November 26, 1998. Amnesty International statement [NOTE: No reference to Mr Chia’s statement was made in the Straits Times. Editor. Nov 29,1998.]
AFTER 32 years of detention and restriction, including 22½ years of detention in various prisons, followed by 3½ years of internal exile to Sentosa Island and another six years of restriction while staying on the mainland, the Singapore government finally ceased to further impose on me the restrictive conditions that deprive me of the freedom of an ordinary citizen.
It is a belated move. In 1966 when I was arrested, I was only 25 years old, but now I am nearing 58. The best part of my life was taken away just like that, without even a charge let alone a trial in the court.
Under the Internal Security Act, the government is given the power to detain a person for as long as it pleases. There is no real safeguard against abuse of power. The Advisory Board under the Act has no power, and no court can question the subjective judgement of the minister. I was told that the only way out was to sign a statement prepared by the Internal Security department, otherwise I would have to remain in prison for long long years, but how could I sign a statement that is not true.
During detention, the detainees can be subjected to all sorts of pressure and even torture. Though I was not physically assaulted, I had been put in dark cell and solitary confinement; and some of my fellow detainees were abused, stripped or rinsed with cold water in chilled air-conditioned room(s). The Internal Security Act is a law that tramples on human dignity and strikes fear into the mind of the people.
In 1955, the PAP, then in the opposition, had called for the abolition of the Emergency Regulations, the forerunner of the Internal Security Act. It stated that excessive powers of arrests and detention hinder the progress of democracy. Now, with other stringent laws well in place, the Government is more than well-equipped to deal with any security problems without the Internal Security Act.
As a victim of the notorious Internal Security Act, I sincerely call on the government to abolish the Act. As the government is extolling the “Asian Values”, it should not and need not cling to a law originally enacted by the colonialists 50 years ago. The abolition of Internal Security Act can only help build a civil society in the country.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all organisations and individuals who are concerned about my case and help in my struggle for freedom all these years.