by Teo Soh Lung (posted on Facebook 27 June 2019)
There is an air of secrecy surrounding the arrest and detention of people under Singapore’s Internal Security Act (ISA). They disappear suddenly from our midst. Except for family members and close friends, the rest of Singapore do not have a clue that they have been arrested and put away indefinitely without trial. We don’t know where they are being imprisoned. The mainstream media do not report their disappearances unless they are informed by the Ministry of Home Affairs, usually several months or years after they are arrested/detained or released.
Take the ministry’s recent press release of 25 June 2019. https://www.mha.gov.sg/…/update-on-actions-taken-under-the-…
The press release informs us that one person, Imran bin Mahmood was issued with a detention order in January 2019. We are now almost at the end of June 2019. Why does the ministry take six months to inform the public of the arrest? If it is a national security issue, shouldn’t the public be alerted immediately?
Indefinite detention or imprisonment without trial is better known as executive detention. The minister for home affairs is largely responsible for such arrests and imprisonment. In the case of Imran bin Mahmood the alleged facts are rather vague. The press release states:
“2. Imran bin Mahmood (Imran), a 40-year-old unemployed Singaporean, was detained in January 2019 under the ISA after investigations showed that he was radicalised and harboured the intention to travel to Syria to join the terrorist group ISIS.
3. Imran’s radicalisation began sometime in 2013 when he started listening to online lectures by foreign religious preachers, including those who preached about the imminent coming of the end-times. Through his exposure to the radical online material, Imran became a strong supporter of ISIS’s violent objectives and actions. By 2014, Imran had developed a desire to live under ISIS’s so-called caliphate in Syria/Iraq and researched on viable entry points for himself into Syria. He was willing to take up arms to defend or expand ISIS’s territory, and believed that he would achieve martyrdom if he died fighting for ISIS.
4. Imran questioned ISIS’s legitimacy when it started to suffer territorial losses in 2017, but did not denounce ISIS. He continued to believe that it was his religious duty to fight alongside any group trying to establish a rightful caliphate in Syria, and that his radical views were legitimate. He was also prepared to join militant and terrorist groups involved in the Syrian conflict, namely the Free Syrian Army and Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (an Al-Qaeda aligned faction).”
I don’t know how much sense can be made out of these statements. What is crucial to me is that no weapons or subversive documents are mentioned to have been in the possession of Imran. He had spent time listening to online lectures about the imminent end of the world by religious preachers, something which some of us would also have done at some point of time in our lives! But the minister had pre-empted his plans (if any) and arrested him despite the fact that he had experienced doubts in 2017. Can he be wrong in his judgement?
In the press release, two persons were released on restriction orders, probably in March 2019. Again, shouldn’t the public be notified of their arrests and releases immediately since it involves national security? Or are we expected to trust the authority that it will do no wrong?
Finally, the press release disclosed that four persons who were arrested in February 2012, March 2013 and May 2017 were released probably in March and June 2019. (The press release is not clear on the dates). These are long detentions. Two of the released prisoners had been detained for six and seven years respectively while the other two for about two years. During the entire period of their detentions, the public do not have any information about them. Shouldn’t there be accountability since they were allegedly arrested and imprisoned for public security reasons?
On what evidence do the minister rely on before he detains a person? “Nipped in the bud” has always been the guideline for those who exercised such power. That was the case in 1987 and all the arrests prior to and after that year. In fact, it had been used since the days when Singapore was under the British.
Singapore has now been an independent country for more than half a century. She has become a developed country. Should we continue to punish our people using draconian colonial laws? Indefinite detention without trial should not be the law of any country especially one that claims to abide by the rule of law. All persons are entitled to fair and open trials as guaranteed by our Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.