SINGAPORE – Singapore will introduce a brand new legislation on racial concord to encourage moderation and tolerance between completely different racial teams, mentioned Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday (Aug 29).
The brand new Upkeep of Racial Concord Act will consolidate all present legal guidelines coping with racial points, that are at present scattered underneath varied items of laws just like the Penal Code.
Other than offering for punishments to take care of racial offences, the brand new legislation may even incorporate “softer and gentler touches” that concentrate on persuasion and rehabilitation.
For example, it can vest the authorities with powers to order somebody who has precipitated offence to cease and make amends by studying extra in regards to the different race.
This softer method will assist to heal harm and mend ties between races, quite than leaving resentment within the wake of such incidents, Mr Lee mentioned.
The Prime Minister devoted a 3rd of his Nationwide Day Rally to the subject of race and faith, noting that race relations have come underneath stress throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
Whereas the actual answer to racism is to vary attitudes, which takes effort and time, laws can play a job, he mentioned.
“Legal guidelines could not, by themselves, make individuals get together with each other or like each other,” Mr Lee famous. “However legal guidelines can sign what our society considers proper or unsuitable, and nudge individuals over time to behave higher.”
He pointed to the present Upkeep of Spiritual Concord Act, which the brand new legislation can be modelled on.
The legislation has by no means been used because it got here into impact in 1992. However its very existence has helped to restrain intolerance and promote non secular concord, he mentioned.
Equally, the brand new legislation on racial concord will sign the “overriding significance” of this problem to Singapore society, he added.
In his speech, Mr Lee made reference to a number of latest high-profile racist incidents, noting a number of of those have focused Indians.
There are two causes for this, he surmised. One may very well be the massive variety of Indian work move holders in Singapore, whereas the opposite may very well be linked to the Delta variant of Covid-19, which first emerged in India.
However it’s illogical responsible these points on Indians and let these frustrations impression racial concord, Mr Lee mentioned.
“Simply as it’s illogical responsible the Alpha variant on the English, the KTV cluster on the Vietnamese, or the preliminary outbreak in Wuhan on the Chinese language,” he added.
“We should deal with the actual points – handle the work move numbers and concentrations, and enhance our border well being safeguards.”
Whereas these racist incidents are a reminder of the fragility of Singapore’s concord, they don’t negate the nation’s multi-racial method which has labored effectively, he mentioned, including that racial concord didn’t occur spontaneously right here.
He outlined how Singapore has labored exhausting to attain the present delicate steadiness, where people of different races and faiths live peacefully together.
Even so, racial concord remains to be a piece in progress and can be for a very long time, Mr Lee mentioned. He famous that everybody retains racial or non secular preferences, that are pure in each society.
“However typically, it goes past racial and cultural preferences to grow to be biases and prejudices. Then it’s a drawback,” he mentioned.
He gave the instance of job commercials which require Chinese language audio system though it isn’t clear that this can be a real job necessity. He additionally cited people who’re rejected for leases after property brokers discover out they don’t seem to be Chinese language.
Folks from minority teams expertise this stuff extra acutely as a result of they’re those most affected by such racial discrimination, Mr Lee mentioned.
“They really feel indignant, harm, dissatisfied that the phrases in our Nationwide Pledge are nonetheless an aspiration, nonetheless not totally achieved,” he added.
“I do know it’s tougher to belong to a minority race than to the bulk. And that is true in each multi-racial society, however it doesn’t imply that we’ve got to simply accept this state of affairs in Singapore.”
That is why Singapore should preserve working on the problem, Mr Lee burdened.
The bulk have to be extra delicate to minority issues, whereas people should even have the ethical braveness to take a stand towards racist behaviour, he mentioned.
This implies expressing clear disapproval of racist incidents, and likewise to name out deliberate racist agitation that masquerades as one thing else. The marketing campaign towards the Complete Financial Cooperation Settlement with India (Ceca), as an illustration, claimed to be about placing Singaporeans first however had a powerful racial undertone, Mr Lee mentioned.
The brand new Upkeep of Racial Concord Act is a part of maintaining Singapore’s insurance policies on race and faith updated, Mr Lee mentioned, noting that racial and spiritual concord is dynamic.
Societal views and beliefs shift over time, with every new technology holding completely different views on racial points.
Older Singaporeans who lived by the racial riots that marked Singapore’s journey in direction of independence normally consider that such points are greatest left alone.
“They assume: discussions can grow to be disputes, disputes might be come quarrels, higher don’t discuss such issues an excessive amount of,” he mentioned.
However youthful Singaporeans, who’ve largely grown up in an atmosphere of peace and concord, assume in another way.
They consider that because the nation is now mature and secure, problems with race and faith should now be mentioned extra overtly, and present insurance policies and assumptions reexamined, to enhance the established order.
“These generational variations in views are completely comprehensible and needs to be accommodated,” he mentioned.
The Prime Minister then turned his consideration to how Singaporeans are influenced by exterior non secular tendencies in a altering world.
For example, many Christians consider themselves as members of a worldwide communion, whereas Muslims take into account themselves to be a part of a worldwide ummah, or neighborhood of believers.
“So when non secular norms elsewhere shift, norms and practices in Singapore are additionally affected,” Mr Lee mentioned.
That is much like how Singapore is uncovered to, and subsequently influenced by, exterior political developments, he added. These embrace the Black Lives Matter motion in America, or the battle between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza.
“Our personal circumstances and context are utterly completely different, and these should not our quarrels,” he famous. “However they do have an effect on our individuals.”
Such adjustments are why Singapore wants to regulate its insurance policies on race and faith once in a while. Nevertheless it should achieve this primarily based by itself wants, quite than merely reacting to tendencies overseas, Mr Lee burdened.
And because it makes such adjustments, it should proceed with warning. It’s because race and faith will all the time be extremely delicate points, he mentioned.
“We’ve got to take the time to debate respectfully, make certain all people understands, and construct a consensus earlier than we make any transfer.”