Speech By Minister in The Prime Minister’s Office, and Second Minister for Finance & National Development Indranee Rajah at Launch of the Singapore Sindhi Association’s First Pro Bono Clinic and MOU Signing with the Law Society Pro Bono Services30 Dec 2021
Member of Parliament, Mr Lim Biow Chuan,
President of Law Society, Mr Gregory Vijayendran SC,
Vice Chairman, Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry and Honorary Counsul of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mr Kishore Daryanani,
CEO, Singapore Indian Development Association, Mr Anbarasu Rajendran,
President of the Singapore Sindhi Association, Mr Vashdev Khialani
Ladies and gentlemen,
1. Thank you very much for inviting me to be at this event.
2. I am very honoured to join all of you at this special occasion to launch the Singapore Sindhi Association’s (SSA) first pro bono clinic and MOU signing with the Law Society Pro Bono Services (LSPBS).
The SSA’s Beginnings
3. This year is SSA’s centenary. It is a special occasion. Congratulations to the SSA because 100 years is a huge milestone, not many other associations can boast of this. Congratulations again.
a. This would not have been possible if not for the dedication and commitment of SSA’s pioneers, its members and volunteers.
b. The SSA was formed in 1921, as we heard earlier, with just 10 members, under the chairmanship of Mr T Naraindas.
c. Between the 1930s to 1940s, the SSA worked hard to acquire several properties in Enggor Street, at Neil Road and at Oxley Rise, to provide comfortable boarding facilities for visiting Sindhis and for those who were in transit to their destination.
4. More than just a boarding facility, the SSA looked after the interest and welfare of the Sindhi community in Singapore by organising educational, social, and spiritual activities for the community.
5. So today, we gather in the present Sindhu House here in Mountbatten. With the united efforts of its members, the SSA has grown from just 10 members when they started out to around 650 members.
The SSA’s charitable causes over the years
6. The SSA has been and continues to engage in many charitable causes, benefitting both their members as well as others. To name just a few,
a. The Senior Citizens Group was started in 2002 to provide free amenities to senior Sindhis.
i. Apart from the monthly get-togethers, we saw that just now, the volunteers also plan an annual Diwali Gala event with lively performances, which many seniors attend and look forward to.
ii. The Diwali Gala event is made possible with the generous donations from the Sindhis.
b. The SSA has also been running blood donation drives since 1978.
i. This meaningful initiative was regularised to four times a year in 1980 by the late businessman Mr Rupchand Bhojwani, who also served as the President of Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce.
ii. The initiative continues to be led by Mr Vashi Chandiramani, a volunteer of the SSA, who is here with us today and I just wanted to share his journey. He’s over there, let us give him a big hand.
iii. Mr Chandiramani witnessed an accident many years ago. A little girl had been knocked down by a minibus. He called for an ambulance and followed the girl to the hospital. The doctor told Mr Chandiramani that the girl was saved because there was a packet of the rare A-negative blood. She would have died otherwise.
iv. Impacted by the incident, Mr Chandiramani began donating blood regularly – a hundred times over 27 years!
v. Due to a medical condition, Mr Chandiramani could no longer donate blood since 2004. He then took it upon himself to do more through advocating regular blood donations at the community level.
vi. He has also been engaging in numerous publicity efforts to encourage the public to make regular blood donations.
vii. So a big thank you to your efforts Mr Chandiramani! You have done a lot of people a lot of good.7.
7. I believe everyone here today can relate to Mr Chandiramani – we have a story to share, a strong sense of wanting to give back to the community, no matter how small the deed may be.
The SSA’s expansion of efforts into the area of access to justice
8. This year, in commemoration of the 100th year of the SSA’s establishment, SSA has launched its first pro bono clinic to expand its efforts into the area of access to justice.
a. The first legal clinic session will be held in the 2nd week of February 2022.
b. This complimentary service is extended to all members of the public who are unable to afford the fees for private legal advice and services.
c. Today, the SSA will also be signing an MOU with LSPBS – this will allow LSPBS to refer their applicants to the SSA pro bono clinic.
9. I would like to thank the Law Society Pro Bono Services (LSPBS) for partnering the SSA in launching SSA’s first pro bono clinic.
10. LSPBS has been a key partner in enhancing access to justice in Singapore.
a. Apart from their strong efforts in providing legal aid through the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme and the Family Justice Support Scheme (FJSS), and organising regular law awareness programmes,
b. LSPBS also runs around 20 Community Legal Clinics (CLCs) conveniently located at the Community Development Councils (CDCs) across Singapore.
i. On average, the CLCs, Community Legal Clinics, provide legal advice to an average of more than 2,300 persons each year, on a variety of legal issues. These can range from employment, consumer rights, family matters, and more.
11. I am very heartened by this partnership between SSA and LSPBS that will further enhance access to justice in SIngapore.
a. It is this very spirit of volunteerism, of giving, and partnerships that brings to life the true essence of pro bono work and will touch the lives of many in a meaningful way.
The Government’s commitment to ensuring and enhancing access to justice
12. The Government firmly believes in this important mission of enhancing access to justice, and have introduced many initiatives to achieve this.
a. So for example:
i. The Legal Aid Bureau, a department of the Ministry of Law (MinLaw), has expanded its partnerships and referral systems to include social service agencies to meet the applicants’ needs more holistically.
ii. This year, we passed the Courts Reform Bill, which supports the digital transformation of litigation process, simplification of rules, and elimination of unnecessary processes so that the general public may understand court processes more easily.
iii. MinLaw is also working with LSPBS to develop a one-stop portal for legal information and assistance, in their first attempt to consolidate various sources of legal information in Singapore into one trusted website.
13. I believe that these efforts and partnerships will further improve access to justice in Singapore and I am glad that the SSA is onboard with us in this effort.
14. In closing, I would like to thank all the volunteers, partners, and stakeholders for giving your personal time and talents to help vulnerable persons in need of legal advice, and to build a better society for all to live in.
15. Allow me to leave you with a quote from the Nobel Peace Prize Winner Albert Schweitzer:
“Seek always to do some good, somewhere. Every person has to seek in his own way to make his own self more noble and to realise his own true worth. You must give some time to your fellow man. Even if it’s a little thing, do something for those who have need of a man’s help, something for which you get no pay but the privilege of doing it. For, remember, you don’t live in a world all your own. Your brothers are here too.”
16. Thank you all very much and congratulations.