Historic rights reports on S’pore sent to UN

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A historic first Universal Periodic Review of Singapore is scheduled for May 2011 at the United Nations, reports Kong Soon Tan.

Singapore anti-ISA activists singing 'Blowing in the wind' - Photo credit: jacob60.wordpress.com

Think Centre, the lead political non-governmental group (NGO) in the island state of Singapore, submitted its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) reports on Singapore on 1 November 2010. In all, Think Centre submitted two independent reports – the first being a singular stakeholder submission, and the second being a joint submission incorporating national consultation input (with fellow civil society stakeholders). Both reports were written under challenging circumstances and aims to enhance the protection and enjoyment of human rights and democracy.

Think Centre coordinated civil society consultations and provided space for concerned individuals and NGOs to share their views on human rights problems and recommendations. Besides Think Centre’s records of socio-political developments in Singapore over the last decade, its report observations drew upon publicly accessible sources such as news articles, court rulings, parliamentary proceedings, relevant socio-political blogs, as well as official websites of political parties, the Singapore government and international bodies such as the United Nations.

The Think Centre (independent civil society) report seeks to highlight glaring areas where the Singapore government needs to do more work to remedy well-documented human rights problems and ensure compliance with international human rights standards. The reports call for the full recognition and fulfilment of Singapore’s obligations under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) especially since Singapore has ratified few UN Conventions.

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Both reports broadly provide a scenario of Singapore’s current human rights reality focusing on human rights problems that require urgent remedies. It is an attempt to explore opportunities to move forward in promoting fundamental human rights and to open more democratic space. These historic reports submitted by Think Centre were written without fear or favour and aimed to enhance the protection and maintenance of human rights and democracy in Singapore.

Key recommendations include calling upon the government to:

· Review and repeal outdated legislations and clauses contained within legislations that curtail fundamental freedoms,
· Stop and abolish the practice of cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment such as mandatory caning and death penalty,
· Convene an independent National Human Rights Institution that includes independent thematic experts and commissioners,
· Ratify and ensure international core human rights conventions and optional protocols are enforceable,
· Reform domestic law to ensure full compliance with treaty obligations and in line with international human rights standards,
· Ensure all workers including migrant workers are entitled to workplace rights and other fundamental rights without discrimination

Established since 2001, Think Centre is an independent, multi-partisan, non-governmental organisation (NGO) gazetted as the first political association in Singapore. Think Centre aims to critically examine, advocate and build societal awareness on civil society issues related to political development, democracy, rule of law and human rights. In the last decade, Think Centre has been instrumental in initiating and facilitating local civil society’s involvement in human rights awareness and promotion. Regionally, TC has been active on key NGO platforms and mechanisms committed to instituting fundamental human rights mechanisms and related processes.

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Download Full Report Joint UPR submission

Kong Soon Tan is president of Think Centre

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