Dec 10 - International Human Rights Day - reminds us of persisting human rights problems in our communities and in the world, and of the enormous efforts still required to make human rights a reality for all.
Human rights must be viewed as a vital part of civilisation, designed to equip generations with the knowledge of their inalienable rights, and the means to exercise and defend them. But none as sacrosanct as the right to life.
Singapore has been accused of having draconian laws and disrespecting human life. Recent episodes on drug-traficking offences highlighted the need for human rights education, judicial discretionary powers and abolition of mandatory death penalty.
Human rights include rights to health, to education, to food, to housing, to participate in politics, to be free from torture, arbitrary arrest and detention - in short, the rights needed to be free from want and fear.
Human rights education thus enables our people to be better informed of international perspectives on human rights charter and better appreciate the value of human life.
Abolition of the mandatory death penalty is a positive policy decision by a progressive, nimble and caring government. Instead of being defensive on grounds of sovereignty and legality processes, governments will be viewed as geniunely open-minded, rehabilitative towards criminal offences and respected as a state that values the sanctity of life.
Moroever, its been noted that Singapore authorities need to allow access at least within 48 hours of a persons detention, within the period the accused has to be produced in court. Singapore authorities cannot continue to justify its denial of early access of legal counsel to the accused - we cannot remain an exception to international legal practices.
This International Human Rights Day, Think Centre calls on Singaporeans to support its call to the government:
- to institutionalise human rights education in schools and the community
- to empower the Judiciary with discretionary power on drug trafficking sentences
- to abolish the mandatory death penalty in Singapore
In a global community where technology is permeating societal barriers, cultural walls and international borders, our Ministry of Foreign Affairs with Permanent representatives in Geneva and New York, are constantly engaged on human rights and defending Singapore's position for or against on the thematic issues including death penalty, migrant worker's rights, and others.
Let us remake Singapore not only into a global vibrant city, but also cultivate a vibrant society which is thinking, progressive and humane.
Think Centre wishes you a reflective International Human Rights Day 2005.
7 Dec 2005
The Think Centre