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Title: As one united people : an inclusive communitarian approach to constitutional rights in Singapore
Author: Chang, Ya Lan
ISNI:       0000 0004 8507 5086
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2020
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Despite having a written Constitution, Article 4 of which states that it is the ‘supreme law’ of the nation and which confers strike down powers on the courts, there has never been a single successful constitutional rights challenge to legislation and executive orders in Singapore’s 54 years of independence. I hypothesise, with a doctrinal analysis, that this is caused by Singapore’s communitarian approach to rights. It prioritises the collective interest over individual rights, resulting in the disjunction between the rights’ elevated status and their practical non-application. To correct this disjunction, I demonstrate that communitarianism does not necessarily prioritise the collective over the individual, and develop an alternative communitarian approach: the inclusive communitarian approach, consisting of two elements. First, a pluralistic constitutive conception of community as the communal attachments that partly constitute our identity. Second, the national community’s duty to include all who fulfil the membership criterion. The inclusive communitarian approach reconceptualises rights as protecting our interest in our constitutive communities—to have access to and participate in them, and to live meaningfully as their members—because they are a fundamental source of meaning for our self-understanding. The importance of this interest gives rise to the national community’s duty to include by recognising members’ equality of membership. This means that, unless a constitutive community violates the duty to include and the national community’s foundational principles, the national community cannot restrict a constitutive community in a manner that disrespects its value to its members. I then apply the inclusive communitarian approach to Singapore and show, first, that it re-interprets Singapore’s communitarian values in a more favourable light; and second, that it would vindicate some of the constitutional rights challenges, discussed in the thesis, that have failed on Singapore’s ‘collective over individual’ communitarian approach.
Supervisor: Hughes, Kirsty ; Psarras, Haris ; Haldar, Antara Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: communitarianism ; constitutional rights ; constitutional law ; singapore ; theory of rights ; identities ; constitutive communities ; national identity