Shanmugam says WP's arguments are 'theatrics with no substance'

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Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam yesterday called Workers' Party MPs' arguments on a law that allows suspects to be detained without trial as "pure theatrics".

Aljunied GRC MPs Sylvia Lim and Pritam Singh, and Non-Constituency MP Dennis Tan, had voiced WP's dissent during a four-hour debate over a Bill to amend the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act on Tuesday, which was passed in Parliament.

Mr Shanmugam said on Facebook he had a good exchange with Mr Singh and Mr Tan but took issue with Ms Lim's points.

The WP chairman raised concerns about the new Fourth Schedule in the Act, which listed transnational crimes covered under a different act, saying the inclusion expands the minister's powers to that of "a global policeman, with no equal in the world".

In his post, Mr Shanmugam said her argument was "absurd", as the change would limit, not expand, the powers.

He said it transparently sets out the activities and imposes two requirements for detention instead of the original one.

My conclusion, listening to some parts of the debate: pure theatrics with no substance, calculated to mislead.Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam

In his wrap-up speech in Parliament on Tuesday, he said Ms Lim's use of "global policeman" was "rhetorical flourish", and perhaps "makes for good reading on her website".

The WP MPs had also objected to a new "finality clause" in the Act, arguing that it curtailed judicial review.

In 2015, the Court of Appeal overturned a two-year detention of alleged match-fixing kingpin Dan Tan after it found his alleged activities did not threaten public safety here.

Mr Shanmugam said the WP's assertions on judicial review were "untrue" and "the amendments do not take away the power of judicial review set out in the Dan Tan case".

The clause, he said on Tuesday, only prevents the courts from examining the facts behind the decision - not from reviewing whether the minister's decision was illegal, irrational or improper.

"Despite the clear legal position, the assertions (from WP) continued. Anyone who actually read the Dan Tan case, and knew some law, will know that. My conclusion, listening to some parts of the debate: pure theatrics with no substance, calculated to mislead."