Monday, October 10, 2011

SDP Forum on ISA investigated by the Police: Intimidation and suppression alive and well?

excerpt from Channel NewsAsia ‘Police investigating SDP Forum‘:
The Ministry of Home Affairs, in response to media queries, said on Sunday that the organisers of the forum on the Internal Security Act had arranged for a fugitive from justice, Mr Francis Seow, and a foreign national, Ms Tang Fong Har, to participate in a discussion on domestic politics.

It said the organisers had arranged for them to do so from outside Singapore’s jurisdiction, allowing them to be involved in domestic politics at a public assembly in Singapore without being physically present and accountable.
SDP’s Assistant Treasurer Vincent Wijeysingha on his Facebook in response to this news:
Vincent Wijeysingha on FB: And I returned home to the ludicrous news that the police are investigating the ISA forum yesterday. MHA is quoted as describing Mr Francis Seow as a “fugitive from justice” and Ms Tan Fong Har as a “foreign national”.

Let’s see: Francis Seow went to Whitley Road Detention Centre to take instructions from his detained client, Teo Soh Lung, in1987 and was arrested and then held for 72 days and tortured. For no crime whatsoever. And HE’s the fugitive from justice?? I was always aware that Teo Chee Hean had substandard English ad a poor grasp of logic but this is poor even for him.

And let’s see some more: If Tang Fong Har is a foreign national, is it not because the government refuses to allow the renewal of her passport although she has never been tried and convicted in a court of law nor any evidence produced in 24 years since her arrest.

The police investigation of the event is designed to do two things:

(a) intimidate the organisers and
(b) belittle the words of the participants.

Has this administration not learnt anything from the General Elections.
          People are weary of this ridiculous, ham-fisted, bullying style of government.

Or perhaps they will torture us to produce a false confession? We will keep everyone on Facebook updated of the ‘police investigation’; please copy to your own pages so that the government is not able to operate in secret the way it did with the detention of the 22 in 1987.
Filmmaker Martyn See on his Facebook in response to Ministry of Home Affairs response:
At last, the new normal gives way to the old abnormal.

The emerging fiasco of investigating a public forum

by Andrew Loh (source)

The day after the forum, on Sunday, the police was reported by the media to be conducting an investigation into the forum for a potential “breach of the law”. The Ministry for Home Affairs said “the organisers had arranged for [Mr Seow and Ms Tang to participate in a discussion on domestic politics and] to do so from outside Singapore's jurisdiction, allowing them to be involved in domestic politics at a public assembly in Singapore without being physically present and accountable.”

It also labeled Mr Seow as a “fugitive from justice” and Ms Tang as a “foreign national”.

Mr Seow was arrested and detained for 72 days in 1987 for “having received funds from the United States and advice for the purpose of promoting democracy in Singapore.” Later he was charged with tax evasion. Mr Seow subsequently left the country before the courts heard his case. Eventually, he was convicted of the charges in absentia.

He has alleged torture during his detention in Singapore.

Ms Tang was one of 22 people detained under the ISA in 1987 as part of an alleged “Marxist conspiracy” to “subvert the existing social and political system in Singapore through Communist united front tactics to establish a Communist state.”

A lawyer, she was also “charged with trying to turn the Law Society into a pressure group to further the cause of Marxist conspirators and with playing an important role in influencing the Law Society so that it would oppose amendments to the Newspapers and Printing Presses Act and the Legal Profession (Amendment) Bill in 1986.”

In March 1988, after her release from detention, she visited her British husband and has since not returned.

All 22 detainees of 1987 have always denied being part of any plots to “subvert the system” or of being “Marxists”.

The latest police’s categorization of Mr Seow as a “fugitive” and Ms Tang as a “foreign national” need to be scrutinized by members of the public.

For one, Mr Seow’s arrest and detention, and the subsequent charges against him for tax evasion, are seen by some as having been politically-motivated. Mr Seow, who was formerly president of the Law Society and later Solicitor-General, had acted on behalf of several of the 1987 detainees and he is also seen as a vocal critic of the then-prime minister Lee Kuan Yew’s regime. He also participated in the 1988 General Election as a candidate for the Workers’ Party’s Eunos GRC team. His team took 49.11% of the vote against the People’s Action Party outfit.

Ms Tang being a “foreign national” is also a suspect charge. It is believed that it is the authorities who have refused to allow the renewal of her Singaporean passport. It would thus appear that if she is a “foreign national”, it would be by default – and through no fault of her own. According to the law, the Government can revoke a person's Singapore citizenship if he or she has not returned to Singapore over a continuous period of 10 years. However, in Ms Tang's case, her self-exile is for political and perhaps personal safety reasons. Incidentally, the rule might also be applicable to Mr Seow.

But perhaps what would rile Singaporeans is that the government is again invoking the “domestic politics” rationale for its investigation into Saturday’s forum. Mr Seow and Ms Tang are, except for technical legal considerations, not “foreigners”. The government would be hard-pressed to insist that they are.

If one is forced to leave Singapore or have chosen to leave Singapore because one is afraid for one’s life or safety or any other similar concerns at a prevailing time, one could hardly be termed a “foreigner” after a prolonged period overseas where one seeks safety.

Citizenship should be a birth right – until and unless one gives it up voluntarily.

Perhaps what will come out of the emerging fiasco of the police trying to find trouble, as it were, where there is none, is that the law which revokes Singaporeans’ citizenship at the government’s pleasure will be questioned.

As for the ISA detentions – of those in the 60s, 70s, 80s – the government should convene a Commission of Inquiry into the detainees’ allegations of abuse. Otherwise, the allegations cast doubts over the integrity of our security forces. And the government’s highhanded approach to dealing with a public forum on the same ISA matter which it undoubtedly finds irksome casts an even longer shadow on the authorities’ motivation which, to be honest, looks flimsy and tenuous.

Lastly, if the charge of not "being physically present and accountable" against Mr Seow and Ms Tang is a legitimate one, then the authorities should hold the ex-detainees who are here in Singapore "accountable" for their denial and allegations of torture and abuse by the authorities during their time in jail. These allegations and claims were made in public forums, rally speeches, in videos and in books. Why then are the authorities not holding these detainees "accountable" for them and convene an investigation?

It would thus seem again that the authorities are just conveniently engaging in rhetoric.

As someone posted on Facebook following news about the police’s investigation into Saturday’s forum: the "new normal" of things in Singapore looks very much like the old. Indeed.

Read what Mr Seow and Ms Tang said at the forum, click here and here.

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