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Singapore To Change Security Law to Outlaw Court Reviews

December 20, 1988

SINGAPORE (AP) _ The government says it will amend the Internal Security Act next month to bar courts from challenging its right to jail people without charge or trial for up to two years.

The planned amendment is the result of a Dec. 8 appellate court ruling that released on a technicality four people detained under the security law. On Monday, the government rejected the court move, and the four were rearrested.

″If Singapore courts review ministerial discretion in security matters, Singapore judges will in effect become responsible and answerable for decisions affecting the security of Singapore. This was not and is not the intention of the legislature as expressed in the ISA,″ the government statement said.

Courts have been guided by a 1969 precedent that said detention cases were outside their purview. The amendment will legally entrench this precedent.

Under the Internal Security Act, the government may imprison for up to two years any citizen who, in the opinion of the home affairs minister, poses a danger to national security or public order.

Detention orders can be renewed indefinitely.

The Dec. 8 decision involved the arrests of lawyer Teo Soh Lung, 39; social worker Kevin De Souza, 27; dramatist Wong Souk Yee, 29; and teacher Chng Suan Tze, 39. Chng had seven months to serve on his original detention order and the others six months each.

They were among 21 people first detained in mid-1987 on charges of trying to undermine the government as part of a ″clandestine communist network.″

The judges reviewing their case said in a 107-page verdict that the judiciary could review the cases of detainees held under the security act.

In rejecting the verdict, the government said Parliament next month will revise the Internal Security Act with retroactive effect to say court have no right of review. The governing People’s Action Party controls 80 of the 81 seats in Parliament.

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