ISA a necessary tool for security, given terror threats

The calls for Singapore to consider abolishing the Internal Security Act (ISA) referenced South Korea and Taiwan (Ex-detainees launch book to mark 1987 arrests, call for ISA to be abolished; May 22).

These two societies are predominately homogeneous, and may not face the same challenges as us.

It may be worthwhile to consider the experiences of countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia, and even those in Europe.

For Malaysia, its ISA was repealed and subsequently replaced by the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012.

Get The Straits Times
newsletters in your inbox

However, soon after its repeal and the release of former ISA detainees, it was reported that there was a significant increase in the country's crime rate.

As for Indonesia, it was previously reported that four Indonesians had been deported by Singapore for wanting to travel to Syria to fight for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terror group (Indonesians 'travelling to join ISIS' deported; Feb 23, 2016).

Such a case highlights that one country's terrorism threat could pose an existential security threat to others as well.

To compound the matter, it seems that Indonesian laws do not allow police to detain prospective terrorists unless there is evidence that they have committed an offence.

The four deported from Singapore, despite their plans to fight for ISIS in Syria being known, were consequently released by the Indonesian authorities.

In Europe, France has introduced anti-terror laws which encompass extensive periods of detention without trial to deal with its domestic terror situation. This is similarly the case in Britain.

The Europeans, who enshrine freedom and the rule of law as part of their culture, have begun to rethink their options to effectively deal with the threat of terror at home.

We know that Singapore is a prized target in Asia. There were even plans by a separate Indonesian group based in Batam to attack Singapore (Eight deported Indonesians under probe for terror links; Jan 13).

The abolishment of the ISA would run contrary to effectively dealing with the threats faced here. The ISA is a necessary tool for the overall good of Singapore's safety and security.

As the saying goes: If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.

Leonard Poh Wen Quan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 27, 2017, with the headline 'ISA a necessary tool for security, given terror threats'. Print Edition | Subscribe