On February 10, lawyer M. Ravi took to Facebook to enjoin others to support his petition to the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Cultural Rights, as well as a separate complaint to the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights. This is in the context of Singaporean Hindus being stripped of “their constitutional rights” during Thaipusam, when they are not permitted to use musical instruments for the procession, based on a restriction put into effect in 1973.
Mr. Ravi also said that concerned citizens can tap the UN’s Human Rights Council. He will be asking rapporteurs from the UN to come to the country for the purpose of listening to people concerning these violations. He assured readers that Singaporean authorities cannot disallow the rapporteurs from entering the country, since the UN has granted them specific immunities.
Mr. Ravi cited past success in 2012, when he worked with the UN Special Rapporteur for Extra Judicial and Arbitrary or Summary Executions toward the partial abolition of the mandatory death penalty, in order to encourage supporters of the petitioj.
The lawyer has been heartened by support from the fellow Singaporeans of different ethnicities, something that he believes attests to shared values of racial unity, equality and peace, which make up Singapore’s core values.
Other Hindus have appealed for Mr. Ravi’s help in making clear concerns about permits for a peaceful protest scheduled to be held at the Speakers’ Corner. This is a protest to speak up against Thaipusam regulations that have been “oppressive and dehumanizing” especially “the music ban which strips them of their cultural rights.” While he doubts that the required permits will be issued, he encouraged them to continue with the protest.
In his post, Mr. Ravi emphasized that the best thing that concerned citizens can do is petition the UN, since appealing to the country’s officials in the last forty years has been futile “and the situation has deteriorated, though our people have become more law abiding and subdued over the years.”
Even appeals to the court to uphold Hindu’s religious, cultural and constitutional rights have failed. Mr. Ravi wrote, “We can’t even have peaceful protest at the Speakers’ Cornet which is the only place in our country that is officially sanctioned to hold a protest.”
Mr. Ravi emphasized that petitioning the UN is a legitimate avenue under International Human Rights Law, and urged others to “exercise that legal right.”
He did, however, ask his fellow Hindus to observe restraint and uphold the nation’s values of multi-ethnic unity, harmony and peace. He also encouraged those who wished to get in touch by posting his contact information, and ended the post with an explanation of the duties and functions of the UN agencies he had mentioned.
Below is a brief note of the functions of the above-mentioned UN agencies:
The titles special rapporteur is an independent expert, are given to individuals working on behalf of the United Nations (UN) within the scope of “special procedure”.
The mandate by the United Nations has been to “examine, monitor, advise, and publicly report on human rights problems through “activities undertaken by special procedures, including responding to individual complaints, psychological operations and manipulation via the controlled media and academia, conducting studies, providing advice on technical cooperation at the country level, and engaging in general promotional activities.