Teo Soh Lung: Indefinite detention is torture

by Teo Soh Lung

According to the Ministry of Home Affairs press release of 23 October 2019, three domestic workers who were arrested sometime in August 2019 and subsequently issued with detention orders under the Internal Security Act (ISA) were charged for offences under the Terrorism (Suppression of Financing) Act (TSFA).

It was not the first time that foreign workers who were detained under the ISA were subsequently charged for offences under the TSFA. In 2015/2016, 27 Bangladeshi workers were detained under the ISA and 6 were subsequently charged under the TSFA. They had collected a total sum of S$1,360. They pleaded guilty and were imprisoned between 2 to 5 years.

The TSFA enacted soon after the destruction of the World Trade Centre in 2001 came into effect in January 2003. It was not used until 2016 when the 6 Bangladeshi workers were charged.

Besides foreign workers, Singaporeans too have been arrested and detained under the ISA and subsequently charged under the TSFA.

In July 2017, Singaporean Imran Kassim was arrested and detained under the ISA. He was charged under the TSFA in April 2019. In September 2019, another Singaporean, Ahmed Hussein Abdul Kadir s/o Sheik Uduman was charged under the TSFA. He was arrested under the ISA in July 2018.

Why was there a such long delay before they were charged in open court?

Every person knows that to be detained under the ISA is to be detained INDEFINITELY. Indefinite detention is torture. An offer of a definite sentence following a guilty plea must be a great temptation. A prisoner looking forward to freedom after a plea of guilty would not think about the stigma that follows his or her conviction and imprisonment.

From the cases revealed by the Ministry of Home Affairs, it appears that the amounts sent by these detainees to alleged terrorist organisations abroad were small. These range from S$100 to a maximum of S$1216 (collected from various people). One would have thought that in order to be found guilty of “financing of terrorism” under the TSFA, the amount involved should have been in the thousands if not millions or billions as must have been the intention of those who drafted the law following the tragedy of 9/11. Be that as it may, I am all for open and fair trials for those who are alleged to have committed offences under the TSFA. What I object to is the use of the ISA before such trials.

It is an unjust practice to charge any person under the TSFA after his arrest and detention under the ISA. If there is evidence, surely the police can immediately proceed with criminal charges with the usual 48 hours for investigation. I believe our police force is capable of completing its investigation within 48 hours especially when the amounts involved are just a few hundred dollars. In this day and age, with sophisticated cameras and listening devices in every nook and corner, the ISA should be abolished.

This was first published on Function 8’s Facebook page and reproduced with permission.