A group of activists took to the trains to protest the horrendous treatment that the Singapore government meted out upon 22 individuals who were detained 30 years ago under an operation that was entitled,”Operation Spectrum” with the use of the Internal Security Act (ISA).
After their arrest on 21 May 1987, the ISA detainees were subjected to ill-treatment, humiliation, and manipulated television appearances by the Internal Security Department. Under duress, and threatened with indefinite imprisonment without trial, forcing the detainees to make statutory declarations against their will.
The protest that was held on Saturday afternoon (3 June), was in the form of a silent demonstration with the activists holding a book, “1987 Singapore’s Marxist Conspiracy, 30 Years On.” and blindfolds on, briefly along the North-South Line.
Jolovan Wham, an activist who was part of the protest said, “The government has never proven that those detained were involved in a conspiracy or were a threat to national security. We urge them to come clean about it. Survivors of operation spectrum, who were tortured and traumatised deserve to know the truth. The government needs to be held accountable.”
Detained without trial by Singapore government under the allegation of conspiracy
In May-June 1987, 22 individuals were arrested and detained without trial under ISA for their alleged involvement in “a Marxist conspiracy to subvert the existing social and political system in Singapore, using communist united front tactics, with a view to establishing a Marxist state.”
The government alleged that the mastermind behind the alleged Marxist plot was Tan Wah Piow, a former University of Singapore Students’ Union president who had been in exile in London since 1976. His “key man” in Singapore was Vincent Cheng, a full-time Catholic Church worker in the Justice and Peace Commission.
Both have denied the allegations made against them by the government.
On 18 April 1988, nine detainees who were released just a few months earlier, issued a joint statement to deny they were subversives after being forced to sign on statements that incriminated themselves through the use of torture. The next day on 19 April 1988, they were re-arrested, along with Mr Patrick Seong, a lawyer for one of the detainees.
A few weeks later, a lawyer for the detainees, Mr Francis Seow who spoke up against their rearrests in conferences abroad, was also arrested at the Whitley Road Centre where he had intended to interview Patrick Seong and Teo Soh Lung, one of the nine detainees who have been re-arrested.
Till today, none of the 22 detainees arrested under Operation Spectrum was charged or tried in open court and the government still stand by its claims.
Publication to commemorate 30 years since Operation Spectrum
The books that the activists used in their protest is a recent publication published by Ethos Books to commemorate the 30th Anniversary of the Operation Spectrum.
It is hoped that with the publication which has more than 35 contributors, Singaporeans will know about what actually happened in 1987 and decide for themselves if there was a national security threat that necessitated the mounting of Operation Spectrum to deprive the freedom and rights of the 22 individuals.
To buy this book online, visit the publisher’s website here.