Ministry of Home Affairs building

by Teo Soh Lung

It is reported in Today Online that in arresting and detaining the 16 year old unnamed youth under the Internal Security Act (ISA),  “the boy’s age was not taken into consideration… “

It is a shocking statement from Minister of Law and Home Affairs K Shanmugam. Why did he disregard age when using the ISA? Has he forgotten that Singapore voluntarily acceded to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and accepted the definition of “child” or “young person” as a person below 18 years of age? Under the Children and Young Persons Act, a person under the age of 18 must now be tried in a special court and his identity kept confidential.

By using the ISA, on the teenager the minister undermines the power of the special court and the judicial system.

The minister went on to lament: “I think we agree that he is capable of doing harm. And until he’s rehabilitated, if we leave him out, and if he carries out what he intends to do, I think we’ll all be very sorry”.

Is he saying that without using the draconian powers of the ISA, the boy cannot be rehabilitated, if indeed the allegations against him are true? How certain is he that the ISA can rehabilitate the boy? Is there a possibility that the boy may turn against the State feeling grievously wronged by the ISD’s unfounded allegations against him?

The minister should know that the regime under the ISA is exceedingly harsh and indefinite detention without trial is totally unsuitable for a young person or for that matter, any person. In the first month of detention, detainees are often subjected to ill treatment and put in solitary confinement. Can the minister guarantee that such treatment will not have an adverse effect on the young person? And if he is not put in solitary confinement, can the minister guarantee that having to share a cell with an adult is good for him?

Minister Shanmugam went on to say that “the criminal process is not suitable in this case as it can be argued that the teenager has not yet performed any criminal acts so far.”

He has obviously forgotten that attempting to commit an offence is also a crime under our laws?

If the police have evidence that the boy had taken substantial steps to attack Muslims in the two mosques, he can be “convicted” in a special court and professional child psychologists can rehabilitate him, something indefinite detention under the ISA cannot do.

Channel NewsAsia reported Minister Shanmugam as saying that the teenager will “get a hearing within the rubric of the Internal Security Act and would have a lawyer, and his position will be put across. His parents are fully involved.”

This is poor consolation for him and his parents. A hearing under the ISA regime is a far cry from being tried in a court of law. ISA detainees appear before the advisory board which usually comprise three officials, one of whom would be a High Court judge. The hearing is in camera i.e.  in the private chamber of the judge. The presence of a lawyer does not help the detainee who is faced with vague allegations. No evidence is produced against a detainee. In fact, no officer from the ISD appears before the board.

Finally, it is not uncommon for the board to ask irrelevant questions such as “if we recommend your release, will you be a good person and stay out of trouble?”

It is clear, though the minister does not tell us that a detention order has already been issued against the teenager. The length of the order is not disclosed. In any event a detention order can be renewed indefinitely even if it states that it is for one year.

The important difference between the ISA regime and the ordinary criminal law is that a sentence passed by a judge in a court of law is for a fixed term. A convicted person is released from custody without conditions after serving the term. Under the ISA, a prisoner can be detained for 20 or more years without trial. Even upon release, he can be subjected to stringent restrictions such as prohibition from leaving the country or joining organisations. Such conditions are very onerous and can also be renewed indefinitely.

It is not the first time that the government has used the ISA on young people.

In 2016, a 17 year old youth was detained. Last year, another 17 year old was detained and is probably still in detention today. He was apparently arrested under the ISA at the age of 15.

The Children and Young Persons Act was amended in July 2020 to reflect Singapore’s acceptance of the universal definition of “child” as below the age of 18. There is no excuse for the government to continue to arrest and detain young people below the age of 18 under the ISA.

 

 

Subscribe
Notify of
12 Comments
Newest
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
You May Also Like

MARUAH calls for abolishment of ISA

MARUAH applauds the decision by Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak…

总理笑称无视防疫措施 水獭家族到总统府“做客”

受冠状病毒19疫情影响,总统府已多日没接待任何访客或政要,水獭家庭却趁着这段期间,大摇大摆地在总统府“做客”将近一周。 总理李显龙今日(6月22日)在脸书上发帖,指一家七口的水獭家庭“到访”总统府,过去六天在国家公园局的监视下,于府内忙碌地探险。 “这些顽皮动物完全无视安全社交距离规则,愉快地在草坪上漫步、在池塘里嬉戏,还作日光浴。” 帖文中,李总理也附上水獭们在草坪上行走的照片,立刻吸引网友关注,短短两小时就有631人转发。 网民纷纷笑言,迎来第二期解封措施,不少地方都出现人潮,总统府对水獭们来说,更为自由和舒适。网民也调侃道,水獭们没戴口罩、没保持安全社交距离,还违反了五人访客限制的规定,更提醒李总理要注意,别让水獭们将池塘中的鱼吃光光。 不少网民也在评论区分享日前遇到水獭群出现的地点,包括碧山宏茂桥公园和拉柏多公园等。

国大生对前女友动粗案 判决引坊间哗然

针对国大牙科生对前女友动粗后被判短期拘留的判刑,人民行动党妇女团表示失望,并认为刑期和被告的罪行不成正比。内政兼律政部长尚穆根,则承诺将会重新检讨现有法律框架,提呈国会。 日前23岁的国大牙科生殷子勤(Yin Zi Qin译音),因女友拒绝复合,而对她动粗,被判12天短期拘留。拘留结束后须遵守日间报到、进行社区服务等。 不甘女友在去年5月9日提出分手,被告当晚到在女友家人不知情下爬进她睡房,还拿出玫瑰花试图挽留感情,但遭拒绝。 凌晨1时10分,被告表示很难过,女友原本还想解释,却被被告掐住脖子。女友尖叫挣扎,被告又用拇指紧紧压住女友左眼,直到她左眼流血昏迷才住手。 被告在2月21日认一项蓄意伤人罪。7月17日,获法官开恩,被判12天短期拘留,这意味着他不会留案底,也可从牙科学院毕业并到政府牙医诊所服务,逃过支付40万元毁约金的下场。 校方昨日(20日)针对有关判决表示,在国大完成纪律调查之前,涉案的23岁牙科学生殷子钦(译音,Yin Zi Qin)将不准踏入校园。 针对相关判决,也引起各界关注,指该判决过于宽松。人民行动党妇女团发表声明,强烈谴责针对妇女的暴行。但她们也表示,尊重我国的机构和司法制度,并且明白目前已有程序,处理人们所提出的合理疑虑。 人民行动党的女性议员也纷纷转贴声明,表达支持。其中包括丹绒巴葛集选区议员英兰妮、麦波申单选区议员陈佩玲、东海岸集选区陈慧玲也在脸书上转贴有关声明,以示支持。…