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Statement on the Extension of the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act (CLTPA) for another five years

Below is a statement jointly issued by three Human Rights Non-government organisations, Function 8, Think Centre and Community Action Network

We are strongly opposed to the extension of the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act by another five years and expansion of its scope.

Similar to the Internal Security Act, the CLTPA allows indefinite detention without trial under the hand of the minister with the consent of the public prosecutor. Under the amendment bill, anyone who is arrested and imprisoned will also be deprived of his right to pursue judicial review before the High Court as the Minister's decision is final. We take strong objection to such a draconian law as it can be easily misused.

The CLTPA was enacted in 1955 when Singapore was partially independent. It was meant as a temporary measure “to strengthen the law against those who seek to overthrow the lawfully elected Government by violence, or who seek to subvert the minds of the people by intimidation, away from genuine democracy and constitutional advance to self-government, to the rule of fear and to ultimate Communist domination.” (Chief Secretary, Mr W A C Goode).

At the time of its enactment Mr Goode said:

“These measures, we think, are necessary during a period of immaturity in understanding and practising democracy to safeguard us from the dangers that beset us on the path to maturity. We hope, therefore, that they will no longer be needed after that period and, accordingly, all these various matters have been put together into this one Bill which, by sub-clause 2 of clause 1, is to remain in force for a period of only three years. As the title of the Bill indicates, these are temporary additions to our criminal laws.” (Legislative Assembly debates Sept 21, 1955).

It is regrettable that under the PAP government, Singapore has remained a politically immature country for the past 52 years. The government continues to rely on this draconian law to govern and indeed, over the years has deemed it fit to extend its power over ordinary crimes which are already taken care of by the arsenal of legislation existing today.

The CLTPA has serious consequences for the people of Singapore. The amendment bill has even more serious implications for law-abiding citizens. From its original intent of dealing with alleged communists, its application has been extended to criminal activities of secret societies, unlicensed moneylending and drug trafficking after it was no longer possible to use the communist threat as a reason.

Under the amendment bill, the application of the law will extend to human trafficking, robbery with firearms, murder, gang rape, kidnapping, organised crimes (under the Organised Crime Act 2015) and attempt to carry out, abet or being a party to all the aforesaid named crimes (see Fourth Schedule). For each of these crimes, there are already existing laws such as the Penal Code, Kidnapping Act, Public Order Act, Corrosive and Explosive Substances and Offensive Weapons Act.

Section 30 of the CLPTA grants the minister and public prosecutor the right to order detentions if they are “satisfied that it is necessary that the person be detained in the interests of public security, peace and good order”. We believe in the separation of powers as guaranteed by the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore. The power to order detentions should only be exercised by our judiciary after a full and open trial. Our judges should also have the power to conduct judicial reviews of abuse of power by the executive.

We are utterly dismayed that our government, despite its decades of experience in governing Singapore, has deemed it necessary to retain this unjust temporary law and indeed, make it even more oppressive.

We call upon all Members of Parliament to oppose this amendment bill and to propose that the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act should not be extended at the expiry of its life on 20 October 2019. Singapore today has more than sufficient laws to take care of all offences under the CLTPA. Judicial powers should only be exercised by our judiciary and not the executive.

We urge Singaporeans to scrutinise the proceedings of parliament and demand that parliamentary debates be live-streamed so that everyone can know what is happening in parliament starting from the debate of this totally unwarranted amendment bill.