16 September 2012
Think Centre (TC), Singapore's oldest political association, announced a change of leadership at its 2012 Annual General Meeting (AGM). Immediate Past President Mr Kong Soon Tan, 35, passed the baton to incoming President, Mr Adrian Heok, 39, an independent researcher and consultant.
Other key appointment-holders returned unopposed are Executive Secretary Mr Ted Tan, and its Treasurer, Ms Ong Xiao Yun – both in their early thirties. Veteran human rights activist Mr Sinapan Samydorai, one of TC's founders, currently, the director of Asean affairs, will continue in his capacity, and also contribute as part of TC Team to establish the independent Civil Society led Singapore Working Group for a National Human Rights Institution.
The AGM opened with a minute of silence to mark the memory of the late Christopher Neo, another TC's founders who passed away last month.
In his outgoing President's address, Tan highlighted TC's founding principles and vision towards a vibrant civil society in Singapore. He paid tribute to Christopher Neo and exhorted members to follow in Neo's example of championing political consciousness, human rights education and protection. During his term, Tan continued TC's human rights capacity-building efforts locally, regionally and internationally. He oversaw TC's contribution to the anti-ISA movement, anti-death penalty campaign, protection of rights of migrant workers and upholding of cultural rights. More notably, Tan represented Singapore and TC in delivering an oral statement at the U.N Human Rights Council's first Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Singapore in 2011. He also initiated an informal platform for political exchange between Generation X and Y civil society activists and political party members.
Incoming TC President, Heok conveyed his appreciation to current and past leadership teams, members and friends alike as he looks forward to their continued support and contribution. He reiterated TC's commitment to the U.N human rights framework and urged members advance TC's mission in raising greater awareness, protection of human rights and encouraging the adoption of a rights-based mindset in Singapore and the region.
Specifically, TC is establishing the independent Civil Society led Singapore Working Group for a National Human Rights Institution. The Working Group is envisioned to comprise key independent civil society group representatives who are committed to promoting and protecting human rights in Singapore and prepared to engage all relevant stakeholders. The working group will act as a "Human Rights Watch Group" by monitoring the implementation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the recommendations in the report of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The working group will give attention to on-going thematic issues of concern in Singapore, for example, retention of death penalty; space for freedom of expression and assembly; labour and migrant workers rights; discrimination and social injustice among others.
TC is also encouraging Singapore to establish a National Human Rights Commission with an initial focus of promoting equal opportunity; public human rights awareness programme and human rights education in schools. The commission would develop a comprehensive framework for implementing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for all to enjoy a better quality of life by ensuring the full dignity and rights of every individual and community.
With its new leadership in place, TC intends to focus on engaging Singapore's citizenry, the Government and regional civil society in building a truly caring community where no one will be discriminated against.