M Ravi has been involved in some of the most high-profile and politically sensitive constitutional cases in Singapore since the early 2000s. He has taken a courageous stand against the mandatory death penalty, argued for the right of assembly, freedom of expression, the right to elections and equality for the LGBT community. Because of his advocacy for these issues, he has come to be seen as Singapore's leading human rights lawyer, one of the few willing to battle away on these matters of import.
Taking up the cudgel of human rights in the Lion City is often perceived by the authorities as an act of disloyalty, and those labelled as disloyal can see their own rights and liberties trampled upon. However, his immense spirituality imbues Ravi with the commitment and moral strength to continue on this sometimes perilous path.
Ravi's first foray into the political arena was seen in the 2015 general elections where he stood as a candidate for the Reform Party, concomitantly laying a milestone as Singapore's first openly pansexual politician.
Yong Vui Kong (born 23 January 1988) is a Malaysian citizen of Hakka Chinese descent who was sentenced to death in Singapore for trafficking more than 15 grams of heroin in 2007. Largely owing to Ravi's efforts, Yong's sentence was reduced to life imprisonment and caning as a result of Singapore's amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Act.
Political defamation suitsEdit
Section 377A Constitutional challengeEdit
Constitutional guarantee of by-electionsEdit
On 15 February 2012, the Member of Parliament (MP) for Hougang Single Member Constituency (SMC) was expelled from his political party, which left his parliamentary seat vacant.
The next day, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that there was no fixed time within which he must call for a by-election. He added that "there are many other issues on the national agenda right now". In parliament he said he would decide whether and when to hold a by-election. The use of the word “whether” implied that he had unfettered discretion not to hold one.
Unhappy at being indefinitely left without an MP to represent her, Hougang resident Vellama d/o Marie Muthu, challenged PM Lee's decision by applying to the High Court. Before her case came up for hearing, PM Lee called for the Hougang by-election to be held.
In this video, Professor Kevin YL Tan delves into the history of the constitution on elections and how significant Vellama's case was to clear up certain doubts. He tackles the question of whether the right for Singaporeans to vote is enshrined in the constitution and explains why it was a historic decision:
The above session, organised by Function 8 and coordinated by Teo Soh Lung, was moderated by Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss with Prof. Tan and Ravi on the panel. Vellama received a standing ovation for courageously fighting for the constitutional right of all citizens to have a by-election all the way to the highest court in the land despite threats of cost orders by the State and for eventually winning the case.
Article 12 Constitutional challenge for LGBT workplace equalityEdit
Asia Pink Awards 2014Edit
For his work on the Section 377A Constitutional challenge and the Article 12 Constitutional case for LGBT workplace equality, Ravi was one of the 3 Singaporean recipients of the inaugural Asia Pink Awards organised by ELEMENT magazine. The event was held at 7:30pm at Dream Factory, 76A Peck Seah Street on Sunday, 16 March 2014.
Talks & speechesEdit
Book launch of "Kampong Boy"Edit
Ravi launched his autobiographical book entitled "Kampong Boy" at The Play Den, located on the second level of The Arts House, on Saturday, 27 April 2013. During the Q&A session, he responded to Roy Tan's query on what drove him fight for equality on behalf of the gay community. His legal colleague and master-of-ceremonies for the event, Rudy Marican, provided additional insight:
Pink Dot 2014Edit
Ravi was invited to be one of the speakers in the Community Voices segment of Pink Dot 2014 held on Saturday, 28 June 2016:
- M Ravi, "Kampong Boy", Ethos Books, 2013, ISBN 978-991-07-5755-7.
- Kumaran Pillai, "It takes a “man without brakes” to mount constitutional challenges in Singapore", The Independent, 13 September 2016.
- Ellie Hu, "M RAVI “DON’T WALK THIS PATH FOR FAME AND GLORY, DO IT FOR THE POOR AND DEFENCELESS”", Singapore Daily, 7 October 2016.
This article was written by Roy Tan.