Published: 13 September 2021
Mr Sharael Taha: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs with regard to a proposed Maintenance of Racial Harmony Act (a) who are the stakeholders that will be involved and consulted on during the drafting of the Act; (b) how will the Ministry consider the concerns of the different communities without creating a litigious culture; and (c) how will the Ministry ensure that only legitimate cases are being investigated and prosecuted.
1. MHA and MCCY will be engaging community leaders and groups across all racial groups in preparation for the new Maintenance of Racial Harmony Act. We are working on the engagement plans and will share more details when ready.
2. The member asked how we would address the concerns of the communities without creating a litigious culture. Laws by themselves cannot make people get along with one another or like one another. However, they can help to lay out what our society considers right or wrong.
3. The new Act will act as guardrails for our racial harmony. Besides criminalising acts that clearly seek to promote enmity between different racial groups and undermine our racial harmony, the Act will introduce softer, non-punitive measures that allow the offender a chance to mend relations or understand the offended party’s perspective better. This is important as there could be situations where it would be more helpful to focus on mediating and restoring relations rather than punishing the offender.
4. The member asked how we would ensure that only legitimate cases are investigated and prosecuted. As with all offences under the law, AGC will decide on whether a case should be prosecuted by making an assessment on the sufficiency of the evidence gathered by the law enforcement agencies, and on whether it is in the public interest to do so. That said, Parliament decides on where to draw the line as to what actions should be considered criminal, through the laws that it passes. This new Act will give us an opportunity to review our laws on race and determine the appropriate threshold to set.