The Internal Security Department (ISD) recently celebrated its 70th anniversary with a dinner party attended by Singapore’s political elite including both President Halimah Yacob (Halimah) and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (PM Lee). The ISD’s very existence is controversial in modern day Singapore with many questioning its relevance and necessity. The factual matrix that led to its founding is after all no longer present in modern day Singapore. It’s existence serves as a constant reminder of British colonialism and a potential for misuse of power. Despite criticism that has been leveled against it, it still remains a feature in our government, funded by public purse strings.
Do the public at large still want the ISD? Do they see its relevance? How much is spent on the ISD? Who funded this dinner party to celebrate its 70th birthday? Costs of the party aside, with the attendance of so many VIPs including PM Lee and Halimah, there is bound to be heavy security arrangements. How much was spent on the security of these attending VIPs? Do the public agree with this expenditure?
I am not against celebrating milestones and politicians attending such events. However, it is important to bear in mind, that this isn’t a celebration of achievement. Rather, it is the glorification of continued oppression and suppression.
Lest we forget, it is the ISD that was instrumental in both Operation Spectrum and Operation Cold Store. Each of these operations led to the detention without charge or trial of many citizens. Operation Spectrum, in particular, led to the unlawful detention of individuals such as Teo Soh Lung who have been proven to have simply been do gooders without sinister intent.
With this in mind, how can we justify the celebration of the ISD? To make things worse, how can we accept the spending of public monies to celebrate this institution of fear?
Some have defended the continued existence of the ISD as a means to safeguard against terrorism. However, how many potential terrorists have actually been detained? Taking into account both of operations , Cold Store and Spectrum, it would seem as if there have been more political detainees than would be terrorists. In view of this, is the ISD’s existence as a curb to terrorism still justifiable?
Besides, don’t we already have other laws to deal with the threat of terrorism?
The fact that the ISD is still around causes consternation. To celebrate its milestones on public funds rankles further.