry »


MARUAH statement on conduct at Bukit Batok By-Election

4 May 2016

We refer to recent reports on the comments made by the ruling party, the People’s Action Party (PAP) and the opposition party, Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), during the campaign of the by-election in Bukit Batok.

Parts of the campaign are currently degenerating into a sloganeering on the character of Dr Chee Soon Juan, the SDP candidate. This looms ominously as the statements are made by ruling party members in the name of the Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong; the Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, Grace Fu and the Speaker of Parliament, Halimah Yacob.

As election campaign watchers, MARUAH, a human rights group, would like to put on record that this is a disappointing approach taken on by the ruling party. We cite our research in 2011 that showed how media and public figures had conducted themselves at the 2011 General Elections. At the 2013 by-election in Punggol East it did not deteriorate to the current extent, though the opposition candidates were many and the PAP candidate also made some distracting statements that had some of us scratching our heads. In the 2015 hustings, there was improvement by all political parties. The views on candidates were taken up by citizens and in many instances over social media. All revealing a healthier engagement by citizens even as one acknowledges there will be partisan comments. We say it is part of our growth into a democracy.

In this Bukit Batok by-election, however, there seems to be a targeted barrage on Dr Chee’s past behaviour. In politics there are many candidates who will be judged at the ballot box and later as MPs. We ask that this sloganeering be stopped, as it is not in good taste to ensuring that we develop fair, free and democratic election processes.

We also raise attention to Singapore’s Parliamentary Elections Act, Section 59 and Section 61(d) which asks of all – including campaign leaders and leaders of all political parties– to act in a manner that is fair to all election candidates. In addition in the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s Code on Free and Fair Elections, it is also clear that all parties need to ensure that the election is conducted in a fair and democratic manner.

In conclusion MARUAH asks again for an Independent Elections Commission, not one under the Prime Minister’s Office.


Submission to Constitutional Commission – Elected Presidency

22 March 2016

MARUAH has submitted its feedback to the constitutional commission to review specific aspects of the elected presidency.

Summary

  • The President’s most important function is to ensure the integrity of the public service.
  • There is no evidence that raising the size of companies that non-governmental candidates must have headed would improve the quality of Presidential candidates.
  • In view of rising inequality in Singapore, cementing a business and administrative elite into place via restrictive criteria for the Presidency and CPA would be perceived as undemocratic and elitist.
  • Introducing racial criteria for the Presidency runs against our principles of treating all Singaporeans equally “regardless of race, language or religion”. Furthermore, narrowing the pool of candidates on racial grounds would increase the chance of a weak President being elected for lack of eligible candidates. There is no need to raise this divisive approach towards minority candidates for President.
  • Narrowing the eligibility rules for the Presidency would weaken the Presidency and may weaken the ability of the President to serve as a check against wrongdoing by the Government
  • MARUAH does not support narrowing the eligibility rules for the President on either financial or racial grounds

Read the rest of this entry »