Robert Ho threatened with IMH detention at President’s pleasure

Like Mr Boon Suan Ban, Mr Robert Ho has been arrested and remanded at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) – repeatedly, in the latter’s case. Mr Ho had gone to the West Mall Shopping Centre on 27 February 2005 to distribute flyers about the elections system in Singapore.

Later that day, the police came and arrested Mr Ho and brought him to the IMH. They came the following day and carted away his computer. About two weeks later, Mr Ho said that just as he was about to be discharged, the police ordered his continued detention because they wanted to charge him in court. A few days later, he was released without being charged.

The police later called Mr Ho’s wife and told her that her husband cannot continue to do what he did and that they could have charged him in court and put him under remand in IMH at the President’s pleasure.

In was a coincidence that Mr Ho was remanded at the IMH at about the same time that Mr Boon Suan Ban was incarcerated. Mr Boon is in custody at the President’s pleasure.

A few years earlier, Mr Robert Ho was also arrested by the police and investigated for criminal defamation for posting an article about Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s daughter-in-law, Mdm Ho Ching. His computer equipment was also confiscated then which have not been returned to him. Mr Ho had said then that the police had told him that if he stopped posting articles on the Internet, he would not be charged. When Mr Ho agreed he was released.

Several disturbing questions arise from the arrests and detention of Messrs Boon and Ho regarding the rule of law in Singapore. What rights are available to the two men and other people who are similarly detained? Is the State abusing its powers? What implications do the arrests have for the rest of us? These issues will be discussed at the public forum organised by the Open Singapore Centre (OSC) at Hotel Asia on 16 April 2005 at 2 pm. The death penalty and the impending execution of a Singaporean, Mr Shanmugam s/o Murugesu, will also be debated. The mother and the twin sons of Mr Shanmugam will be present at the forum to appeal for clemency for death-row inmate.

Amnesty International Spokesman, Mr Tim Parritt, will also speak at the forum as will Mr Anthony Yeo, Singapore’s foremost social counselor. The other speakers are: Mr J B Jeyaretnam, lawyer M Ravi, Think Centre Executive Director S Samydorai, and Dr Chee Soon Juan.

As the topic “Death Penalty and the Rule of Law in Singapore” concerns the legal community the OSC has invited most of the law firms in the country. It will also extend an invitation to the Law Society.

The forum promises to be intellectually and emotionally engaging. Make a date with the OSC and come and join in the discussion that concerns us all. Admission is free and all are welcome.