Press Releases

Public Consultation on the Maintenance of Racial Harmony Bill

Published: 16 April 2024

1. The Ministry of Home Affairs (“MHA”) will be introducing the Maintenance of Racial Harmony Bill (“the Bill”) later this year. We would like to invite the public to provide feedback on the proposed Bill, as well as the related measures to be introduced alongside the Bill.


2. Singapore’s racial and religious harmony is of paramount importance, and arguably an existential issue for our society. We have invested significant effort since independence – through legislation, policies, institutions and other measures – to preserve this harmony. In the context of religious harmony, one key measure is the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act (“MRHA”), which was enacted in 1990 and amended in 2019. The MRHA amendments in 2019 consolidated and expanded our levers to protect religious harmony, including criminalising conduct that harms religious harmony, providing safeguards against foreign influence in our religious organisations, and allowing a person who has committed offences against religious harmony to take remedial actions to soothe tensions and repair ties in lieu of prosecution. These objectives also apply in the context of racial harmony, and serve as the impetus for the proposed Bill.

Proposed Maintenance of Racial Harmony Bill

3. The proposed Bill will include the following provisions:

Proposal #1: To Port Over and Review Race-Related Offences

4. MHA will port over offences under the Penal Code which deal with threats to racial harmony, namely s298 and s298A. s298 concerns acts which wound the racial feelings of any person, while s298A concerns acts which promote enmity, hatred or ill will between racial groups, or which are otherwise prejudicial to inter-racial harmony.

5. To further deter race-based violence, the Bill will introduce an offence for acts that urge violence against other groups or their members, on the grounds of race. For instance, a racial supremacist urging violence against people with disabilities – even members of their own race – on the grounds of “racial purity”, would be committing an offence under the Bill. As this is a racially aggravated offence, the penalties will be the same as the enhanced penalties provided for by s74 of the Penal Code for an offence under s267C of the Penal Code that is racially aggravated.

6. The provisions above reflect the Government’s strong stance against conduct and speech that threaten racial harmony. Repeated exposure to hate crimes and speech can deepen feelings of prejudice and distrust, and sow discord amongst communities. It can also desensitise individuals and normalise unacceptable behaviour.

7. The Government is also mindful to strike a balance between keeping public discourse free from hateful or offensive speech, and allowing space for legitimate discourse, private communications, and remarks made in good faith. The Bill will include provisions to account for these. 

Proposal #2: To Introduce Restraining Orders Against Content Prejudicial to Racial Harmony

8. The Bill will enable the Minister for Home Affairs to make restraining orders (“ROs”) against the production or distribution of content that prejudices the maintenance of racial harmony in Singapore. Specifically, an RO can restrain a person or entity (where appropriate) from:

(a) Being involved in the communication or distribution of specified information or material; 

(b) Addressing a specified audience on a specified subject;

(c) Printing, editing, assisting, or contributing to a specified publication; and

(d) Holding office in an editorial board or a committee of a specified publication.

9. The power to make such ROs will enable us to act quickly and pre-emptively against content that threatens racial harmony, without having to establish that the person is engaging in criminal conduct. This is similar to the RO regime in the MRHA.

10. The exercise of ROs will be subject to safeguards, similar to those in the MRHA. All ROs will be reviewed by a Presidential Council (“the Council”), and the person against whom an RO is made will be able to make representations to the Council. After an RO is reviewed by the Council, which will consist of individuals who represent the different racial groups in Singapore or have distinguished themselves in public or community service, it will be sent to the President for confirmation together with the Council’s recommendation and Cabinet’s advice. If the Council’s recommendation is different from Cabinet’s advice, the President has discretion in deciding whether to confirm, cancel, or vary the RO.

Proposal #3: To Introduce Safeguards Against Foreign Influence Through Race-Based Organisations

11. The Bill will also introduce safeguards against foreign influence through race-based organisations. Designated entities that promote the interests of a racial group or sub-group will be required to disclose foreign donations and foreign affiliations, and disclose their leadership composition and/or comply with leadership requirements. The Minister for Home Affairs will also be able to impose additional safeguards to counter foreign influence. 

12. These are similar to the existing safeguards in the MRHA against foreign influence through religious groups. However, unlike the safeguards in the MRHA, which apply to all religious groups, the safeguards in the Bill will apply only to designated race-based organisations. Race-based organisations are a much larger and more diverse group, and it is neither necessary nor desirable at this juncture for such safeguards to apply to all race-based organisations.
13. MHA will engage community stakeholders to obtain their feedback on these proposals.

Introduction of Reparative Measures to Mend Community Ties

14. Racial incidents not only impact the victim, but also damage the ties between different races. Today, remedial initiatives occur on an ad hoc basis, for example, initiated by community partners out of goodwill. MHA, working with MCCY and other community partners, intends to introduce a separate set of reparative measures alongside the Bill, which may be offered by MHA/SPF to offenders as an alternative to prosecution for offences in the Bill. 

15. Such an approach helps the aggrieved community take a more reconciliatory view towards an offender and strengthens understanding between races. The offender is given an opportunity to learn from his mistakes while carrying out the reparative measures. The details of the reparative measures are being developed with the assistance of other agencies and community partners. Members of the public are welcome to provide feedback or suggestions on the proposed reparative measures.

Public Consultation

16. We welcome your views on the above proposals, along with any other suggestions you may have on the Bill. The full report with details on our proposals can be viewed here and on the REACH website. Please submit your feedback to us by 14 May 2024 via email at or by mail to the address below. 

Ministry of Home Affairs
New Phoenix Park
28 Irrawaddy Road
Singapore 329560
Re: Public Consultation on the Maintenance of Racial Harmony Bill

17. Your feedback is important to us. All views and comments received will be considered.