Can racial harmony in Singapore be fostered by law?

To live in Singapore is to be aware of race. It is on birth certificates, in the pledge, and informs a wide spectrum of government policies from housing to healthcare. It is also a subject Singaporeans would more often than not tread cautiously or tiptoe around, given the sensitivities surrounding the issue. Recently, the topic has come under scrutiny following a series of highly publicised incidents. Insight examines the issue.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced plans for a new law, the Maintenance of Racial Harmony Act, during the National Day Rally on Aug 28, 2021. PHOTO: ST FILE
New: Gift this subscriber-only story to your friends and family

SINGAPORE - On Wednesday, a 44-year-old man pleaded guilty to a harassment charge for hurling racist, xenophobic insults at a bus driver last year.

Another case involving race heard in court that day involved a 69-year-old taxi driver and two National Environment Agency officers. The driver was jailed two weeks and fined $2,000 for using criminal force on public servants and insulting them with a racial slur.

Already a subscriber? 

Dive deeper at $0.99/month

Want more exclusives, sharp insights into what's happening at home and abroad? Subscribe to stay informed.

Unlock these benefits

  • All subscriber-only content on ST app and straitstimes.com

  • Easy access any time via ST app on 1 mobile device

  • 2-week e-paper archive so you never miss out on any topic that matters to you

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.