06 Feb 2018

The Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) (Amendment) Bill - Wrap-Up Speech by Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law

1.      Mr Speaker, Sir, I thank the Members who have spoken.

 

Need for the Act

 

2.      First, let me deal with the need for the Act. Mr Gan Thiam Poh has cited several surveys which tell us that we are among, near the top for the "safe cities" index in the world, and we are right at the top in terms of law and order.

 

3.      I have shared with Members the findings of another survey. Here, 93% of our residents say they feel safe when they walk in their neighbourhood at night; 92% say that they rate safety and security in Singapore as good or very good.

 

4.      The reason is not just the CLTPA. It is the entire criminal justice system. Mr Kok Heng Leun, Nominated Member of Parliament cited the Rule of Law index, pointed out and said we were ranked 13th globally. But he left out the fact that in that ranking, we were ranked first in the world for order and security; and fifth in the world for criminal justice.

 

5.      He says we can borrow legislation from the United Kingdom to replace the CLTPA. The UK is ranked 21st in the world for order and security, and 11th for criminal justice. But let us not get carried away with these rankings. They are not the gold standard, the Holy Grail, by which we should automatically judge ourselves. They are only indicative and sometimes, some of the surveys, the methodologies are highly questionable. So, in the end, we really have to use our common-sense. The facts, as we can see them, what is in front of our eyes, the lived reality in the United Kingdom, in Singapore and in other countries.

 

6.      As Members of Parliament, many of us, in fact, all of us should be, on the ground regularly, we know what our residents want. We know what they feel. Will we be happy to have the same situation as the United Kingdom?

 

7.      According to the BBC, a knife or blade was used in a crime every 16 minutes on average in the United Kingdom in 2016. The number of incidents involving machetes has risen more than 60% in recent years. The Metropolitan Police Commissioner has said the menace of knife crime caused by London street gangs is a "significant issue". They are dealing or trying to deal with problems that we have kept at bay.

 

8.      And if we look at America – people compare us sometimes, though, you have got to look at city for city. In the Gallup Poll in 2017, Americans with a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the Police stands at 57% compared with our percentages in excess of 90%. Thirty percent of Americans said they were afraid to walk alone at night in an area within a mile of where they live. These are broad trends. They are not attributable to a specific factor or specific legislation.

 

9.     But really, we have to think of what works for us and think carefully before we try to cut and paste systems from other countries, and frankly, not be colonised in our thinking. If something works well outside, sure, we should copy it and we do. But we do not copy it simply because it is somewhere else without giving due consideration as to whether it has worked well. And we need the self-confidence to ignore it when others shout loudly that they have the best systems in the world if the facts do not bear that out.

 

Timing of extension

 

10.  In terms of the timing of extension, Mr Pillai asked: why are we extending the Act now? We are making a number of amendments and I am taking the opportunity to also extend the life of the Act at the same time. I think Ms Lim also asked this question. The last debate was in November 2013. That is about four years and three months since the last debate.

 

11.  We are putting it in a Schedule. I have explained why and I will explain why again. We are putting in more flexibility in terms of our Police Supervision Orders (PSO), as I have explained. You want to tailor the conditions imposed on individuals for rehabilitation, for counselling and so on. It cannot be or it is difficult to have it in the main legislation.

 

12.  So, since we are making those amendments, we are seeking an extension by explaining it clearly in Parliament. Otherwise, we would have waited. I agree, normally it should be nearer the renewal date, not right at the door but nearer. But since we are doing these other amendments, we are coming with a request for extension as well.

 

13.  I will now deal with three main issues that Members have brought up. First, the finality clause; second the listing in the Schedule; and, third, the safeguards in the Act.

 

The finality of the Minister's decision

 

14.  Several Members have spoken about the finality clause in the Bill. Mr Dennis Tan asked whether the finality clause was intended to exclude judicial review. Mr Kok Heng Leun worried that the amendments removed judicial oversight over the legality of the Minister's decision. Mr Gan also suggested we need independent court oversight in the system. I think Mr Pritam Singh, Ms Sylvia Lim and Mr Dennis Tan also had questions.

 

15.  Let us take a step back. Let me explain this by reference to some broader points and then I will deal with the specific points.

 

16.  In a criminal justice system, you have trials, you have verdict: guilty/not guilty. For those who are guilty, the penal system provides for punishments. It generally works well in Singapore. It works well because people know that if you commit an offence, you are likely to be picked up. If you are guilty, you are likely to be found guilty in court. And if you are found guilty, you will face penalties, and all of these will take place fairly quickly.

 

17.  The exceptions to this process – Internal Security Act (ISA), CLTPA and, of course, provisions in the MRHA. It is a deliberate decision by Parliament to make those exceptions. Why? For the Internal Security Act, the reasons have been explained. For the CLTPA, Ministers for Home Affairs have explained it regularly in this House and I have sought to do so earlier.

 

18.  The real world comprises gangsters, kingpins, Unlicensed Moneylending (UML) attacks, threatening of witnesses, what I said here about the UK. Let me read this out about Sydney. This is from the Sydney Morning Herald, about an incident, it is just one indication, one incident, but it tells you what happens, and why we do not have such things in Singapore. This is 30 January 2012, six years ago, an article: "The leader of Comanchero, an outlaw bikie gang, is refusing to cooperate with police after surviving another attempt on his life, a shooting that also killed his son. Vincenzo Focarelli is in hospital with gunshot wounds, refusing to tell police who shot him and killed his son, Giovanni, 22, at Dry Creek in Adelaide Northwest last night. It was the fourth attempt on Vincenzo's life. He was shot in the leg in December, was also the target of a failed bomb attack by two men linked to the Hells Angels, who both died when the device exploded early. He reportedly taunted his rivals on Facebook a day after surviving the third attempt on his life, including boasting that he had nine lives. He can be seen dancing in a YouTube clip that appears to be promoting life in the Comanchero gang in Adelaide. Detective Superintendent Grant Moyle said 'Police will do everything they could to prevent retaliation' ", and this is after four times. The detective superintendent was quoted as saying: " 'I would suggest it was a very planned, targeted attempt on his life', he told reporters that day at an overnight press conference. 'It is a concern to us that retribution might take place, but we will do what we can to talk sense into these people.' "

 

19.  You can just imagine trying to talk sense into them. " 'He (Vincenzo) has declined to provide us any information that might assist us in identifying the offender. That is a difficulty we face in these particular cases. The people that do know information are often reluctant to assist the investigation' ".

 

20.  So, here you have a man who is publicly known as being part of a gang, whose life has been attempted on four times. His son has been killed, he is in hospital, he is refusing to talk. The police feared that there will be retaliation. The police say, "We will try and prevent it". But we know in the real world what happens.

 

21.  The article goes on: "South Australian Police Minister Jennifer Rankine will be briefed on the shooting by Police Commissioner. She said police are doing their best to deal with the scourge of outlaw gangs and South Australia had very tough anti-bikie laws. Hundreds of them have been arrested and charged. Hundreds of their associates have been arrested and charged. The frustration is these people have absolutely no regard for the law or, it would appear, for their safety or the safety of the community." The reporter points out that his son also had been attacked before but had refused to cooperate with police investigating the attempted murder. So, police then were going on a door-knocking exercise to try and get evidence.

 

22.  We do not have these things for one simple reason. It is not that we are automatically different but we have become different. If there are gangs, and there are, we intervene very early and we break them up. We do not allow them to get to this situation. So, this is the trade-off I talked about. There is no right and wrong approach but you have to be very clear about what the trade-offs are. Supposing we remove the CLTPA, we are not immediately going to get to Sydney's situation straightaway; we have tough gun control laws as well, but you must expect a different law and order situation.

 

23.  Some of Members might recall, I think it was 2010, seven years now, over a period of three weeks, a series of young boys went on a rampage, different groups. I think one was in Downtown East, a young man was knifed to death, gang attack. And then at Bukit Panjang the following week, there was another attack. Three weeks in a row and people got upset, and they said "What is happening? Do something about it".

 

24.  The Police took a number of steps, did something about it, but the CLTPA is an essential tool in the arsenal of doing something about these things. Otherwise, every Member of Parliament will answer to your residents because our people value law and order and security very highly. And 93% of the people are not going to say in a survey they feel safe walking in their neighbourhoods.

 

25.  Our people get upset with UML cases. When paint gets splashed, Members of Parliament would have to face them. When their doors get padlocked, when their doors get set on fire, they will come to the Members of Parliament and demand that action be taken. And the Government has got to be able to respond.

 

26.  So, right or wrong, as I have been upfront about it, you can choose either path, as long as you are clear about the trade-offs. Society, as a whole, must be prepared to accept the trade-offs. I have come to accept that the path we are taking is probably better for Singapore and for society.

 

27.  Let me again make a larger point. It is possible to make grand statements about liberty and security if you do not have to deal with real world problems.

 

28.  Let me go to the US as an example. President Obama when he was candidate Obama, he thundered "Choice between liberty and security is a false choice", meaning you can both have security and a full set of rights including due process for all in the courts in all cases.

 

29.  Sounds very good, it is very noble. And he promised to close Guantanamo, signed an Executive Order in 2009 to close Gitmo, in fact. But then the US was having trouble finding anyone else who was willing to take all these people in Gitmo. Prisoners there were indefinitely detained without charge; citizens from 49 nations. Youngest detainee was 14, oldest was 89. The President then tried to move them into centres in the United States; there was a big outcry. Senators did not want Gitmo closed and they certainly did not want these prisoners on US soil for all the rhetoric from the US. Majority of the Americans also oppose bringing the detainees to American soil.

 

30.  So, the President recognised the difficulty almost immediately after he took office. He is a constitutional law professor. So, he said in a 2009 speech after he became President, "There remains the question of the Gitmo detainees who cannot be prosecuted and yet who pose a clear danger to the American people. And I have to be honest here – this is the toughest single issue that we will face". And he said even after the process is complete, there will be some who cannot be prosecuted because there will be lack of evidence but who, nevertheless, will pose a threat to the security of the United States. And he said he is not going to release those individuals. So, that is where reality meets rhetoric.

 

31.  If you look at Eric Holder, the former Attorney-General of the United States, he was giving evidence in Congress about one of the masterminds of 9/11. He was asked what will happen if they trialled the man and he was acquitted by the courts. His answer, "We would like the courts to convict him but if for some reason he is acquitted, we will detain him." Again, the reality of the situation.

 

32.  Members know, for years we have been lectured about the Internal Security Act, particularly by the Americans. But when they faced 9/11, suddenly the situation is different. Of course, the CLTPA is not in the same league as the Internal Security Act. It deals with different situations. It is very different from the ISA. The principle behind the CLTPA is that there will be some types of criminals where due process will not get them to justice, considering the nature of their duties. Is it better for society to leave them out, or have the CLTPA and use it? Our current approach has led to the current levels of safety and security.


(B) Safeguards

 

33.  Safeguards, I have mentioned several, including the Advisory Committees, the structure of how we proceed. Now, in this context, let us turn to clause 3. Mr Pritam Singh said clause 3 operates to narrow the judiciary's role. How so? How does it narrow the judiciary's role? He asserts but does not explain. And I have said – I think by now I have said it about four, five times – there is no exclusion of judicial review.

 

34.  The traditional grounds of judicial review remain. So, here we are. I have explained by reference to, first, logic, in that clause 3 deals with the factual basis for the Minister's decision. Judicial review is separate.

 

35.  Second, I have explained that a half-decent – and I do not mean it in an insulting way – my basic point is, any lawyer ought to know that regardless of what I say, clause 3 cannot oust judicial review. That is a fairly basic, fundamental point. Any lawyer ought to know.

 

36.  So, I have explained it and I have given reasons. I am faced with an assertion from Mr Singh; and this is the best I can deal with it, unless there are some reasons given to me as to why he thinks, or Ms Lim thinks or anyone else thinks that this narrows the judiciary's role.

37.  The Court of Appeal itself says – I have repeatedly made that point; I even read out to Members the various passages – they made the points quite carefully. They set out the grounds for judicial review and we accept it, and nothing here affects those grounds. The Hansard can be referred to in Courts. And I am saying that as a Law Minister. Second, I say it as a matter of law, people will know it.

 

38.  Third, the Court also said they will accept the Minister's decision on the fact. That is intended to be the structure of the CLTPA, and that is the right approach. That is all that clause 3 does. The Minister's decision is final. What does that mean? You cannot go and appeal to somebody else and say, "Minister made these decisions. His findings of facts are wrong". You can judicially review it on the grounds for judicial review.

 

39.  The Courts are not to substitute their views of the facts or engage in an exercise of scrutinising the evidential basis for detention. This is all in the Court of Appeal judgment. That is not affected. This is, and has always been the law.

 

40.  Mr Singh asked whether the Courts can go behind the Minister's decision and review the background facts behind the decision for the detention order. The courts are not to substitute their views on the facts for the Minister's views. This is the current position. Read the Court of Appeal's judgment in Dan Tan. As Mr de Souza and Ms Rahayu have pointed out, the amendments are in line with the Court of Appeal's decision.

 

41.  Mr Pillai had some questions on the judicial review point. I have explained the approach, the philosophy behind the CLTPA, and that the facts are for the Minister to decide upon.

 

42.  On safeguards, Mr Ng asked for assurance that the amendments will not dilute the requirement that the Minister has to provide full grounds for detention. It will not.

 

43.  Mr Ang, Mr Gan and Mr Mohan have asked about abuse of powers. I have talked about the inbuilt procedural requirements, the parties involved and the processes. In the end, when you have given such a power to the Executive, there is a concern that there is some scope for abuse. You try and cut it down. Philosophically, you can say I do not want to have those powers and I am prepared to take the trade-offs. That is for Members to decide. But, I think you should decide by accepting that if you do not have the CLTPA, then your law and order situation will get worse. How much worse? It is not possible to say, but it will get worse; and whether you are prepared to justify that and take that kind of society. 


(C) The Schedule

 

44.  Let me move on to the Fourth Schedule. Ms Sylvia Lim asked whether having a list will reduce pressure on the Executive to explain and justify each decision. I do not see how this will be so, and again, a misunderstanding. The current requirements under the Act set out under section 30 what the grounds for detention are. Those grounds remain. So again, I scratch my head when people complain about the Schedule; those grounds remain. All that is being done is on top of that, in addition to those grounds, the Minister has got to show that the offence or the nature of the activities are also listed in the Schedule.

 

45.  Previously, there was one requirement, you show that the facts or requirements of section 30 are satisfied. Now, there are two requirements, you got to show that the requirements of section 30 are satisfied, and in addition, that it has been listed in the Schedule. It is not the case that if it is listed in the Schedule, the person can automatically be detained. It has got to be shown that it was necessary to detain a person in the interests of public safety, peace and good order.

 

46.  Ms Lim had some points and I tried listening very carefully. I have to say I found the points a little difficult to follow. What I got out of the points under here was that: it increases the powers of the Minister. I think these statements are difficult to deal with because they have got to be backed by some reasoning and some logic.

 

47.  So, I come back to this simple point: you have section 30. It says what the grounds are. That is the situation today. The Court of Appeal pointed out it is not unlimited powers for the Minister; it is not open-ended, but it gives a level of discretion. After the amendments, assuming they are made into law, what is the situation? You continue to need to satisfy the requirements in section 30. So, the detainee is no worse-off, the Minister is no better-off. The same requirements continue.

 

48.  In addition, the Minister has got to show that it is listed in the Schedule. So, how does it increase the powers? I think rhetoric has got to match reality. And it is useful to read the clauses carefully before making speeches.

 

49.  Previously, when there was no list, some Members rose up – at least one rose up – to say, "Why don't we have a list?" Now that we have a list, people say, "Why are we having a list?"

 

50.  Mr Ang Wei Neng asked how the list is drawn up. Mr Louis Ng asked for the rationale behind the organised crime offences. The activities in the list include criminal activities that have previously been dealt with under the Act, as I have said, or which had been mentioned in Parliament as being within the scope of the Act.

 

51.  Let us do a bit of thinking. Supposing the Minister lists shoplifting as an offence, and then, based on that, he goes and detains a 12-year-old on the basis that this is contrary to the safety and preservation of public order in Singapore. Do you think that will pass muster on any judicial review? So, one has got to be sensible about these things. It would not pass muster an hour before the legislation is amended, and it would not pass muster after tomorrow.

 

52.  We included organised crime but it does not mean everything in the organised crime comes within the CLTPA. It cannot do so. But we wanted to pre-emptively, decisively prevent organised criminal groups from establishing a foothold in Singapore. Mr de Souza is correct to say that this recognises the problems associated with transnational criminal syndicates.

 

53.  Let me deal with some of the other clarifications that have been raised. Mr Singh asked whether the Act will be used against foreigners who dabble in organised criminal activities that have effect in Singapore.

 

54.  The CLTPA can be used to detain a person if he is associated with criminal activities, as stated in the Fourth Schedule. If detention is necessary in the interest of public safety, peace and good order in Singapore. That does not depend on the person's nationality, so action can be taken against foreigners, if the conditions are met.

 

55.  Ms Lim says, again, in another rhetorical flourish, I will become a global policeman with the Bill. It makes a good sound-bite but it is useful for Members of Parliament to read the Bill before they make speeches because we are dealing with serious matters involving the safety and security of Singaporeans.

 

56.  I will repeat again. Not only must criminal activities fall within the list, a detention order cannot be issued just because an offence under the OCA is disclosed. It must be brought back into Singapore in the sense that Minister must find it necessary that the person is detained in the interest of public safety, peace and good order within Singapore. Within Singapore.

 

57.  I do not know where this global policeman comes, except perhaps it makes for good reading on a website where one can put out these things, sound-bites without reference to the legislation, the Bill or the clarifications.

 

58.  If, and only if the criminal activities, wherever conducted, impact within Singapore in the way set out in section 30, we should ask.

 

59.  Mr Singh asked: what is the threshold of evidence for OCA crimes to fall under the CLTPA. The OCA does not provide for detention without trial. It requires witnesses to give evidence in court. Where witnesses are not willing to do so for fear of reprisals, the CLTPA can be used as a last resort tool, provided section 30 is satisfied. That is the position today. 


Other Clarifications

 

60.  Mr Mohan, Mr Ng and Mr de Souza asked about the PSO obligations and why we are moving the list of obligations to a subsidiary legislation. The obligations – as I explained – you will want to look at each supervisee and you will want to tailor the conditions according to the supervisee. Some people may need counselling, just as an example, some people may need rehabilitation. These are not detainees. There are conditions imposed on them to come back for urine tests and to be under general supervision.

 

61.  If it is in the main legislation, we will need to amend the Act each time we want to add conditions in, based on evolving needs. These are all largely operational in nature and it makes sense to put them in the Schedule. 

Police Powers for Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) Officers

 

62.  Mr Ng asked about the extension of police powers to CNB officers. Currently, both Police and CNB supervise the supervisees, but as I explained earlier, only the Police has the power to investigate breaches of PSO obligations. The amendments will streamline the process, so that we would not need both Police and CNB officers to be deployed to investigate breach of PSOs involving persons detained by CNB for drug trafficking.

Publication of Names of Members of Advisory Committee

 

63.  Mr Ang also asked if the Government will publish the names of the Advisory Committee members. I think the members can choose to identify themselves if they wish, and some have done so. But the Government respects some of the members' wishes not to have their identities published. Sometimes, they are also concerned about the people they have to deal with and what might happen to their families.


President's Role

 

64.  Mr Gan and Mr Kok asked about the President's role. Matters relating to the CLTPA do not fall within the President's discretionary powers. The President acts on the advice of the Cabinet.

Witness Protection

 

65.  Mr Ng and Mr Kok also asked whether other legislation could be amended to address the difficulty in securing witness testimony in open court. The general approach, I have said, where we can, we want to move towards trials. So, these and other suggestions have been considered, and not workable, we have found, because the nature of the trial process is such that it is difficult to have a secret testimony from one witness who cannot be cross-examined and whom the Judge can talk to but no one else can talk. It is not the normal trial process. We pretty much have something similar now through the Advisory Committees. But we will review them.

Detainees Under 21

 

66.  Mr Ang Wei Neng also spoke about persons under 21 who were detained and said each child was precious. I wish to assure the Member that we only act when the risk of reprisals is there. Then, we act against these persons. And the persons detained are not quite innocent children. They used deadly weapons, they recruit other members, they attack people and, in a way, you need to remove them from society so that other people of similar age are not influenced by them. That is how you keep the problem under control. But, where possible, charge them in court. If not possible, then use the CL, if it is necessary to do so.

 

67.  Mr Gan wanted to know if there had been cases where those involved in criminal activities had contributed to the numbers of secret societies and whether they committed offences repeatedly. Of those currently under detention, about 17% have been placed under detention previously. 

Robustness of Advisory Committee's opinions

 

68.  Mr Ng asked about the number of cases over the last five years in which the Advisory Committees made a recommendation to detain but this was not accepted. I can say this: Advisory Committees do, have done so, do recommend against DOs and, in the vast significant majority of these cases, the Government then accepts that advice and instead imposes PSOs. But there have been a small number of cases where the Government disagrees.

 

69. Asst Prof Mahdev Mohan asked about the constitution and the task of the Independent Advisory Committee (IAC), and do they change by reason of these amendments. No, they do not. And they do not change by reason of the appointment of Judges. In the past, our approach had been to appoint a very senior lawyer or retired Judges. But I felt it would be good to appoint serving Judges, but it does not change the nature of the Advisory Committee.

 

70.  Mr Speaker, as regards the points made by Mr Singh, so the question is, since I have explained what finality means, we cannot appeal against the Minister's decision on the facts, which is the current position, really, then, Mr Singh, as well as the other Members from the Workers' Party, and all Members, must ask themselves some questions.

 

71.  First, what is the current position? Do Members agree that in the current position, there cannot be an appeal against the Minister's decision on the facts? These are fairly basic questions of law. Do you agree or do you disagree? The Court of Appeal has said you cannot appeal against the Minister's decision. The Minister's decision is not to be substituted. It is fairly clear. If that is so, then why do you disagree with the clause which sets that out? So, again, there has got to be some connection between rhetoric and reality.

 

72.  Mr Singh also asked whether having Judges sit on Advisory Committees conflates the roles of the Judges and that of the Executive. No. Not at all. The Judges sit as part of the Advisory Committee, they give their views, look at the evidence. If they feel that some things need to be checked further, they can do so. They can call up the investigation officers, they can call up for the files, they review these. I think we should welcome what the Government is doing. But if Mr Singh or anybody else feels that we should not do so, I would like to hear that. Please stand up clearly and say, "No, we do not want Judges in there". Say so and put it on record, if you mean what you say.

 

73.  Separately, if the detainee feels that the grounds are not adequate and he wants to go for a judicial review, it is open for him to go for judicial review. And, of course, different Judges will hear that application, not the Judges who sat on the Advisory Committee. So, having Judges who are independent adds considerably to the robustness of the process.

74.  Mr Dennis Tan referred to my speeches in 1989. But I think he conflated the 1989 and 1994 speeches. I made two speeches. I have not looked them up recently, but from my recollection, what we are proposing today to have Judges chair the Advisory Committees is similar to what I have suggested in, I believe, 1994. That is 23 and some years ago. I do not think I made that suggestion in 1989; I stand corrected.

75.  At the same time, I think I suggested some additional appointees to the Advisory Committee. That we are not proceeding with.

 

76.  Mr Dennis Tan also said this is a step back. I would welcome him to clarify why he says that. How is any of this a step back? Again, it is an assertion which is not being substantiated. I am standing here and saying that this does not oust judicial review. I am saying any lawyer would know that. I am referring to the judgments of the Court of Appeal. I am saying that the finality clause refers to Minister's decisions on the facts, which the Court of Appeal acknowledged, and saying it is crystallising the current position. So, why is this a step back? It sets out clearly. It is better as we go forward.

 

77.  Mr Dennis Tan also made this suggestion ‒ this is quite a radical suggestion ‒ remove the role of the President, give it to the Courts to review. Essentially, I think you need to be very clear about what is being suggested. Is the suggestion that then we do away with the CLTPA altogether? Because the Courts, as I told Members, is a trial process. Is that what you want? There is a fundamental difference from the CLTPA process which is why I took some time to explain how the CLTPA and the ISA are processes which stand outside the usual trial process. So, if you say substitute and bring the Courts back in, effectively, you are saying remove the CLTPA, just have the trial process. You are entitled to say it. But that looks to me the suggestion which, philosophically, is very different.

 

78.  Ms Sylvia Lim made some other points on the finality and timing. Timing I have dealt with; finality I have dealt with. And I have said, on the Schedule, I do not see how it increases the Minister's powers. 

Process of Advisory Committee

 

79.  Mr Ang Wei Neng also asked about the process of hearing by the Advisory Committee. In accordance with the CLTPA provisions, all orders made by the Minister for Home Affairs must be referred to the Advisory Committee within 28 days from its issuance. The persons issued with the orders will be informed of the grounds of detention. They will then appear before the Advisory Committee and could be legally represented. The Advisory Committee will consider and submit to the President a written report on the making of the orders and the recommendations. The President will consider the report once it is received and can cancel, confirm or vary the order, but acting on the advice of Cabinet. That is a very technical, clear meaning. Family members of the accused are informed by my Ministry on the outcome of the hearing once this process is carried out.

 

80.  I should add this in answer to Mr Singh's question as to whether there is a conflation of the roles of the Executive and the Judiciary in introducing sitting Judges to the Advisory Committee; I think Ms Sylvia Lim said this in 2013. If I am wrong, I will be corrected. She made what was in essence a similar proposal that we have a sitting Judge review the merits of a DO in camera, she said, "If I heard him correctly, he was actually suggesting that a current sitting Judge who was from the judicial branch actually be involved in the Advisory Committee which is also, in a way, what I suggested earlier, except that it was in relation to the Judge sitting alone. Sir, I would like the Minister's comment on that, whether the Government is considering getting a sitting Judge currently in the High Court to be involved in this process, looking at the merits of the Detention Order."

 

81.  I said something like this in 1994 or 1989; Ms Lim said something like this in 2013. 

Provision of Defence Counsel

 

82.  Mr Ang asked about the provision of legal counsel to detainees. While the CLTPA is not covered by the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme (CLAS), detainees who cannot afford a lawyer can be referred to the Law Society and they will assist. They have pro bono services and the Ad Hoc Pro Bono Referral Scheme. So, the Law Society Pro Bono Services Office will assess the case and arrange for pro bono legal representation as appropriate.

Conclusion

 

83.  Sir, I think I have dealt with all the points that Members have brought up. Given that some of the Members appear to have proceeded on a completely erroneous set of assumptions of law, and perhaps a misreading of the Bill, I wonder if they will now change their position when it comes to voting. Because otherwise, they will be voting on a mistaken basis as well.

 
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