MARUAH’s statement [PDF link here], calling for the repeal of Section 377A of the Penal Code, was covered by several media outlets, reproduced below.
MARUAH has submitted a written representation to the Parliamentary Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods.
1. MARUAH’s view is that the government has not articulated a clear case for new legislation against Deliberate Online Falsehoods (DOF). Existing laws can already be used and have been used against DOF in Singapore and overseas.
2. There is a very high risk that any legislative action will stifle free speech and may be used against the legitimate expression of dissenting views.
3. In the event that the government still feels compelled to enact any laws against DOF, such laws must be balanced and not result in the removal of legitimate content including political debate. All parties affected must be given the chance to present their case and take-down orders issued only by a court of law.
MARUAH’s submission is posted at https://maruah.org/select-comm-online-falsehoods/
For immediate use
3 December 2017
MARUAH condemns the arrest and prosecution of Jolovan Wham.
Civil society activist Jolovan Wham was arrested and charged with organizing public assemblies without a permit, vandalism and refusal to sign statements made to the police. The protests that Mr Wham is charged with leading are well-documented in mainstream and social media, and it is readily apparent that none of them posed a credible threat to public order. Mr Wham’s actions are merely public criticisms of the government’s stance on detention without trial, capital punishment and free speech. It is revealing that in the police press release announcing the arrest of Mr Wham, the police make a great deal of Mr Wham’s “recalcitrance” as if he were a child defying parental authority.
Singapore’s Constitution guarantees citizens of Singapore the right to freedom of speech and expression, and the right to assemble peaceably. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers” while Article 20 (1) provides that “Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.”
MARUAH urges the government to drop the charges against Mr Wham and to remove all unnecessary and unreasonable restrictions on the right to free speech, expression, and assembly in Singapore.
Ngiam Shih Tung
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, 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
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.
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.
MARUAH has submitted its feedback to the constitutional commission to review specific aspects of the elected presidency.
- 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
MARUAH’s forum letter on Singapore’s participation in the second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process, has been published online.
On Jan 27, Singapore participated in the second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process. Ambassador-at-Large Chan Heng Chee led a delegation that comprised civil service officers (“UN praises Singapore’s social policies”; Jan 29).
Absent from the table were ministers and elected government leaders, who ought to take the lead to speak for human rights, explain the Government’s stance and address the issues raised.
Maruah hopes that our government leaders take the UPR process seriously enough to spare time for a discussion on human rights issues.
Singapore’s human rights record should be presented by a minister or deputy minister.
Issues raised during the UPR session included recognising migrant workers and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, questioning, intersex, asexual (LGBTQIA) community as people with equal rights, abolishing the death penalty, reviewing the Internal Security Act and certain laws such as Section 377A, removing corporal punishment, and ratifying several international conventions.
Race and security also featured in some observations and questions, with countries asking for clear ratification on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
There were also calls made for a National Human Rights Institution and an independent elections commission to be set up.
These are issues that civil society, Singaporeans and the Government will continue to negotiate on.
However, Maruah finds the approach and stance taken by the Government to certain issues disappointing.
The use of exceptionalism to defend the existence of anachronisms like the death penalty and arbitrary detention without trial shows the Government’s lack of commitment to the core principles of human rights.
Human rights are indivisible, inalienable and interdependent.
Yes, we live in difficult times, where security of the person and a country are real.
All the more we need to have meaningful engagement on these issues between our population and the Government.
Braema Mathi (Ms)
MARUAH, a human rights group in Singapore, condemns the senseless and cowardly terrorist attacks in Jakarta on 14 January 2016 that resulted in the needless loss of lives.
We offer our deepest condolences to the victims and their families and the people of Indonesia and support the efforts made by the Indonesian government to bring the perpetrators to justice.
MARUAH also supports the Singapore government in its offer of help to Indonesia and the calls made by our Ministers to remain vigilant against these threats in our own country. It is our hope that all people in Singapore will also remain resolute in the face of such challenges and will support peace and humanitarian efforts should the need arise.
Speech by MARUAH for MARUAH and Collective of Singapore NGOs (COSINGO)
DECLARATION MADE BY MARUAH Singapore
UNIVERSAL PERIODIC REVIEW (UPR) PRE-SESSION ON SINGAPORE, GENEVA
16th DECEMBER 2015
Presentation of the Organisation
1. This statement is delivered by MARUAH Singapore, on behalf of Civil Society Organisations and individuals who have participated and followed the UPR process. “MARUAH” is a human rights NGO with special consultative status on the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
National consultations for the drafting of the national report (if any)
2. There were 2 government-organised consultations held in Singapore.
3. MARUAH held 3 open consultations with various Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), individuals and university students.
Acknowledgment of work done by the Singapore Government
4. Since the 2011 UPR, the Government has ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2013, acceded to the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (UN TIP Protocol), often known as the Palermo Protocol in 2015, made legislative changes to the mandatory death penalty, thus introducing discretionary approaches and signed onto the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
5. The Government has organised more consultations without CSOs asking for it. Seemingly the government is becoming more open in discussing matters with civil society though the number of people being hauled up under various laws, continues as a deterrent to shut the voices down.
Plan of this Statement
6. The statement addresses the following issues:-
a. Freedom of expression, Freedom of information, Freedom of peaceful assembly and association
b. Impediments to free and fair electoral systems, specifically the GRC system, redrawing of electoral boundaries
c. Lack of Independent Institutions for elections and setting up a National Human Rights Body
d. Ratification of other core international human rights instruments, specifically CERD, and optional protocols for CEDAW, CRC, CRPD
e. Continued usage of preventive detention without trial, under ISA & CLTPA
f. Lack of human rights education in schools
7. This statement will not go into all details but we have introduced footnotes to highlight the notes and evidence. (https://maruahsg.files.wordpress.com/2010/11/maruahupr2015-final.pdf); (https://maruahsg.files.wordpress.com/2010/11/combinedupr-final.pdf)
8. The aim of asking for interventions through questions and recommendations is for people in Singapore to be able to move away from this fear-ridden climate that we are embedded in.