JI arrests, Colin Powell and Lee’s ISA

June 12, 2007
Singapore Democrats

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Former US Secretary of State Colin PowellThe recent arrest of five Singaporeans accused of being Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) terrorists trained in Malaysia met with a little problem: Malaysian authorities rejected the claim.

Malaysia police chief, Mr Musa Hassan, announced today that he had received no reports of JI training camps in his country.

This raises more than a little unease because the intelligence outfits in both countries cooperate closely when in comes to security issues.

It already is a problem when the state, especially the kind constructed by the PAP, claims for itself the power, under the Internal Security Act (ISA), to be judge, jury and jailer.

But when the Singapore Government’s claims are refuted by its ally, alarm bells go off as they should because the penalty for such prisoners is hardly trivial, it is indefinite imprisonment.

No one is advocating that terrorist suspects must not be nabbed or that their actions be dealt with lightly. But there is a way of doing this without the government itself resorting to terrorism – its called due process.

Even former US Secretary of State Colin Powell under the Bush administration rejected detention without trial at the Guantanamo prison: “Every morning I pick up a paper and some authoritarian figure, some person somewhere, is using Guantanamo to hide their own misdeeds.

“…if it were up to me I would close Guantanamo not tomorrow but this afternoon.”

He added that he would not let the terrorists go free, but would move them to the United States instead and “put them into our federal legal system.”

Given the PAP’s record of using the ISA to put away opposition members, the continued use of detention without trial must be put under intense scrutiny.

Declassified papers by the British government show – irrefutably – that Mr Lee Kuan Yew used the ISA not for security reasons but rather to crush opposition leaders like the late Lim Chin Siong and other Barisan Sosialis leaders in the 1960s.

In 1962, Malaysian PM Tungku Abdul Rahman said that Lee “was taking advantage of an atmosphere of urgency to include a number of political opponents in lists of [ISA] arrests on purely political grounds.”

Then UK Commissioner to Singapore, Lord Selkirk, added: “Lee is probably very much attracted to the idea of destroying his political opponents. It should be remembered that there is behind all this very much a personal aspect…” (This will be the subject of another essay that the Singapore Democrats will publish at a later time.)

In 1987, the Government again resorted to detaining a group of Singaporeans for security reasons because they were (if one can believe the idiocy) violent Marxists who were going to chase out the occupants of a certain palace on Orchard Road.

It should not escape anyone that the PAP’s credibility, when it comes to using the ISA, is in tatters.

Back to the current arrests of these five terrorist suspects (there are already 34 others in custody). Why the present detentions and why now? For one thing, it would attract little condemnation from the international community especially when the United States government is doing the same.

But the situations between the US and us are as similar as chalk and cheese. The former has an independent judiciary more then capable of standing up to the executive (even the military tribunal appointed by President Bush to deal with the Gitmo prisoners acquitted a couple of detainees for want of evidence), a media that remains a vigilant voice, and a strong opposition ready to confront the incumbent.

In Singapore? Don’t get us started.

Second, raising the security bogey to distract the populace is a tried-and-tested tactic of despotic regimes. The PAP is an old hand at this.

With the recent pummeling the Government is getting over the inexcusable raising of the GST and other fees, the grubby ministerial pay hike, and the embarrassing business failures of Shin Corp et al, is it not inconceivable for the PAP to be banging political pots and pans so that people will look the other way?

This does not, of course, mean that the detainees are not militants. To ensure that we disrupt their scheming, let us reiterate what the hard-headed, former US five-star general Colin Powell said: If you have the evidence don’t let them go but put them through the legal system.

In this way, we stop the terrorist activities dead in their tracks while preventing the PAP from detaining without trial innocent Singaporeans