Law allowing detention without trial extended

MPs seek disclosure on detention numbers, assurances on safeguards against abuse
Published: 4:02 AM, November 12, 2013
Updated: 4:00 AM, November 13, 2013
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SINGAPORE — A law allowing some perpetrators of serious crimes to be detained without trial was extended unopposed for another five years yesterday, but not before Members of Parliament (MPs) sought more disclosure on detention numbers and assurances of safeguards against abuse.

The Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act (CLTPA) — which allows the detention of suspected criminals that the Home Affairs Minister deems “in the interests of public safety, peace and good order” — remains an essential component of Singapore’s law enforcement effort, said Second Home Affairs Minister S Iswaran in his speech at the start of the debate on the Bill.

Although prosecution in court is the “first and preferred course of action against any offender”, it may not be possible to prosecute some perpetrators, such as those involved in drug trafficking syndicates, due to difficulty in securing witnesses to testify in court.

In recent years, the CLTPA has been invoked against gang members in the November 2010 Bukit Panjang armed attacks and against two Nigerians in 2009 who were part of a syndicate recruiting Singaporean women as drug runners.

Jurong GRC MP Ang Wei Neng asked for annual disclosures of the number of detainees under the CLTPA, their duration of detention, nationalities and the kinds of criminal activities involved. To this, Mr Iswaran said “relevant statistics” would be included in annual numbers released by the Singapore Prison Service.

The robustness of checks and balances featured heavily on several MPs’ minds. Mr Iswaran had said every case proposed under the Act is scrutinised by senior Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) officials and the Public Prosecutor has to agree before an order is issued by the Home Affairs Minister.

The cases are heard and reviewed by independent advisory committees.

Criminal Law Hearing Committees also scrutinise investigation reports and may examine detainees, who can present their case and be represented by a lawyer.

The hearing committee then makes recommendations to the President, who acts on the advice of the Cabinet, whether to confirm, vary or cancel an order. Each detention order is reviewed annually by a separate Criminal Law Review Committee.

Mr Ang and Aljunied GRC MP Sylvia Lim questioned how often advisory committees have called for additional evidence or summoned and examined witnesses, while Nominated MP (NMP) Eugene Tan asked how many proposals have been rejected by the Public Prosecutor or the MHA.

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