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NSP's Position Statement on the Internal Security Act of Singapore

NSP's Position Statement on the Internal Security Act of Singapore

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Powers of preventive detention may be given to the Executive but only to pre-empt and disrupt terrorist activities and subject to safeguards preventing misuse of such powers. The Internal Security Act, Cap. 143 does not contain the necessary safeguards. It should be abolished and replaced by terrorism-specific legislation.
Powers of preventive detention may be given to the Executive but only to pre-empt and disrupt terrorist activities and subject to safeguards preventing misuse of such powers. The Internal Security Act, Cap. 143 does not contain the necessary safeguards. It should be abolished and replaced by terrorism-specific legislation.

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Categories:Types, Business/Law
Published by: Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss on Feb 06, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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02/06/2013

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THE NATIONAL SOLIDARITY PARTY
 1
STATEMENT ON THE INTERNAL SECURITY ACT, CAP. 143 OF SINGAPORE
SUMMARY:Powers of preventive detention may be given to the Executive but only to pre-emptand disrupt terrorist activities and subject to safeguards preventing misuse of suchpowers. The Internal Security Act, Cap. 143(ISA) does not contain the necessarysafeguards. It should be abolished and replaced by terrorism-specific legislation.
1. The ISA gives the Minister for Home Affairs power to arrest and preventively detain anindividual without warrant or trial for up to two years at a time “with a view topreventing that person from acting in any manner prejudicial to the security ofSingapore or any part thereof or to the maintenance of public order or essentialservices therein, it is necessary to do so”.
1
 2. NSP accepts that it is necessary for the Minister to have preventive detention powersso as to be able to pre-empt and disrupt terrorist activities in a situation where there isnot yet enough evidence to charge and convict such an individual under existingcriminal laws.3. That said, Singapore being a functioning democracy, the internal security legislationwhich confers the Minister with preventive detention powers mustcontain safeguardsensuring that:(a) preventive detention powers cannot be used by theexecutive to serve its ownpolitical or other aims;(b) internal security legislation is only used as a last resort, when there are noother avenues under existing criminal laws; and(c) there is an appropriate balance between the needs of the state and the civilrights of the individual.4. However, the ISA fails to contain such necessary safeguards. Two particular failingsof the ISA are:
(1) No maximum period of detention
(a) ISA fails to provide for any maximum period of detention. With no ceiling
 
on the maximum period of detention, there is no limit to the number of
 
times the 2-year detention orders under ISA can be renewed.(b) In fact, continual renewal of the 2-year detention orders under ISA hashappened with embarrassing frequency in the past, which is how we havehad such long-serving detainees as Chia ThyePoh (detained for 23 years),
 
Dr Lim Hock Siew (detained for 19 years) and Dr PohSoo Kai (detained for11 years and 6 years on another occasion) – none of whom were tried norconvicted of any crime.(c) Indefinite detention without trial is unacceptable. Provisions for strict
 
limitations on the maximum duration of detention must be enacted.
(2) Exclusion of Judicial Review
1
Section 8(1) of the ISA.
 
THE NATIONAL SOLIDARITY PARTY
 2
(a) The wording in Section 8(1) of the ISA: “with a view to preventing thatperson from acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of Singapore orany part thereof or to the maintenance of public order or essential servicestherein, it is necessary to do so”-gives the executive a very wide discretion.(b) In the landmark case of ChngSuanTze v Minister of Home Affairs [1988],
 
the Court of Appeal stated:
"In our view, the notion of a subjective or unfettered discretion is contrary to the rule of law. All power has legal limits and the rule of law demands that the courts should be able to examine the exercise of discretionary power." 
(c) Yet, within one month of the decision by the Court of Appeal inChngSuanTze v Minister of Home Affairs [1988], the ISA wasin January
 
1989 specifically amended to remove the Court’s power to review any act
 
or decision by the executive under the ISA, except for proceduralcompliance.(d) Henceforth, when the Minister decides to detain anyone under the ISA, theCourt has no power to review his decision, except on technicalities. Hence,
 
the Minister’s discretion is virtually absolute.This is unacceptable.(e) The courts’ power of judicial review is a critical safeguard against abuse ofthe executive power of preventive detention. The courts must be allowed toreview all preventive detentions on substantive grounds, not only for
 
procedural compliance.(f) The 1989 amending Act of Parliamentto exclude the court’s power to
 
review executive decision in ISA cases except on technical grounds,should never have been passed.The present Government will do right toabolish the amendment and to reinstate the Court’s judicial review powers
 
over any decision made by the executive under the ISA.
Arrests under Operation Spectrum
5.
 
The 1987 arrests of alleged Marxist conspirators under Operation Spectrum marked alow point in the historical application of the ISA. The public has never been given more
 
than scant evidence of the existence of the alleged Marxist conspiracy or of how those
 
arrested were involved therein. To date, questions remain, such as :
Did the Minister “jumped the gun” in his zeal to protect Singapore frompotential danger?
Did he use the ISA as a first resort, rather than as a last resort, given theease by which the ISA can be availed?
Was the ISA misused to silence political dissent against the ruling party onthe pretext of safeguarding national security?6. The Singapore Government has consistently refused to be accountable to either theCourts or the public on whether the Minister had properly exercised his discretion todetain those arrested under Operation Spectrum. Meanwhile, several of those who

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