Parliament extends law that allows detention without trial
Amendments to it include listing of relevant charges
A law allowing detention without trial was extended for the 14th time yesterday in Parliament, after members hotly debated the issue.
Following a parliamentary vote that saw 77 out of 89 MPs voting for the extensions, the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act (CLTPA), introduced in 1955, will remain in effect for five more years from Oct 21, 2019.
It was extended yesterday together with some amendments, which include a listing of charges where it can be applied. These include murder, participation in or facilitation of an organised crime activity (OCA), secret society activities, unlicensed money lending, drug trafficking and kidnapping.
This amendment comes after the Court of Appeal's decision in 2015 to free alleged Singaporean match-fixing kingpin Dan Tan, noting it did not accept the Act's "loose or open-ended remit".
When freeing Tan, the Court of Appeal said that while he may have run an international match-fixing syndicate from Singapore, his activities did not pose a threat to public safety, peace and good order here.
Days after he was released, the police re-arrested him for "suspected involvement in criminal activities" and detained him again under the same Act.
Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam told the House yesterday that with effect from March, the independent advisory committees reviewing Detention Orders (DOs) and Police Supervision Orders will be chaired by sitting judges of the Supreme Court, making the Act more "robust".
The Act is traditionally used in situations where it is not possible to prosecute in court because witnesses are fearful or unwilling to testify.
Not all MPs were in support of the amendments and extension.
All eight of the Workers' Party (WP) members voted "No", as did two nominated members (NMPs) Kok Heng Leun and Azmoon Ahmad.
NMPs Kuik Shiao-Yin and Mahdev Mohan abstained.
MPs debated the CLTPA and the amendments for almost four hours yesterday.
WP chairman Sylvia Lim (Aljunied GRC) said the Government had "gone too far" with the amendments to what she described as a "draconian law".
Speaking on behalf of her party, Ms Lim said that despite reservations, she and her party's members would have been supportive of the renewal, if not for some of the new changes.
She took issue with how the CLTPA's scope now extends overseas with the inclusion of the OCA, which she said makes the home affairs minister a "global policeman with no equal in the world".
To this, Mr Shanmugam said a DO can be issued only if it satisfied two requirements: it is for an offence in the schedule list of the crimes covered by the CLTPA and it is in the "interest of public safety, peace and good order within Singapore".
"So it is not the case that if it's listed in the schedule, you can automatically be detained."
WP MP Pritam Singh (Aljunied GRC) said the CLTPA and the powers it bestows on the minister narrows the judiciary's role.
But Mr Shanmugam said: "As a matter of law, this clause cannot oust judicial review, and I buttressed it by saying to go ask any lawyer."
He added: "I am prepared to stand up here and say so as the law minister and home affairs minister that there is no intention to oust, and this clause does not oust, judicial review."
Ms Lim and Mr Murali Pillai(Bukit Batok) both asked about the timing of the extension and amendment.
Ms Lim called it "premature" and was " surprised" that Parliament was being asked to extend the Act now when it expires only in October 2019.
To this, Mr Shanmugam said: "We are making a number of amendments, and I'm taking the opportunity to extend the life of the Act at the same time."
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