Human Rights Day Approaches

Dec 10, Monday

And Singapore still does not have a national human rights body. What are human rights? There are various levels of human rights and some levels of rights should be respected first before the others. The right to life is the most basic. The right to livelihood. And then comes the right to lifestyle. Without a shadow of doubt the issue of human rights is never that compartmentalised but this framework is one that is easier to understand – the right to life, livelihood and lifestyle in that order.

Where is Singapore on that scale now? We have developed country status with economic and political stability, the PAP says it has a first world government, and so most issues related to life and livelihood are looked after. There is no extrajudiciary killing, there is almost no arbitrary imprisonment, everyone has the right to work and education. The most contentious collection of rights that is not respected enough is that related to lifestyle. I use “lifestyle” generally here and it covers gay rights, the right to not to have a nation building press, the right to have the executive, judiciary and legislative separate and so on.

What can a Singapore human rights body do? Will it be as toothless as Case or the Public Transport Council in protecting our interests? A Singapore human rights watch body is symbolic that Singapore does respect human rights enough so that there is an avenue for complaints to be heard, and is committed to meeting the expectations of the people and the international stage.

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