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Due process should not be subordinated to expediency

We refer to Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K Shanmugam’s statements defending the Government’s powers, under the Immigration Act, to repatriate foreigners outside of the judicial process on the basis of the time and expense of prosecution.

Braema Mathi, President, MARUAH Singapore

We refer to Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K Shanmugam’s statements defending the Government’s powers, under the Immigration Act, to repatriate foreigners outside of the judicial process on the basis of the time and expense of prosecution.

He added that these are issues for society to decide. (“28 charged as police complete riot probe”; Dec 18)

MARUAH is troubled by the implications, as there are principles we believe our society should uphold.

Our society should adhere to the rule of law, with a system of checks and balances underpinned by the courts’ fundamental role in protecting the rights of all persons, whether locals or foreigners.

Administrative decisions on repatriation are not made openly and transparently. Victims of incorrect decisions lack practical recourse, and deportation has serious consequences especially for migrant workers, many of whom incur heavy debt to work here.

The judicial process is therefore important to ensure the veracity of allegations against persons, through rigorous scrutiny and testing. This is underscored by news on the same day that rioting charges against seven individuals were withdrawn in court.

Due process should not be subordinated to expediency. In any event, the courts are able to fast-track cases involving migrant workers that require speedy disposal.

We are also concerned that administrative repatriations might interfere with the Public Prosecutor’s ability to carry out his duties independently, which is fundamental to the rule of law.

What if he intends to prosecute a foreigner, but the Home Affairs Ministry repatriates that person? Conversely, what if the Public Prosecutor decides that there is insufficient evidence to prosecute a foreigner, but that person is deported anyway?

Finally, we note the allegations of abuse made by some foreign workers. In the case of striking bus drivers last year who made similar allegations, an investigation found those allegations to be baseless.

We are concerned, though, about the potential existence of a pattern. We therefore call for a full, open and independent inquiry into these allegations, to ensure that public confidence in the police is not unduly undermined.

We also repeat our call for police interrogations to be videotaped, to put to rest any such future allegations conclusively.

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