Advocacy group SG Human Rights, formed in 2007, has announced that it is disbanding. The following is its statement posted on its website.
We are “disbanding” but no, we are not giving up our fight for human rights.
SG Human Rights (SGHR) is not an association, society, company or any organisation of sorts. We’re simply a motley crew of individuals without political clout, organisational affiliations or government funding, who believe in human rights – the universal values of what it takes to have a just, equal and inclusive society with the essential compassion and respect we should accord to one another. These include civil and political rights as well as other fundamental freedoms.
Fundamental freedoms are not formalised nor conferred; they are exercised. We were, and are, exercising our rights in line with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Art. 19 & 20) and the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (Art. 14), to get together and express our opinions and concerns. For some of us, activism is not new, having already been involved in other efforts or campaigns on various issues before banding as SGHR. For others, we were already on a journey leading to activism and actively searching for an avenue or platform that would suit us.
We came together under this banner because we were strongly motivated to respond to landmark events in the region for 2007: the Saffron Revolution in Burma (cognizant of Singapore’s link and influence to Burma and in solidarity with the Burmese community in Singapore) and the signing of the ASEAN Charter in November which included a provision for the formation of a regional human rights body (Art. 14).
We worked as a collective through dialogue and consensus with no committee, management structure or leader. There are only 9 of us – not quite the required minimum number of ‘members’ to register as a society. This is a strategic choice as by consensus, it is not our intention to become a society or any other formally constituted organisation which, for some of us, is a direct protest to the existing Societies Act.
In our view, civil society space in Singapore should not be sectioned, quartered and restricted to participation through formal groups or organisations which is more likely to result in closed-door diplomacy that the common man has no access to. There is space and need for self-organised or autonomous initiatives; for different lines of actions to be taken and our preference is for direct action.
We acknowledge that although we gave a voice from the ground of informed and interested citizens, we are not representative and nor should we aim for such representation. Instead, what we have learnt from this experience as SGHR, is the advantage of a small ad-hoc group, in terms of mobility, flexibility and responsiveness, in organising and executing activities over larger, hierarchical groups. We have also learnt of what it takes to struggle together and come to our understanding of each other’s interests and concerns.
Yet we believe that there are more Singaporeans out there who share similar concerns and have various capacities to share, contribute, exchange ideas and plans of actions and who are willing to get together and do something about human rights in general or on specific issues. There must be no monopoly on human rights and civil society participation. Our hope is that there are many more – a diversity of groups and individuals, big or small, ad-hoc or permanent, working on the many, many issues.
For us, after debating and discussing, we have arrived at a resolution that SG Human Rights does not belong to just the 9 of us and we are moving on. In the spirit of SG Human Rights, we advocate that any Singaporean can come together and take up the banner of “Singaporeans for Human Rights”. This is a call to action.
The 9 of us – Choon Hiong, E-Jay, Isrizal, Kai Xiong, M Ravi, Noora, Seelan, Shafiee, and Ti Lik – are saying: JOIN US. Not as members of a group because there is no such formal group as SG Human Rights, but to take part in the overall effort. Initiate your own human rights activities. Collaborate with all of us or some of us. The 9 of us will be continuing with activism, pursuing individual projects and we’ll probably still work together in different combinations and hopefully with new people like yourself. Do not just criticise others for not doing enough. We’ve gone up and done something. Have you?
Chia Ti Lik (chiatilink at hotmail dot com, http://chiatilik.wordpress.com)
Chong Kai Xiong (w_velocity at yahoo dot com)
Ho Choon Hiong (starwars at cyberway dot com dot sg, http://hochoonhiong.blogspot.com)
Isrizal (isrizal at gmail dot com)
M Ravi (mravilaw at gmail dot com)
Ng E-Jay (ngejay at sgpolitics dot net, http://sgpolitics.net)
Noora Zul (noorazul at gmail dot com)
Seelan Palay (seelanpalay at gmail dot com, http://singaporeindianvoice.blogspot.com)
Shafiie (redgwn at yahoo dot com)
SG Human Rights’ videos of past actions and events can still be viewed on YouTube.
Read also: Informal human rights group here disbands by the Straits Times.