Shanmugam labels WP's arguments on detention law as 'theatrics with no substance, calculated to mislead'

In a Facebook post, Mr Shanmugam said he had a good exchange with Aljunied GRC MP Pritam Singh and Non-Constituency MP Dennis Tan over their points, but took issue with Ms Sylvia Lim's. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam on Wednesday (Feb 7) labelled the Workers' Party MPs' arguments on a law that allows criminal suspects to be detained without trial as "pure theatrics with no substance, calculated to mislead".

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

In a Facebook post, Mr Shanmugam said he had a good exchange with Mr Singh and Mr Tan over their points, but took issue with Ms Lim's.

The WP chairman raised concerns about the new Fourth Schedule in the Act which listed transnational crimes covered under a different act, saying that the inclusion effectively 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, these powers under the Act.

"This is something to be welcomed - it sets out transparently the activities, and imposes two requirements for detention instead of the original one requirement," he wrote.

"But it gave rise to some curious statements from one of the WP MPs," he added, referring to Ms Lim.

His latest remarks mirrored that of his wrap-up speech in Parliament as well, when the minister described Ms Lim's use of "global policeman" as a "rhetorical flourish".

On Tuesday, he had said: "I do not think where this global policeman comes, except perhaps that it makes for good reading on her website, where one can put out these things - soundbites - without reference to the legislation, the bill, or the clarifications."

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 had overturned a two-year detention of alleged match-fixing kingpin Dan Tan after it found that his alleged involvement in global match-fixing did not threaten public safety here.

Mr Shanmugam said the WP's assertions on judicial review are "untrue".

He wrote: "As I repeated many times yesterday, the amendments do not take away the power of judicial review set out in the Dan Tan case. That power of judicial review continues."

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

Mr Shanmugam said the apex court had already stated this position in the Dan Tan case, and other cases.

"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."

The Straits Times has contacted Ms Lim for comment.

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