25 years ago
May 21, 2012, 1:38 am
Filed under: By Rachel Zeng, Internal Security Act, Singapore

Today marks the 25th anniversary of Operation Spectrum, a day whereby 16 women and men were arrested at a pre-dawn raid carried out by the Internal Security Department (ISD). 5 days later, they were accused in a statement released by the Singapore Government that the 16 who were arrested were involved in a conspiracy to establish a “Marxist state” in Singapore under the leadership of Tan Wah Piow who was at that time, residing in London. It was said that one of the detainees, Vincent Cheng, was the central figure in the conspiracy.

On 20th June 1987, 6 more people were arrested and were said to be part of the conspiracy.

They were never put on trial and the evidences were never provided. It was a case of “guilty until proven innocent”, which goes against any system of law. However they were never given the chance to prove themselves innocent because they were never granted a trial in a court of law. Til today, the former detainees have refuted the claim, and so did Tan Wah Piow, who published a book 3 weeks after the first arrest entitled “Let the people judge: Confession of the most wanted person in Singapore”. Furthermore, ill-treatment including being interrogated in cold rooms with water splashed on them were said to have happened. Due to ill-treatment during interrogations, the former detainees were forced to appear in televised confessions, “admitting” to all the accusations slapped upon them.

In recent years, the former detainees have begun to speak up on what they had gone through. Knowing some of them personally, I cannot believe that these gentle, kind and law abiding citizens of Singapore were ever involved in any conspiracy to destroy the social construct or political system in Singapore.

I believe that anyone who is said to be guilty of a crime MUST be given a trial. This is to withhold the integrity of the legal system and to avoid any miscarriage of justice. This is why I am against any form of detention without trial. I believe that bestowing ill-treatment on anyone under interrogation is a gross abuse of power and I also believe that nobody should be forced to admit to something they did not commit or intend to commit.

The Internal Security Act (ISA) must be abolished. We do not need such an act that goes against the very principles of law-keeping as well as the basic rights of a human being.


To find out more about the former detainees and what they had gone through, do visit That We May Dream Again.

For further reading:

Martyn See’s blog

Govt must address “Marxist” arrest of 1987

ISA’s scar on Singaporean society

The ghosts of Whitley Road

“I have always loved the Catholic Church”

May 1987 still holds relevance today

‘Justice must be seen to be done’ – Mgr Yong and his priests (14 June 1987, The Catholic News)


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