MHA statement on Singapore’s Internal Security Act

The Government notes the announcement by Malaysia that it will be replacing its Internal Security Act (ISA) with new legislation aimed at preventing “subversive action, organised violence and criminal acts”.

The ISA in Singapore and Malaysia may have the same roots from the time when both were British colonies, but the two countries and their respective societies have evolved differently over time. Accordingly, the ISA in Singapore has evolved and is now different from that in Malaysia. A person arrested under the ISA in Singapore may be held in custody for up to 30 days after which an Order of Detention or Restriction Order must be issued or else the person must be released unconditionally. In Malaysia, the period of custody is up to 60 days. Also, under the Singapore ISA, since 1991, the President has the power to veto the Government’s decision to detain a detainee if the ISA Advisory Board, which is chaired by a Supreme Court Judge, has recommended the release of the detainee. This was an additional safeguard enacted by the Singapore Government to prevent misuse of the Act.

The Singapore Government has used the ISA sparingly. The ISA has only been used against individuals who have acted in a manner prejudicial to the security of Singapore or to the maintenance of public order or essential services therein. No person has ever been detained only for their political beliefs.

The ISA in Singapore has only been used to deal with threats of subversion, racial and religious extremism (such as inciting racial or religious hatred, strife and violence), espionage and terrorism. These threats continue to be salient today, especially in the last ten years against the threat of terrorism, where the Government’s priority is to act swiftly to prevent an attack from taking place. The arrests made under the ISA in Dec 2001 thwarted the imminent suicide bombings against establishments in Singapore that were planned by Al-Qaeda operatives assisted by several of the arrested Jemaah Islamiyah members, preventing the loss of innocent lives. The ISA continues to be relevant and crucial as a measure of last resort for the preservation of our national security.

Ministry of Home Affairs
16 September 2011

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