Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Anti-ISA Circus is in Town

It is strange that when Najib decided to repeal the ISA in Malaysia clearly for his own political survival, it stirred this hornet's nest in Singapore. Suddenly, our NGOs start clamouring for something similar and ex detainees start demanding redress for their "wrongful" detentions years past. What's worst, the liberal media starts imagining that there are hundreds of thousands of oppressed Singaporeans willing to go Bersih-like and start demonstrating down the streets.

People Care about Housing, Transport, Healthcare, Education, Not ISA

The funny thing is that most Singaporeans actually do not care; they did throng the streets but for the carnival of the F1. Despite the efforts of the esteemed TOC and even the oft-reviled Straits Times to create some kind of groundswell for this ISA issue, Singaporeans are just not talking about it. James Gomez and his Singaporeans for Democracy imported two foreign talent politicians to talk about the issue and it reached the ears of a ground-shattering 50 people in a pub. There is simply no buzz.

This is something of a lesson here for NGOs and ex-detainees alike; rather than flog a dead horse, they should focus on issues of greater currency and relevance? Ms Teo Soh Lung should know and have learnt by now surely? If Singaporeans wanted to take on her baggage and fight for her "wrongful" detention, the people of Yuhua SMC would have simply voted her into Parliament when she stood for election in May 2011. She had the entire stage in her numerous rallies to convince and persuade Singaporeans to her case but did she win? Nope. Was it even close? Nope again. But are Singaporeans blind, nope, when articulated correctly, Singaporeans disposed of a reigning PAP Foreign Minister and delivered a GRC into the hands of the Opposition. Most Singaporeans, like the constituents of Yuhua, have some sympathy for Ms Teo but that's about all.

COI and Much Ado About Nothing

Civil society in Singapore must know what are the issues that nauseate Singaporeans and not just ape vacuous liberal ideas that have no relevance in Singapore. We could be a monarchy for goodness sake and people will still be happy if their needs are met in a relevant manner. Trying to drum up some kind of Jasmine or Arab Spring in Singapore via this ISA issue is just downright silly. There is no groundswell over this ISA issue and even less over the "wrongful" detention of Ms Teo in Spectrum. And now, even the pre-Spectrum detainees have jumped on the bandwagon and are demanding their cases re-opened in front of a COI.

May I ask the question that no one seems to have thought of since most of the minority think that they are innocent ie what if the COI finds them guilty again despite all the show and tell they are allowed in the COI?? Do you think the ex-detainees will than suddenly see the light and quietly plead guilty again? Fat hope. If so, what then is the true motive of this COI but for this 16 to turn the COI into another platform for them to whine about their deeds and hopefully create a groundswell since they have failed in their numerous books, on the Internet and in the electoral hustings to awaken Singaporeans to their "grievances".

In the end, Singaporeans are not stupid. For Ms Teo and her comrades, perhaps if you can get the thousands of people who have been detained by the ISA and CLTP to sign this blood oath with you and get another hundred thousand Singaporeans to march behind you than maybe you will get the redress you crave; if not, just do the simple thing and move on, there are more pressing issues which Singaporeans need a voice for from their politicians and their civil society.


Anonymous said...

VenomousLeeLeeGion sez:- But we ***ARE*** a monarchy, what. With absolute tyranny, les majeste laws, princes inheriting the throne, princesses in charge of the Royal Ex Chequer, we are clearly a monarchy! Its no shame being a monarchy! Thailand is one, so is Britain. Oh yeah , so is Japan, Malaysia, Brunei, etc. Whats wrong with being a monarchy? LONG LIVE THE QUEEN!!

Abolish the ISA! said...

TOC and SFD are speaking up for Singaporeans who dare not speak up, and we want more human rights now! Abolish the ISA! Convene a COI!

Anonymous said...

The purpose of calling a commission of inquiry to exonerate them, although it may seem to be their motive.

More important are the allegations of forced confessions, torture and abuse by prison officials.

Surely that is something which should be cleared, one way or the other?

Anonymous Craven (AC) said...

I don't recall coming across any "liberal" media claiming anything like "...there are hundreds of thousands of oppressed Singaporeans willing to go Bersih-like..." - are you trying to out-exaggerate these media?

I feel that it's probably correct to say that the majority of Singaporeans do not know or even care if the ISA was used to detain Singaporeans that happened to be political thorns in the name of national security.

On the other hand, I don't think that issues should be swept under the carpet just because less people are interested - by this yardstick we can probably blank out a significant portion of the news being reported every day, since many news articles capture only the interest of specific segments of the population.

Transport, healthcare and education issues are not mutually exclusive to political issues. Just because we look at one, does not mean that we discard the others. To some Singaporeans, it matters much whether the ISA was abused to inflict gross injustice on follow citizens.

Anonymous said...

I'm ambivalent about this ISA debate. Same like I'm ambivalent about death penalty, gays, environment, or whatever is trendy among the young and middle-class. People of course can pursue what they think is important for them. To me, if the ISA is not used on people who are against ISA, then there is no abuse already!

For me, ISA, gays, death penalty, and other rights issues are less important that what makes my business tick, my bank account full, my healthcare and property settled. When there are policies that affect me in these areas, then I sit up and pay attention.

ISA, COI, can eat one ah?

The Pragmatic Observer

waileong said...

The purpose of calling a commission of inquiry not to exonerate them, although it may seem to be their motive.

More important are the allegations of forced confessions, torture and abuse by prison officials.

Surely that is something which should be cleared, one way or the other?

Perspective said...


To back their case and get max sympathy, they must say they were tortured, regardless if they were or not. The government would of course deny.

But what is "torture", they have to describe. If they were slapped and punched, it is horrible and is abhorrent by modern standards. But to put in context, students were also slapped and punched by teachers in schools back then in the 1950s and 1960s as that time was different. Corporal punishment was normal that time.

Still, I want to hear those detained speak up as it is refreshing to hear what they have to complain, because I'm tired of the government's broken record version all the time.

But I would take these leftists' version with a large dose of salt and context. They oppose the government but it does not mean they get a free ride.

waileong said...


Whether you believe the detainees is unimportant.

What is important is whether they were indeed tortured, abused or confessions were forced out of them.

What is your basis of saying they are just leftists out to smear the Govt?

If they are liars, the committee will establish this. If they were tortured, the committee will establish this too.

If there is no committee of inquiry, how can the truth be established?

Whether you believe these guys or not, it is not right for these allegations to be made in public and reported in the Straits Times without any action taken to establish the truth.

Anonymous said...

Singapore's Ai Wei Wei, Artist Charles Lim revealed Singapore's ISA and secret detention thru' video at 2011 Venice Bienale. 'All the lines flows through it' won special mention because it reveal Sg Govt ISA, Mas Selamat escape and land acquisition.

Anonymous said...

Even if no COI, ISA must be debated by civil society and citizens. Debate doesn't mean we confirm repeal or confirm keep but must balance the pro and cons. The sad thing is Sporeans don't care. They more worried about Abercrombie advert nearly showing the LJ.

Anonymous said...

Don't need 20 years. In 10 years when Palestine become a full state, Egypt and Libya becomes Islamic state then the current detained will come out and say they were tortured (Sinkies pay good money to go overseas for winter), held without charge and never put to trial. Local and overseas clerics will come speak up for them.

bochup said...

so. the coi is not exonerate them. they admit they r guilty. coi is to if they got beaten or punished when in jail in 1960-70s. long time ago when policeman wear shorts! n nsf also got tekan jialat jialat in punishment! their complains more n more weak.

all interesting but correct,we more interested in the slimming ad and half naked man ad issue, n now us$ go up means go usa for holidays shopping is more expensive in december. thats life the coi is not exonerate them. they admit they r guilty. coi is to if they got beaten or punished when in jail in 1960-70s. long time ago when policeman wear shorts! n nsf also got tekan jialat jialat in punishment! their complains more n more weak.

all interesting but the earlier anonymos is correct,we more interested in the slimming ad and half naked man ad issue, n now us$ go up means go usa for holidays shopping is more expensive in december. thats life lor.

Kesley Tan said...

I think some of my friends above are being apologist for the lack of democracy and the basic fact that the ISA is draconian and should be repeal. Just like 377A should be repeal. We claim to be first world but our laws are worst than 3rd world.

Kesley Lim.

Returning family man said...

OMG gay boy Kesley, did u marry a Tan or a Lim? Haha.

Seriously. Having lived abroad for many years, when I came back my kids enjoy the safety here even late at night. In the States Many crooks get to walk because of 'human rights' and 'democracy'. But the one thing that should go first should be mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking.

On another note, my gays friends do find it enjoyable to come to Spore regardless of 377A. Just as some would like to get rid of ISA even though it can be useful. It all depends on how it is used.

daikor said...

Thanks all for your comments, and for those who made the effort to be constructive and weigh the issues and understand that it is not a straight answer, a bigger thank you as it liven up the debate. At least it did not turn one-sided and immature like the comments in TOC Facebook or the letters to the ST forum on this topic.

Anonymous September 30, 2011 1:28:00 AM and Waileong
- They could take a civil suit or make a police report if they were indeed ill-treated, abused, insulted etc. If what you said is true and they did not intend to exonerate themselves, then the issue is their treatment while in detention, not whether they were guilty of a crime. The crime in this case was being part of the communist agenda then, according to the government.
- With regards to a Truth Commission, those complaining seemed to have shot themselves in the foot. There were truth commissions for Rwanda, South Africa, East Timor, involving serious crimes of genocide, and violence bordering on insurgency and civil war. By saying they want a truth commission, they are also saying they were involved in violence against the state or members of it, and unhappy about being on the losing side and treated so.

Anonymous Craven
- I fully agree with you that the ISA can be abused, just like any law can be abused by the government of the day. Defamation laws is perceived as abused by the PAP to stifle opposition, for example. But yet we don't repeal defamation laws as they are relevant in any modern society. The issue is not repeal of the ISA if that is what you are saying, but the review of the ISA or a law with a similar function so that is not easily abused by the PAP. Also, honestly, there are other issues and laws that should be urgently dealt with rather than the ISA. Livelihood issues like transport and housing, and even 377A, a review of the affirmative action in the Women's Charter and introduction of anti -discrimination laws. All these affect the daily lives of Singaporeans more than the ISA. It is all about priority and timing.

The Pragmatic Observer
- We are both totally on the same page that other issues are more important and many Singaporeans share our views on this. The point that the ISA was not used on people who are against it is itself a sign that ISA is not abused is a bold one but many would not see that. Similar to the point that people complain about no freedom of speech but yet they can freely complain about it without getting sued, unless they are from SDP (while WP, NSP, SPP have all easily avoided being sued). Nevertheless, issues on ISA are also important eventually if Singapore is to develop better as a democracy. However, with a gloomy global economy, unchecked foreign immigration, housing and transport pressures as a result, ISA is not a priority, not that is should be ignored totally.

- The perceptive point on what is acceptable treatment of prisoners back then compared to now is relevant. It inserts their complaints in context, but probably not many people would appreciate what you are trying to say i.e. there is nothing to complain about as it was the norm then and we can't use present norms to judge past practices, assuming that they were ill-treated if and if they were, then they should make a police report or a civil suit. On histories, I agree with you that the government and those detained are giving merely versions of what happened. They both are trying to assert their own opinions and truths, which are interpretations of the facts of what happened. Off topic and similar, Japanese right wing educators are trying to downplay and rewrite Japan's belligerence in WW2 to contest the victors' history of WW2. Both are also truths depending on point of view.

daikor said...

Anonymous October 01, 2011 1:26:00 PM
- You are right that the ISA issue should be debated. It is a matter of how and when. Not why at all. Most people don't care and that's a fact. Should they care? They should, but again it is a matter of what extent they should care since there are other needs to think about. Singaporeans cared enough to kick out PAP in Aljunied, and it showed they cared about what WP represented and placed importance on, besides ISA. Singaporeans also did not vote in Ms Teo in Yuhua, and it showed that they did not care about the ISA and what happened to her that much either.

- Good point on the subtle admission of guilt by those detained not asking for exoneration, and I did not realise it until you brought it up.

Abolish the ISA and Kesley Tan also known as Kesley Lim
- The ISA is a powerful catch-all law that has the potential to be abused. But any law can be abused. So should all laws be repealed? No right? The approach is to prevent abuse, not get rid of laws as they are separate issues that are conveniently conflated. To prevent abuse, there should be considerations of type of transparency, nature of checks and balances etc.

Returning family man
- I'm completely with you on this i.e. the ISA can be useful and it depends on how it is used. It is obvious to the discerning ones that the ISA has been used on spies and terrorists for the past twenty years. People instead want to repeal categorically rather than reform conditionally a law that remained relevant.

Anonymous said...

I think ISA is still relevant and needed in Singapore. The detention of Lim Hock Siew and company under ISA maybe questionable, but it should not detract us from the importance of ISA. It is like fire, a good slave but a bad master. We cannot do away with fire as it keep us warm and cook our food.
Without ISA our terrorist problem will not be manageble. There will be unnecessary storm. Take for example if we put Mas Selamat on Trial. Most probably he will be sentenced to death and then what happen?
I know you have some education but don't fight blindly. Are Libyans better off with NATO's interference and bombing? Think about it.

Anonymous said...

Returning Family Man. I totally agree with you that the death penalty for drug trafficking should go first. At least it should not be mandatory, let the judge decide on the merit of the case.
Many in the world shout for democracy like Burma, Libya, Egypt etc. China could rise and alleviate their poverty through a mix of socialist and democratic system. Totally democratic is a danger like it is playing out in the USA. Anyway, the supposedly democratic countries like USA, Israel and NATO countries are not democratic at all. They don't practice what they preach. IMF, World Bank is always headed by the West.