“More than 50 years of systematic use of the ISA (Internal Security Act) have dulled and tamed our minds,” said ex political detainee Teo Sor Lung at this morning’s public forum on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) hosted by Singaporeans For Democracy (SFD).
Ms Teo who, together with five other ex-political detainees, had recently submitted a UPR report on the use of the ISA in Singapore was one of the panelists at the forum.
Their stance is clear – to call for the abolishment of the ISA.
Amongst the reasons given is that the ISA eliminates political opponents and results in a concentration of political power in the hands of one party. The absence of checks and balances has also caused the PAP to impose ‘absurd laws’ such as the Public Order Act. The fear of arrest under the ISA had also resulted in many people living in exile.
According to Ms Teo, at least a few hundred people had been arrested under the ISA since the PAP came into power in 1959. The use of the ISA from the 1960s to the late 70s resulted in the arrest of the ‘cream of society’, and civil society had to start all over again.
There was no recorded use of the ISA during the ‘90s. However, she noted that the decade since September 11 2001 had seen the arrest of 76 Muslims under the ISA for alleged involvement in terrorist activities. Some of these people were detained for 6 – 7 years.
On the Government’s stance that ISA is needed to counter terrorism, Ms Teo argued that there is more than enough laws to take care of acts of seditions and terrorism. The ISA had instilled “too much fear in citizens.”
“Many a times we live in fear, but we don’t know we are living in fear,” she added.
Among the audience was SDP CEC member Jufrie Mahmood.
He recounted an incident where a friend’s son had gone to Yemen to learn more about Islam but was detained upon his return. Mr Jufrie pointed out that the ISA allows the Government to detain people without having the need to prove that they were involved in terrorist activities.
“I would call upon my fellow Singaporeans to not allow the Government to get away with it,” he urged.
Ms Teo is also the founding member of Function 8.
The UPR report on ISA is not yet available for downloading. We will provide a link soon when it is available. Meanwhile you can read the Ministry of Home Affairs' information on the ISA here - 1008_312_ISA_Booklet-English