Constitutional Rights That Singaporeans Thought They Had

Constitutional rights are rights or freedom that every citizen deserves. These rights are what protect us from certain false accusations or inappropriate enforcement of the law.

However, did you know that there are some rights that we thought we have but actually don’t?

In a recent Facebook post, a group of NUS students behind the Community for Advocacy & Political Education (CAPE) revealed this lesser known fact, leaving many Singaporeans in shock.

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They shared seven such examples, but we’ve picked the three most surprising ones.

No right to be free from discrimination

While female Singaporeans are comparing their salary with their male peers, they may not know this interesting tidbit.

According to CAPE, we don’t have “the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of sex or disability”.

This is because under Article 12(2) of the constitution, the only discrimination we receive protection from are race, religion, descent, or birthplace.

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But the example they gave of a female student quota that NUS School of Medicine abolished could hint that the rule is negligible.

After all, the constitution can change, just like the recent amendment of the Religious Harmony Act to also protect the LGBTQ community.

No right to property

CAPE also found that the Singapore Constitution, which was drafted after our separation from Malaysia, states that Singaporeans do not have the right to property.

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Due to the feudal origins of land law that applies in Singapore, all land belongs to the state and other persons can only own an estate or some lesser interest in the land.

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Most people believe that this right was removed because Singapore has limited land. If someone owns a piece of land forever, it would be tough for our government to plan infrastructure for everyone.

No right to remain silent

Fans of crime TV series would be familiar with the expression, “You have the right to remain silent”, which police utter upon every arrest.

That line, however, doesn’t really apply in Singapore, in certain contexts.

In CAPE’s post, point 5 explains that the Constitution of Singapore doesn’t permit an individual the right to remain silent. But the prohibition isn’t super solid.

We say this because you technically have the right to remain silent, though the right isn’t constitutional.

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The Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) recognises a privilege against self-incrimination, which means that you do not have to answer anything when the police accuses you of something.

So while the Constitution may not give you the right to remain silent, if you ever, god forbid, end up in a police interrogation, you deserve that right nonetheless under the CPC.

Know your rights

Aside from explaining the rights that Singapore think they have, the students also went an extra mile to bring up case study examples of how these misunderstood rights were used in court, for us to better understand them.

Kudos to the the students from Yale-NUS college and NUS Law for retrieving these information from the extensive Singapore Statutes which we otherwise wouldn’t have sifted through ourselves.

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If you’re curious to find out even more, why not look through the Statutes yourself? Who knows what hidden gems you’ll find.

Which of the rights mentioned did you not know about? Let us know in the comments below.

Featured image adapted from Facebook and Stidham Reconstruction and Investigation.