Presidential Council for Minority Rights


Established in 1970 as the Presidential Council, this government body was renamed in 1973 as the Presidential Council for Minority Rights to better reflect its role. Its main function is to scrutinise Bills passed by the Parliament of Singapore to ensure that the proposed law is not discriminatory against any race, religion or community. 

Roles and Responsibility
The Presidential Council for Minority Rights is meant to be a safeguard and check against the government implementing any discriminatory laws. It is tasked to ensure that new laws passed by Singapore's Parliament are not discriminatory against any race, religion or community.

It does so by scrutinising new Bills passed by Parliament and reporting any biased provisions to Parliament so that the Bill would be reconsidered. It will also investigate complaints as well as report any issues affecting the racial or religious community to the government. Some of its functions are closely related to the Presidential Council for Religious Harmony which was set up in 1990.

History
The Presidential Council for Minority Rights has its origins in 1965 after independence when a Constitutional Commission chaired by then Chief Justice Wee Chong Jin was set up to ensure that racial and religious harmony are safeguarded in the new nation.

 The Constitutional Commission was charged with ensuring that the rights of minorities would be safeguarded and enshrined in the Constitution. This was due to the government's conviction that racial and religious harmony is essential for Singapore's survival. Amongst the Constitutional Commissions recommendations was the formation of a body that would eventually become the Presidential Council for Minority Rights.
 
Members
Under the Constitution of Singapore, the Presidential Council for Minority Rights has a chairman who is appointed for a term of three years. The Council will consist of not more than 10 members who are appointed for life and not more than 10 members who are appointed on three-year terms.

The current members of the council are as below:
- Justice Chan Sek Keong (Chairman)
- Lee Kuan Yew (Member)
- Tuan Haji Othman Bin Wok, DUNU (Member)
- Goh Chok Tong (Member)
- Prof S Jayakumar (Member)
- S Dhanabalan (Member)
- Lee Hsien Loong (Member)
- Prof Walter Woon (Member)
- H. R. Hochstadt PPA(G), PPA(E) (Member)
- Sat Pal Khattar (Member)
- Prof Lim Chong Yah, BBM, PJG, DUBC (Member)
- Oscar Joseph Oliveiro (Member)
-  Dr Andrew Chew Guan Khuan, PJG, PPA(E), DUBC (Member)
-  Haji Shafawi Bin Ahmad (Member)
- J Y Pillay (Member)
- His Grace Archbishop Nicholas Chia (Member)
- Othman Haron Eusofe (Member)

 

Author
Tan Yee Lin

 

References
3 more sworn into minority rights council. (1998, July 2). The Straits Times. Retrieved on March 14, 2011, from NewspaperSG.

Kwek, K. (2006, July 22). Two more join minority rights council. The Straits Times. Retrieved on March 14, 2011, from NewspaperSG.

Racial harmony is not a given. (2006, July 24). The Straits Times. Retrieved on March 14, 2011, from NewspaperSG.

CJ Chan re-appointed. (2009, April 14). The Straits Times. Retrieved October 12, 2009, from Factiva.

Presidential Council For Minority Rights. Retrieved Oct 13, 2009, from http://app.sgdi.gov.sg/mobile/agency.asp?agency_id=0000004569

 

The information in this article is valid as at 2009 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

All Rights Reserved. National Library Board Singapore 2009.