Presidential Council for Minority Rights



Established in 1970 as the Presidential Council, this government body was renamed Presidential Council for Minority Rights (PCMR) in 1973 to better reflect its role.1 The council’s main function is to examine all legislation in Singapore to ensure they are not discriminatory against any racial or religious community.2

Roles and responsibility
The PCMR is meant to safeguard against the government implementing any discriminatory laws.3 It is tasked to ensure that new laws passed by the Parliament of Singapore are not prejudicial towards any racial or religious community.4

The council examines new bills passed by the parliament, and reports any biased provisions back to the parliament so that the bill would be reconsidered. It also examines issues which affect individuals in any racial or religious group upon request by the parliament or government.5 In addition, the council has the responsibility of advising the president on the appointment of members to the Presidential Council for Religious Harmony established in 1990.6

History
After Singapore gained independence in 1965, a Constitutional Commission chaired by then Chief Justice Wee Chong Jin was set up to ensure that racial and religious harmony would be safeguarded in the new nation. With the government’s conviction that racial and religious harmony was essential for Singapore’s survival, the Constitutional Commission’s key role was to ensure that the rights of minorities would be upheld and enshrined in the constitution. Amongst the Constitutional Commission’s recommendations was the formation of a body that would eventually become PCMR.7


Members
Under the Constitution of Singapore, the PCMR chairman is appointed for a term of three years. The council comprises up to 20 members, with not more than 10 appointed for life (permanent members). The other members are appointed on three-year terms.8


Council members as of September 20169
Chairman: Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon
Permanent members: Othman Wok, Goh Chok Tong, S. Dhanabalan, Lee Hsien Loong, K. Shanmugam
Members: V. K. Rajah, J. Y. Pillay, Archbishop William Goh Seng Chye, Othman Haron Eusofe, Timothy James de Souza, Abdullah Tarmugi, Chan Heng Chee, Barry Desker, Philip Jeyaretnam, Surjit Singh s/o Wazir Singh, Shaikh Syed Isa bin Mohamed Semait, Venerable Sik Kwang Sheng



Author

Tan Yee Lin




References
1. Mr. Justice Wee to head the President’s Council. (1970, April 28). The Straits Times, p. 1; President Council will deal only with minority. (1973, February 17). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. President’s Office. (2016). Other presidential councils. Retrieved 2016, September 25 from The Istana website: http://www.istana.gov.sg/roles-and-responsibilities/presidents-office/other-presidential-councils
3. Racial harmony is not a given. (2006, July 24). The Straits Times, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. President’s Office. (2016). Other presidential councils. Retrieved 2016, September 25 from The Istana website: http://www.istana.gov.sg/roles-and-responsibilities/presidents-office/other-presidential-councils
5. Republic of Singapore. Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (1999, Rev. Ed). The Presidential Council for Minority Rights (Chapter 3, Part VII). Retrieved 2016, September 25 from Singapore Statutes Online website: http://statutes.agc.gov.sg/aol/search/display/view.w3p;page=0;query=CompId%3Af112e119-f024-4c49-9ac3-d4e0e94ebc85;rec=0;resUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fstatutes.agc.gov.sg%2Faol%2Fbrowse%2FtitleResults.w3p%3Bletter%3DC%3BpNum%3D2%3Btype%3DactsForce
6. Presidential Council for Minority Rights. (2016, August 24). Presidential Council for Minority Rights: Annual report, p. 3. Retrieved 2016, September 25 from Parliament of Singapore website: http://www.parliament.gov.sg/lib/sites/default/files/paperpresented/pdf/2015/Cmd.6of2016.pdf; Racial harmony is not a given. (2006, July 24). The Straits Times, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Racial harmony is not a given. (2006, July 24). The Straits Times, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Republic of Singapore. Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (1999, Rev. Ed). The Presidential Council for Minority Rights (Chapter 3, Part VII). Retrieved 2016, September 25 from Singapore Statutes Online website: http://statutes.agc.gov.sg/aol/search/display/view.w3p;page=0;query=CompId%3Af112e119-f024-4c49-9ac3-d4e0e94ebc85;rec=0;resUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fstatutes.agc.gov.sg%2Faol%2Fbrowse%2FtitleResults.w3p%3Bletter%3DC%3BpNum%3D2%3Btype%3DactsForce
9. President’s Office. (2016). Other presidential councils. Retrieved 2016, September 25 from The Istana website: http://www.istana.gov.sg/roles-and-responsibilities/presidents-office/other-presidential-councils



The information in this article is valid as at September 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Subject
Minorities--Singapore
Civil rights--Singapore
People and communities>>Social control
Government agencies
Organisations>>Government Agencies
Law and government>>Constitutional law>>Civil rights