Instead of my usual rest after a hectic physical class of rebounding, circular strength training and joint mobility exercise on an early Saturday morning, I took a quick bath and rushed down to Bras Basah Complex to learn more about ISA from the legal experts.
I arrived just before the proceedings started and I numbered 50 plus when I registered at the entrance of the meeting room. Fortunately, there was no notice to say that the meeting was cancelled like the previous forum I attended at the Verge [Link
Jack Lee, the first speaker, brought us through the birth of ISA, subsequent amendments and what the future holds in ISA. I'm not going through the details that Jack shared but what caught my attention were the "pow chiak" changes that put the government in a sure-win position in dealing with detainees through the years.
Peter Low, the second speaker, shared with us his experience in defending detainees of ISA and his frustration of representing them at the Advisory Board review. It so flabbergasted him that, weeks earlier, he wrote a letter to ST [read here
] which surprisingly was published and I'm sure will enlighten many.
Due to some unforeseen circumstances, the third speaker, Choo Zheng Xi could not make it. Ex-NMP Siew Kum Hong took his place and spoke to us instead.
In attending this forum, I've learned that Teo Chee Hean's version of ISA and why it must continue to be a sacred cow is just his and/or PAP's way of continuing the sure-win status quo.
What I found ironic is that ISA (in its technical details) is supposed to protect the integrity of freedom and human rights. It is a shame that it is used for other purposes.
For those who want to get nearer the truth about ISA, especially on the Marxist Conspiracy, the forum attendees struck gold with the presence of so-called "Marxist conspirators" Vincent Cheng and Teo Soh Lung. They shared with us the indignity they suffered under detention. When asked if he was tortured, Vincent said he did not have his genitals electrocuted nor his finger nails extracted by pliers. However, he was interrogated in a shivery cold room for many hours with sleep deprivation, was slapped, continuously struck on his chest and back by the forearm of his interrogator and also punched in his abdomen. Soh Lung, "Beyond the Blue Gate
", said that apart from the cold room treatment, they took away her underwear and her glasses and she was also slapped by her interrogator. The way she described the warmth on her face when slapped sent a chill to my spine.
I understand that 'Maruah' in Malay means 'Dignity'. Though I had the opportunity to chat briefly with Vincent and Soh Lung, I did not have the chance to ask them if their dignity was negatively impacted by the atrocity inflicted upon them by ISA.
During the 60's under Operation Cold Store detainees like Lim Chin Siong, Chia Thye Poh, Dr Lim Hock Siew, etc. were tagged as 'communists'. During the 80's, detainees like Vincent Cheng and Teo Soh Lung were tagged as "Marxist Conspirators". Today, detainees like Mas Selamat Kastari and others are tagged as "terrorists" [Link
With ISA where the PAP government can lock up anyone by tagging anyone as a 'security threat', can we blame Singaporeans for being fearful in not speaking up for justice, democracy and righteousness?
Fear may be the standard operating procedure used in Singapore to govern and browbeating helps make the job easier [Link
]. ISA for what it is worth is an instrument that that serves this purpose. That is why we have:
- Media reporting about Martyn See of SFD being called up by the police for organising a human rights forum [Link]
- Media reporting about SDP being investigated for having a tele-forum with Francis Seow and Tang Fong Har[Link]
- Police warning people not to be at Raffles Place on a certain Saturday afternoon [Link]
Though the above messages are intimidating, Siew Kum Hong said at the Maruah forum that he hasn't been arrested for speaking what he spoke and doing what he did. With that, I'm hopeful that we are arriving . . . to be a better Singapore!
Having personally met Vincent Cheng and Teo Soh Lung and hear them speak of their loss of freedom and rights, I've come to understand that it is the fear of the loss of power (kiasu?) that makes leader use ISA to create fear to enhance and ensure their overpowering despotic power. With the current revelation and challenges [Link
] from living detainees, the sound of silence from those challenged will ultimately damage their reputation and integrity.
I salute detainees like Vincent Cheng, Teo Soh Lung, Said Zahari, Dr Lim Hock Siew and many others who have written and spoken of the atrocities committed against them through ISA. I salute Peter Low for his fortitude in sharing his experience with us. With such exposure, eventually, fear will diminish and truth will prevail.
On a lighter note, my attending the forum gave me the opportunity and thrill of rubbing Kum Hong's botak head. Based on what I wrote on 8 July 2009 [Link
], I should have kissed the Botak Head :)