Yesterday’s press releases (27 May 2015) of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) are depressing. Three men were released from indefinite imprisonment under the Internal Security Act (ISA) a year ago, but it is only now that we are made aware this.
The three men were:
1. Mohamed Rashid bin Zainal Abidin, arrested in May 2006. He was released on 26 May 2014 with restrictions;
2. Sahrudin bin Mohd Sapian arrested in January 2012. He was released with restrictions on 24 February 2014; and
3. Mohamed Rafee bin Abdul Rahman, arrested in January 2012. He was released with restrictions on 24 February 2014.
The three were released in February 2014 and May 2014. Why did the MHA take more than a year to inform us of their release? Are we not entitled to know what the MHA does with ISA prisoners? Who and how many people have they arrested and for how long do they need to remain in prison? By keeping silent about arrests, imprisonment and releases of prisoners, the MHA behaves like a state sanctioned clandestine organisation.
The ISA is an unjust law. Prisoners are not charged and tried in open court. There is no judicial review for ISA cases. Release of ISA prisoners depend on the whims and fancies of the executive who may or may not rely on the reports of the ISD. The threat of indefinite imprisonment instils great fear in prisoners. Behind the four walls of the prison, they are quickly forgotten by the public. In Singapore, we do not have human rights organisations or religious organisations who demand updates on the well-being of prisoners. Even the United Nations is not able to extract any information from the MHA. The Justices of Peace who allegedly visit prisoners at regular intervals are not answerable to the public. They merely play the role of do-gooders and do not check the excesses of the government.
The MHA now informs us that Mohamed Rashid bin Zainal Abidin who was arrested in 2006 was released in 2014, a period of eight long years. Why was he imprisoned for so long? We hear from the MHA that JI or Jemaah Islamiyah has faded and it is now the era of ISIS. So why was he imprisoned for eight long years? MHA owes the public an explanation, not just the two liner alleging that Rashid was a “JI member who had undergone terrorist training in south Philippines. He was released from detention and placed on Restriction Orders (RO) on 24 Feb 2014.”
Sahrudin bin Mohd Sapian and Mohamed Rafee bin Abdul Rahman were both released after two years. Both men had allegedly undergone terrorist training and were JI members.
Why was the release of these three men kept a secret for more than one year?
And what about the following prisoners?
1. Haji Ibrahim bin Haji Maidin arrested in December 2001.
2. Alahuddeen bin Abdullah, arrested in October 2002.
3. Mohd Aslam bin Yar Ali Khan, arrested in December 2002.
4. Mas Selamat bin Kastari, rearrested in September 2010.
5. Abdul Rahimbin Abdul Rahman, arrested in February 2012.
6. Husaini bin Ismail, arrested in May 2012.
7. Abdul Basheer s/o Abdul Kader, rearrested in September 2012.
8. Asyrani bin Hussaini arrested in March 2013.
9. Masyhadi bin Mas Selamat, arrested in October 2013.
Let us hope that those imprisoned today will not suffer imprisonment for 32 years as Dr Chia Thye Poh did and that the government will in the meantime, look after their material and psychological well-being as well as that of their families. I hope the government will not let the families suffer poverty as they did to thousands of others in earlier decades.
New Arrests under the ISA
In another press release of the same date, the MHA announced the arrests of two young people – M Arifil Azim Putra Norja’s, aged 19 and an unnamed youth, aged 17. They were arrested under the ISA in April and May 2015 respectively.
Is there no other law that can deal with young people other than the ISA? Is there no Muslim organisation that can help these youths, if they are indeed misguided? What about the existing Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) and the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS)? Cannot the MHA seek their assistance instead of taking such draconian action and giving them a lifetime black label?
The arrest of these two young people reminds me of the hundreds of youths arrested between 1954 – 1987. Many of them were students and could not continue their studies after imprisonment. Unlike those times, Singapore today is a developed country. Why is it that we are still not able to handle young people without using the ISA?
Young people are the future of Singapore. How we treat the young reflect the maturity of our society. As I have said before, the government made a mess of Amos Yee. Are they making another mess with these two young people? MUIS and RRG should do their best to intervene in these arrests. The effect of indefinite imprisonment without trial under the ISA is not to be taken lightly.
I hope the government will re-examine its decision to use the ISA against these two young people. The ISA is not to be used lightly and worse, on our young.
Teo Soh Lung