Amid racist incidents, new racial harmony law in Singapore

The law on maintaining racial harmony was announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the National Day rally on August 29, following an increase in reported racist incidents.

Singapore is taking a more gentle and persuasive approach to managing racial harmony within its multinational corporation after a number of race-related cases in public recently raised concerns, according to a media report here.

An upcoming racial harmony law will likely introduce new sanctions, including non-punitive ones, in an attempt to shape behavior and social norms, Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said on September 4. .

The law on maintaining racial harmony was announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the national day rally on August 29, following an increase in reported racist incidents and strained inter-ethnic relations amid the COVID-19 pandemic in Singapore.

Mr Shanmugam said the Home Office would introduce legislation, which would first consolidate the various existing laws dealing with racial issues, such as the Penal Code.

Any additional measures will need to be carefully considered.

“Because, for the daily interaction in the market or in the hawking center (an ordinary men’s food center) or in the elevator (of an apartment in a social housing estate), you don’t want all the bring them to court, then put them in jail, or fine them, or treat them all like criminals ”, The times of the straits quoted the minister.

“I think it will be an impossible situation. Instead of making things better, you will make them worse, ”he said.

Instead, the government will work closely with the Department of Culture, Community and Youth and agencies such as OnePeople.sg, the national body promoting racial harmony, to consider a framework important non-punitive sanctions.

“Thus, when someone violates the standards, we can perhaps ask him to go and do a community service in the community that he has denigrated or that he did not fully understand,” said Mr. Shanmugam. .

“And it could help better understanding – without being punitive, without having a criminal record and without shaming people.

“The goal really must be to try to get people to understand each other better and to get along better,” said the minister.

This is a similar approach to the Community Remedial Initiative under the Maintaining Religious Harmony (MRHA) 31 Year Old Act, upon which the new Racial Harmony Act will be modeled.

As part of this reparation initiative, offenders have the opportunity to reestablish their bonds by offering public or private apologies to injured parties, or by participating in interfaith events.

The Prime Minister also announced at the rally last month that guidelines banning discrimination in employment – including on racial grounds – would now have legal force.

While laws can help tackle racism in work and social settings, they wouldn’t make sense if they fought for themselves without community support, Shanmugam said.

“If people think, ‘I’m not doing it just because there is a law’, that’s not good enough … in multiracialism and multiculturalism,” he said, adding that “This is the ultimate goal.” “The law is only a guide rail, a way to get there. We must continue to push for greater understanding and greater tolerance, and the coming together of our own people through their efforts and the shaping and guiding hand of government. ”

Singapore has a population of 5.9 million – mostly Chinese followed by Malays, Indians, and others consisting of Asians and Caucasians.


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