Dynamic balancing act needed on human rights

It is to be appreciated that when it comes to human rights, we need to take a careful and responsibly balanced approach, so as not to disrupt the peace and stability that we all value ("Make haste carefully on human rights"; yesterday).

It is to be recognised that we have made advances in the right direction, although we differ on the speed of the evolution. This pragmatic and non-partisan approach is necessary.

It is also essential to acknowledge that neither the state nor civil society and individuals hold a monopoly on the truth.

Even the views of the majority of our citizens are not always correct.

Therefore, the process of constant interaction, consultation and representation is indispensable.

We must guard against foreign intervention in our domestic and national interests. However, we are part of an inter-connected and globalised world.

This requires us to move, not into excessive competition, but into extensive cooperation for our mutual good.

We may be a red dot, but we are certainly an island and have to be reminded that "no man is an island, entire of itself".

We have much to offer as well as to learn from the historical experiences of people and nations beyond our shores.

We need to lead at times and we need to follow on occasion.

The balancing act that we perform is not to be a static one.

It is about achieving a dynamic equilibrium and not always being in a hurry to get there.

There are times in which we must assume leadership in moving forward and not yielding all the time to a conservative stance.

We must proceed with caution, but going ahead and progressing should be the norm.

We pursue this approach for the sake of the universal rights of human beings in the different stages of development in different countries, for our common good. 

Yap Kim Hao (Rev Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 22, 2015, with the headline 'Dynamic balancing act needed on human rights'. Print Edition | Subscribe