Saturday, 4 April 2015

3 religious leaders appointed to minority rights council

By Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times, 3 Apr 2015

THREE new members have been named to the Presidential Council for Minority Rights (PCMR).

They are the Catholic Church's Archbishop William Goh, former mufti Shaikh Syed Isa Mohamed Semait and former Sikh Advisory Board chairman Surjit Singh.

Their three-year appointments took effect on Wednesday.

The council, created in 1973, ensures that laws passed in Parliament do not discriminate against any racial or religious community.

It also advises the President on nominees to the Presidential Council for Religious Harmony, the Malay Community Committee and the Indian and Other Minority Communities Committee. The two committees certify minority candidates for parliamentary elections.

Archbishop Goh was sworn in by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, who chairs the PCMR, on Wednesday. Mr Syed Isa and Mr Singh were sworn in at the Istana yesterday.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who attended yesterday's swearing-in ceremony, said on Facebook that the three new members "are all respected religious and community leaders" and will strengthen the PCMR. He added that the PCMR is another legacy of his father, the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew. It was born out of a review of Singapore's Constitution that the elder Mr Lee ordered after separation from Malaysia in 1965.

Apart from Chief Justice Menon, the council comprises five permanent members - PM Lee, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam and former Cabinet ministers Othman Wok and S. Dhanabalan -and 13 other members.

The late Mr Lee, who died on March 23, had also been a permanent member.

The other members are Attorney-General V. K. Rajah, Justice Steven Chong, Mr J. Y. Pillay, Archbishop Emeritus Nicholas Chia, Mr Othman Haron Eusofe, Mr Timothy James de Souza, Mr Abdullah Tarmugi, Professor Chan Heng Chee, Mr Barry Desker and Mr Philip Jeyaretnam.

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