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Singapore: Adoption of Universal Periodic Review Working Group Report

Publisher Argentina: Cámara Nacional Electoral
Publication Date 23 September 2011
Related Document(s) Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review : Singapore
Cite as Argentina: Cámara Nacional Electoral, Singapore: Adoption of Universal Periodic Review Working Group Report, 23 September 2011, available at: [accessed 23 January 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

The Working Group Report on Singapore's first Universal Periodic Review (UPR) was adopted on 22 Sept 2011 at the 18th Session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva. Singapore accepted 84 out of the 112 recommendations made by Member States. Braema Mathiaparanam of MARUAH, Singapore delivered the following oral statement on behalf of ARTICLE 19. 

Thank you, Madam President. I am making this statement on behalf of ARTICLE 19[1], and as MARUAH[2]. Firstly I thank the Singapore government for taking the UPR process seriously and for engaging CSOs in its discussions.

Mr President, I speak as civil society working in Singapore. Much has changed in Singapore since the UPR's State under Review event on May 6th. The General Election on May 7th was a watershed. The ruling party - People's Action Party - saw its popularity dive to an all time low of 60.14 per cent, and it lost a Group Representation Constituency of five candidates ( who are voted in on a  single ballot)  to the Opposition, and also  two Cabinet Ministers in the process.

Last month, we had the Presidential Elections. An unprecedented four candidates contested, fighting hard, before former Deputy Prime Minster, Dr Tony Tan became President as a majority winner with 35 per cent of the votes.

Post-election analyses (done by think-tanks, political parties, civil society) reflect a chasm between the people and the government. Much of the dissatisfaction centres around social security issues, lack of – perceived or real -  adequate protection against foreigners taking jobs, access to affordable housing and a frustration at still being  'nannied' by the government which limits political and civil liberties for the citizens, based on ' for their own good' and fear.

 My colleagues and I believe that Singapore is poised for change. People want more space, more say in policy-making discussions, and more freedom to express themselves. There is a definite expressed change in this relationship between the government and the people.

Given this backdrop, Mr President, it is disheartening that after these elections and after acknowledging a readiness to change – the government has not supported the civil and political liberty recommendations (about a third of the 112 reccommendations in the Working Group on the UPR report ((A/HRC/18/11). These include ratifying International Conventions ( ICCPR, ICESCR) and the Optional Protocol, removing core reservations in CEDAW and CRC ,  working towards setting up a national human rights commission, reviewing defamation laws, Newspaper Printing and Publishing Act, laws on preventive detention, the  death penalty and on sodomy. (Recommendations 96.22 – 96.24; 96.1- 96.18)

The government remains resolute in this area, giving little. For example, last week, Malaysia announced that it will abolish its Internal Security Act, the main source of its powers of preventive detention. Just one day later, the Singapore government announced that it will not do the same, even though our legislation is historically linked to Malaysia's.

Thus much remains as status quo. The elections may have changed many things, but certainly not our civil liberties in Singapore.

Please do know that we congratulate our government for moving towards ratification of the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, the Maritime Labour (ILO) Convention and for setting up a multi-agency taskforce to study the Palermo Protocol.

Please also do know that the government of Singapore has done many things right. They have succeeded at many things. Nevertheless Singaporeans remain frustrated at the continued stifling of rights, by a government that is still too cautious.  

MARUAH urges our government to work towards civil and political liberties as a priority focus for the next UPR. We will play our part. I  thank all members of the HRC community for their valuable contributions in this discussion.

[1]ARTICLE 19  is an independent human rights organisation that works globally to protect and promote the right to freedom of expression

[2] . MARUAH is a three-year-old human rights NGO in Singapore.

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