Welcome to the Sikh Advisory Board (SAB) of Singapore. We are a respected non-profit organization founded in 1948, dedicated to safeguarding the interests, rights, and well-being of the Sikh community in Singapore. Over the years, we have fostered an enriched dialogue between the Sikh community and other groups, promoting social harmony and mutual understanding within the vibrant multi-racial society of Singapore.
Early years of the SAB in the Straits Settlement
The Sikh Advisory Board (SAB) was started by the British in 1915 to advise the colonial government on matters concerning Sikh religion, customs and general welfare of the Sikh community. Interestingly, in many official communications, the SAB was then referred to by the colonial government as a “Panchayat” (village council in Punjabi) – an indication that the authorities had every intention of having the SAB decide on the affairs of the “village” or community of Sikhs it had formed in the Straits Settlements on behalf of the British government. This point can be underscored by the SAB being formed only months after the 1915 Mutiny in Singapore, which had led to a serious review of how the Straits Settlement authorities managed the Indian immigrant communities here. It is therefore unsurprising that Sergeant-Major Gurmukh Singh, the highest ranking Sikh policeman then, was appointed the Chairman of the Board, with Jawala Singh Dhothar, a clerk with the Singapore Harbour Board, as Secretary.
All 10 members of the SAB then were nominated by the Governor of the Straits Settlements. It is also worth noting that meetings were conducted in Malay.
By 1917, the Straits Settlement had distributed the leadership of the Board as it set up parallel Sikh Advisory Boards in Malacca and Penang to cover the rest of Malaya. Sergeant-Major Gurmukh Singh was still appointed chairman of the Board in Singapore. Shortly after his appointment as Chairman of the Board, he sent an address to His Excellency King George V assuring him of the loyalty of the Sikhs.
He received the following reply from the Straits Settlements Inspector-General of Police A.R. Chancellor:
“I am directed to inform you that His Excellency the Governor in forwarding to the Secretary of State for the Colonies the address of the Sikhs of the Colony and Federated Malay States presented to me on February 4, 1917, remarked that the address gave expression to a loyalty which His Excellency felt sure was entirely genuine and characteristic of the Sikh community of this Colony. The address has been submitted to His Majesty the King who through the Secretary of State commands that his high appreciation of their loyal address be conveyed to the Sikhs of the Straits Settlements. I am to ask you to take the necessary measures for the fulfilment of His Majesty’s Command, by causing the above to be made known to the Sikhs of the Colony and Federated Malay States who signed the address”.
Sergeant-Major Gurmukh Singh was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the King’s birthday honours in 1923 for his service to the Board and his career in the police.
Despite this honour, the colonial government occasionally nominated the Chief Police Officer, an Englishman, to chair the SAB in the years leading up to World War Two, as it sought to keep a close eye on the Sikh community, given their leading role in the independence movement in India. For instance, Mr René Henry de Solminihac Onraet, then-Director of the Special Branch and subsequently Inspector-General of the Straits Settlement Police Force, chaired both the Hindu Advisory Board and the SAB for some period in the 1920s. Being the first non-religious Sikh institution in Singapore, in 1917 the British insisted that, under the 1905 Muhammedhan and Hindu Endowments Ordinance (MHEO), the Central Sikh Temple (CST) at Queen Street be placed under the SAB’s jurisdiction. It was not until 1937, after copious remonstrance, that the CST re-obtained its own independent trustees.
The SAB Today
The SAB today has 17 members comprising four representatives nominated by the MCCY and 13 from the Gurdwaras in Singapore, namely:
- Central Sikh Gurdwara Board
- Sri Guru Nanak Sat Sang Sabha
- Gurdwara Sahib Yishun
- Pardesi Khalsa Dharmak Diwan
- Khalsa Jiwan Sudhar Sabha
- Sri Guru Singh Sabha
- Khalsa Dharmak Sabha
The Sikh Advisory Board was established with a profound understanding of the diverse nature of the Sikh community in Singapore and the necessity of a unified voice that could effectively represent the community’s interests. Our role as a liaison between the Sikh community and various governmental bodies was born from a desire to facilitate better understanding, respectful dialogue, and collaborative decision-making.
Our history is a proud narrative of resilience, community outreach, and shared understanding. From conducting educational programs on Sikhism, to presenting the community’s views on legislation and policy matters, the Sikh Advisory Board has consistently played a key role in defining the Sikh community’s trajectory in Singapore.
As the Sikh Advisory Board, our role encompasses various responsibilities:
- Representation: We represent the Sikh community in dialogues with government bodies and other organisations, articulating community-specific issues and concerns.
- Advocacy: We work proactively to advocate for policies and regulations that respect and uphold the rights of the Sikh community.
- Education: We provide educational resources to promote a better understanding of Sikhism among the general public, and to maintain the cultural heritage within our community.
- Community Development: We strive to build a cohesive, inclusive, and empowered Sikh community that contributes positively to Singapore’s multicultural society.
- Advisory: We offer advice and guidance on matters related to Sikh customs, practices, and religious observances to both governmental and non-governmental organisations.
The Sikh Advisory Board is proud to serve the Sikh community in Singapore and to contribute to the richness of its multicultural society. We are dedicated to ensuring a strong, vibrant, and thriving Sikh presence, while promoting mutual understanding and respect among all communities.