A thought on prisoners detained under the Internal Security Act

by Teo Soh Lung On 11 January 2023, the media reported that in October 2022, the Internal Security Department (ISD) arrested and imprisoned Mohamed Khairul Riduan bin Mohamed Sarip, a 38-year-old teacher, under the Internal Security Act (ISA). It took the Ministry of Home Affairs three months to inform Singaporeans that he had been detained. … Read more

Checks and balance needed for ISA to prevent abuse by an all-powerful government

Executive Chairman of Banyan Tree Holdings, Mr Ho Kwon Ping calls for more checks and balance on the extra-ordinary powers granted by Singapore’s Internal Security Act (ISA). Mr Ho was formerly detained under the ISA in 1977 when he was working as a journalist for writing articles with a pro-Communist slant. In his lecture on security and sustainability, … Read more

The PAP’s “aim number one” 60 years ago

The People’s Action Party (PAP) was formed on 12 November 1954. This year thus marks the party’s 60th anniversary. According to the PAP Facebook page: “Lee [Kuan Yew] formed the socialist People’s Action Party (PAP)… with a group of English-educated middle-class colleagues and pro-communist trade unionists…” The next year, 1955, the PAP nominated five candidates … Read more

A renewed call from the past to abolish ISA.

By Terry Xu How would you feel if Workers’ Party Candidate Lee Li Lian was arrested shortly after her victory in the Punggol East By-Election? This was a question posed to the people who attended the 50th anniversary of Operation Coldstore event on Saturday afternoon. Ms Chan Wai Han, the emcee of the event, asked … Read more

TOC Exclusive: Teo Soh Lung – In her own words (part one)

In support of the 16 ex-detainees’ call for the Commission of Inquiry to investigate their detentions, TOC republishes this article which first appeared in TOC on May 19, 2009.

Next on TOC: Lone opposition MP in Parliament in 1987, Mr Chiam See Tong, calls for the release of those detained under the ISA. TOC brings you transcripts of the day’s Parliamentary debate.

Teo Soh Lung was one of the original 16 accused of being part of a “Marxist plot” to bring down the Singapore government. She, along with 15 others, were arrested and detained under the Internal Security Act on 21 May 1987. Ms Teo spent two and a half years under detention.

Earlier this year, Ms Teo had several of her poems, which she had written while in prison, published in the book, “Our Thoughts Are Free”. (See TOC’s report of the book launch).

Teo Soh Lung

In the early 1980s, my good Catholic friend, the late Aileen Lau and I together with some others, helped to set up the Geylang Catholic Centre (GCC) at Lorong 17 Geylang. I think I worked 6 days a week without any salary. The work entailed teaching foreign workers how to speak English, giving talks on employment law and immigration, encouraging friendly table tennis competitions between the GCC and the Jurong Centre for workers.

In the 1980s the GCC was involved in a variety of activities. There were activities for foreign workers, Filipino domestic workers, ex criminals and ex drug addicts. At one time, the center was also involved in crisis management. There was a crisis center for battered women. I was not really involved in the crisis centre but made friends with some social workers and helped out when there was a need.

Filled with naiveté and idealism, I started a law firm at the Aljunied Industrial Estate. I rented one room above a tile shop. With the donation of a manual Olympia typewriter from my father, I began work as a lawyer. My aim was to make lawyers accessible to the people. I think my firm was the first to be operating outside the city.

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Passion for activism extinguished…but not for long

In support of the 16 ex-detainees call for Commission of Inquiry to investigate their detentions, TOC republishes this article which first appeared in TOC on May 18, 2009.

This is the first part of a week-long focus on The Online Citizen of the 22nd anniversary of the 21 May 1987 government clampdown on a group of so-called “communists” and “marxists”, who were detained under the ISA – and never charged or brought to trial.

Gerald Giam / Senior Writer

On 21st May 1987, 22 social activists in Singapore were detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for allegedly plotting a so called “Marxist conspiracy” to overthrow the Singapore government. Although they were never tried in an open court, the full weight of the government’s machinery, including the state-controlled media, was used to make the government’s case against these activists.

The detainees’ side of the story has seldom been heard by the general public. In the 20 years after the detentions, the mainstream media has shied away from telling the ex-detainees’ stories.

Mr Tan Tee Seng was 28 years old when he was detained, along with 21 others. In an exclusive two-and-a-half hour interview with The Online Citizen, Mr Tan speaks about his background and activities in the 1970s and 80s, his arrest in 1987, his experience under interrogation and detention, and his life after his release.

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