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I hope you and your Cabinet Ministers are alive to the unsettling among the Muslim community, and not them only but the whole community, brought about by the recent ISA arrests.
The unsettling is not because of the arrests themselves. I am sure all Singaporeans will welcome any action taken to ensure that no one will lend himself to terrorist activity in Singapore. The unsettling results from the failure to assure the community that only those against whom there is positive or hard evidence of their involvement in terrorist activities in Singapore will be arrested and no one else.
This assurance will be best given if those arrested are brought to trial in court and the public can see for themselves the justification and the need for the arrests when the positive evidence is presented.
There is no reason why they should not be put on trial when there are enough laws to punish people for terrorist activities.
If they cannot be brought to trial, there should be an explanation why they cannot be produced before ordinary courts. If the ordinary courts are not the proper tribunal, then why not set up a special court to try anyone taking part in a conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism in Singapore.
The members of the courts should consist of persons outside the government but respected in the community for their judgement and integrity.
If necessary, for security reasons, the public can be excluded from the court provided observers from Human Rights organisation e.g Amnesty International, Asian Human Rights Organisations and the New York based Asiawatch are invited to send observers to the trials.
I hope you and your Cabinet realise that it is very very important for the stability of the community that the Rule of Law must be maintained. It has been broken several times in the past but now it seems to be widespread.
The refusal to allow Mr. Karpal Singh from Malaysia to take the tudung issue to the courts is another example of the violation of the Rule.
If the rule of law ceases to have any validity in Singapore, then the result will be disastrous to the whole community, far more disastrous than the threats from the Al Queda or any other group. We have not reached the situation at all where the rule of law needs to be abrogated.
The Bush administration pays scant regard for human rights in the President’s eagerness to be seen as the protector of the world in the fight against international terrorism but should Singapore follow suit. We should not throw principles overboard and unleash another terror in the minds of the people.
J B Jeyaretnam
25th September 2002