Home Civil Society Voices 2011 Civil Society Voices Think Centre renews call for Singapore to abolish ISA

Think Centre renews call for Singapore to abolish ISA

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Think Centre (TC), one of Singapore’s oldest political NGOs, welcomes and applauds the announcement by the Malaysian government to repeal the controversial 51-year-old law allowing for detention without trial and to ease other legislation curbing civil liberties.

Singapore anti-ISA activists singing 'Blowing in the wind' - Photo credit: jacob60.wordpress.com

The ISA allows an individual to be held virtually indefinitely for acts considered a threat to national security or to prevent such acts. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak added that the Banishment Act would be repealed while he will do away with the need for annual publishing permits under the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA). He also said that the Police Act would be amended to allow for freedom of assembly according to international norms, although street protests would still be outlawed.

Since TC’s founding in 1999, one of the first human rights issues that it championed for is the abolishment of the ISA. In 2000, TC drew widespread international attention when it initiated a peaceful demonstration as part of its Abolish ISA campaign at the nation state’s Speakers’ Corner in Hong Lim Park. Several TC leaders were however called up by police for investigations in the aftermath of the demonstration.

In the past decade, TC has continued to champion tirelessly for the abolishment of this and other related legislation that run contrary to the fundamental principles of human rights such as the right to life, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. While TC does not support any form of indefinite detention without trial, any new legislation must ensure detentions can only be carried out by court orders in the face of threats to national security or sovereignty. As such, powers of detention should never be vested with the executive or the police.

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In this regard, TC urges the Singapore government to follow Malaysia’s lead in repealing the ISA and other legislation curbing civil liberties and infringing on the fundamental human rights of its people. In this new political norm, whereby a new social compact has been forged after a watershed year of electoral progress, TC appeals to the Government to review and rethink its approach to the management of the civil and political rights of Singaporeans. This same call will be championed without fear or favour by TC in its upcoming oral intervention at the Universal Periodic Review plenary, before the UN Human Rights Council this September.

“Singapore will seriously consider abolishing the Internal Security Act if Malaysia were to do so”, then Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong informed visiting Malaysian journalists, according to a report in The Straits Times, dated 3 February 1991. However a statement released today by the Ministry of Home Affairs on the ISA disappointingly appears to be a recantation of what the now Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had promised 20 years ago. PM Lee should seriously keep his word and consider abolishing the Internal Security Act now that Malaysia has announced it will repeal the Act.

As 2011 has shown, Singapore society has come of age in terms of civil and political engagement. If the Government truly wishes to re-make Singapore into a place we call home, it must first cast away archaic legislation such as the ISA and keep up with liberalisation of democratic norms. Doing so will allow Singapore to transform itself into a truly modern, mature and functioning democracy.

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Kong Soon Tan is president of Think Centre

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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28 Sep 2011 9.02am

”3 February 1991 – ST reports SINGAPORE will seriously consider abolishing the Internal Security Act if Malaysia were to do so, said Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.” Superbrandcheesepie sez:- serves you all right for believing in this sort of crapola…. You must realize that politicians will do anything… to hold onto power one more minute. If somehow society expects politicians to dress up as CLOWNS and throw pies at one another in Parliament , hey Presto, the politicians would DO IT yesterday already and Parliament would become a three ring circus since 1975. So, Get real lah. UNless 50% plus one of society wants to repeal ISA, it would be around. Finally, there is a VERY good reason for detention without trial. Without this legal power, many govts have resorted to ”disappearing” people they dislike. Providing them with free board and lodging for decades is already a very genteel thing to do orredy lah. Dun believe me? Just read this:- http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/news/25-years-remembering-the-disappeared-20080829 The only reason we in SG did not suffer this was because our Emir El Kay Why is an honourable and god-fearing Cambridge-educated gentleman-lawyer.… Read more »

najib manaukau
20 Sep 2011 7.49am

When they do abolish the ISA it will surely not be replaced with other legislation like what Malaysia is going to do. They don’t pretend and they call a spade a spade and just like when they announce scholarships will be given to top students, really regardless of their races, all top students will get their scholarships. All these students’ first choice of the varsity they want to go to is the NUS whereas the NEM (Never Enough Money) students will be sent abroad. While the non Malay students in Malaysia are enrolled into the numerous near empty rural varsities just to fill up the varsities enrollment. These are varsities that even the government is not sending the NEM (Never Enough Money students to. Do you need further proof of the standard of education these varsities provide ? Any wonder why they don’t even feature in the top 300 varsities in the world ? Above all how many of these non Malay top students rejected the scholarships offered to them by Najib ? This is only an example of Najib promise and it will take a… Read more »

18 Sep 2011 11.58pm

It is going to difficult for the Singapore government to abolish entirely the ISA. The ISA is like having a joker card in their hands. How they want to play this card on whatever and whoever is something they hold on to. It is all fine and good to deal terrorists with the ISA but they have used this before on a group of innocent ordinary people who they “think” were a threat to the country.

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