Do you know …
The Constitution of Singapore is the supreme law of Singapore.
After Separation, the Republic adopted a temporary Constitution which comprised of three separate documents: State of Singapore Constitution of 1963, portions of the Federation of Malaysia Constitution and the Republic of Singapore Independence Act of 1965.1
At the First session of the First Parliament on 22 December 1965, Minister for Law and National Development, Mr E W Barker announced:
"One of the cornerstones of the policy of the government is a multi-racial Singapore. We are a nation comprising peoples of various races who constitutes her citizens, and our citizens are equal regardless of differences of race, language, culture and religion… To ensure this bias in favour of multi-racialism and the equality of our citizens, whether they belong to majority or minority groups, a Constitutional Commission is being appointed to help formulate these constitutional safeguards." 2
In January 1966, the Constitutional Commission proceeded to study the legislature framework of the Republic. Some of its recommendations include reaffirming fundamental liberties from the Federation of Malaysia Constitution, which guarantee the following: 3
- Protection of life and liberty
- Prohibition of slavery and forced labour
- Protection against retrospective criminal laws and repeated trials
- Equality and equal protection of the law
- Prohibition against banishment nd freedom of movement
- Freedom of speech, assembly and association
- Freedom of religion
- Rights in respect of education
In 1970, the Presidential Council for Minority Rights was established to scrutinise legislation passed by Parliament to ensure that there would be no discrimination against minority communities. 4
In order to remain relevant, several amendments have been made to the Constitution in the and 90s. To preserve multi-racialism in Parliament, the Constitution was amended in 1988 to introduce the concept of Group Representation Constituency (GRC) so that every political party contesting the election in a GRC must field at least one candidate from the minority communities. 5
Religious harmony is also not taken for granted. In August 1992, the Constitution was amended to provide for a Presidential Council for Religious Harmony to resolve any potential religious conflicts. All leaders of the major religious groups in Singapore are represented in this Council. 6
[Constitution of Singapore is available online via: http://statutes.agc.gov.sg/non_version/html/homepage.html]
Source: Report of the Constitutional Commission, 1966
Extracts from Report of the Constitutional Commission.
President S R Nathan with Chairman and several members of the Presidential Council for Minority Rights at the Istana, 2000.
President S R Nathan with members of the Presidential
Council for Religious Harmony at the Istana, 1999.
1Kelvin Y.L. Tan, An Introduction to Singapore's Constitution (Singapore: Talisman Publishing Pte Ltd, 2005), pp. 22-23.
2 Report of the Constitutional Commission 1966 (Singapore: Government Publications Bureau, 1966), p. 1.
3 Ibid., pp. 7-12 and Tan, An Introduction to Singapore's Constitution, p. 141.
4 Chan Heng Chee, "Legislature and Legislators", in Government and Politics of Singapore, ed. Jon S.T. Quah, Chan Heng Chee and Seah Chee Meow (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1985), p. 73.
5 "Speech by Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong at the Official Opening of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) 1999 Mid-Year Ex-Co Meeting, 4 May 1999" found on Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, http://app.mfa.gov.sg/2006/press/view_press_print.asp?post_id=1090.