This article was first published by the Straits Times on 3 February 1991.
SINGAPORE will seriously consider abolishing the Internal Security Act if Malaysia were to do so, said Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
Brigadier-General (Res) Lee made this response to seven Malaysian journalist s in his office recently when asked why the ISA was still needed in Singapore even though the Communist Party of Malaya no longer posed a threat. He said that if Malaysia did not abolish the same Act, which provides for indefinite detention without trial, it must have its reasons.
In the interview published in the Nanyang Siang Pau, a Malaysian daily and Lianhe Zaobao yesterday, BG Lee said: “Communism may be dead, but it is not the only threat. We must still deal with other groups, like religious extremists – members of a Malay group were arrested under the Act for making preparations to commemorate the May 13th incident.”
The May 13 riots in Malaysia in 1969 started soon after Alliance won a narrow victory in the general elections. A series of bloody clashes broke out between the Chinese and Malay communities, leading to a state of emergency.
He added: “There were also the dissidents and church members involved in a conspiracy to subvert Singapore’s political and social order three years ago; another incident involved Francis Seow being exploited by the US. Had there been no ISA, these cases could never have been exposed. So, it is still better for us to retain the Act.”
In an earlier meeting with the journalists, Law and Home Affairs Minister S. Jayakumar stressed the need to deal with racial and religious extremism, even though there was no threat from communism. On the detention order on former Barisan Socialis MP Chia Thye Poh, he said that although Mr Chia is restricted to Sentosa, he is allowed to visit mainland Singapore during the day, but must return to the island in the evening.
Asked by Nanyang Siang Pau about the possibility of a complete withdrawal of the detention order, Prof Jayakumar said he did not rule this out. But, he said, even though Mr Chia has been conducting himself well on the island, he is still not willing to disavow communism.