Engage citizens in effort to improve human rights

I concur with Ms Alison Kuah that Singapore should establish a national human rights institution, or NHRI ("Singapore needs independent human rights commission"; Forum Online, Feb 3).

Doing so will help institutionalise Singapore's stated commitment to human rights.

If we set up an NHRI, it should be compliant with the Paris Principles, which are a set of best practices that NHRIs should adopt.

Just as we aspire to be internationally recognised for our economic competitiveness and standard of living, let us also aspire to be positively recognised for our commitment to human rights.

I was encouraged to read Ambassador-at-large Chan Heng Chee's remarks at the Universal Periodic Review, in which she said that the Government is committed to and invested in the task of protecting fundamental rights ("UN praises Singapore's social policies"; Jan 29).

Singapore received 236 recommendations from other states, including to consider establishing an NHRI, to ratify the human rights treaties that we have not ratified yet, and to reduce discrimination against women and migrant workers.

The Government has agreed to examine each recommendation, comment and question carefully in considering how to further improve efforts to safeguard human rights.

Singapore's citizens and civil society should also be consulted before a decision is made on which recommendations to accept.

Such consultations could be similar to the Our Singapore Conversation exercise, and should allow citizens to voice out their hopes, concerns and vision for the future, in a forum that facilitates meaningful discussion.

Brian Chang Tse De