SINGAPORE'S EFFORTS TO FOSTER RACIAL AND RELIGIOUS HARMONY
A FACTSHEET BY NEXUS
Singapore's racial and religious harmony did not come about by accident or chance. Over the years, we have taken sustained efforts to build understanding, tolerance, sensitivity and trust among the different races living in Singapore. This factsheet gives an overview of these efforts. NE Facilitators may wish to use the information in this factsheet when a suitable occasion presents itself during interactions with your target audiences.
Since Singapore became an independent nation in 1965, the government has made racial and religious harmony a key principle of governance. Several laws, policies, organisations and initiatives were put in place to ensure that the minorities were not left out or discriminated against, and that there was integration among the different ethnic groups. The following are some examples: 1. Legislation: ●
Constitution of Singapore Singapore’s Constitution provides for every citizen to freely practise his or her religion of choice. It states that no citizen should be discriminated against on the grounds of race and religion.
Sedition Act The Sedition Act, set in place in 1948, prohibits expressions that promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races. For the first time since independence, the Act was used in 2005 to convict some bloggers who made racist remarks on the Internet.
Religious Harmony Act The Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act was enacted in 1992 to restrain religious leaders or individuals from committing acts that will result in ill-will or hostility between and among different religious groups.
Presidential Council for Minority Rights Established in 1970 as the Presidential Council and renamed the Presidential Council for Minority Rights in 1973, one of the council's functions is to scrutinise pending legislation to ensure that the proposed law does not discriminate against any race, religion or community.
Amendments to the Penal Code A new section, which came into force in 2008, was introduced into the Penal Code to increase by 1.5 times the punishment a person would otherwise have been given, if he commits “racially or religiously aggravated” offences. For example, the maximum penalty for causing hurt is two years' jail and a $5,000 fine; if the crime was racially or religiously motivated, the person could be jailed for up to three years and fined up to $7,500.
Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs) Introduced in 1988, the concept of GRCs ensures that Parliament remains multi-racial and will always have some Members of Parliament (MPs) from the minority groups. Each GRC has four to six MPs, at least one of whom must be from a minority group.
Ethnic Integration Policy Implemented since 1989, this policy helps to ensure a balanced mix of ethnic groups in public housing estates. It sets out the maximum proportion of each ethnic group allowed in each HDB block and neighbourhood (the proportions are tied to the national ethnic population proportions). The policy has helped to prevent the formation of racial enclaves in housing estates.
People's Association (PA) Against a backdrop of racial riots and political strife, PA was set up in 1960 as the leading government agency to promote racial harmony and social cohesion. Community centres/clubs were built around the island where all Singaporeans, regardless of their background, could take part in a wide range of activities conducted by the centres/clubs. The centres/clubs provide places
where people can interact with one another and build strong community bonds. ●
Community Development Councils (CDCs) In 1997, nine CDCs1, each headed by a Mayor, were set up as focal points for Singaporeans to work together and look after their own community needs. These were subsequently reorganised into five CDCs in January 2002. There...
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