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Security act must go, says victim of 32-year ordeal


South China Morning Post. Nov 28, 1998.
DEUTSCHE PRESSE-AGENTUR in Singapore

RELATED:
Amnesty International statement

FORMER political detainee Chia Thye Poh, lashed out at the city-state's Internal Security Act yesterday immediately following the official end of his 32 years of prison and house arrest.

"The best part of my life was taken away just like that, without even a charge, let alone a trial in court," Chia Thye Poh, 57, said in a statement. "As a victim of the notorious Internal Security Act, I sincerely call on the government to abolish the act," the statement said.

Mr Chia - previously a university physics teacher - was detained in 1966 at the age of 25, when he was active in politics as a member of Singapore's opposition Socialist Front (Barisan Socialis) party.

Officials had said Mr Chia believed in the forceful overthrow of the People's Action Party government, an accusation he has vehemently denied throughout his captivity.

After gradually reducing restrictions on Mr Chia over the years, the government officially restored his full freedom as of yesterday.

Singapore's Internal Security Department has found that Mr Chia's conduct "suggests he is unlikely to engage in activities prejudicial to Singapore's security".

The government warned that Mr Chia would be "dealt with firmly" if he were to "re-involve himself in such activities".

But Mr Chia said he was not ruling out political involvement. "I told the Internal Security department officers that I was still interested in politics.

"I hope that with the lifting of the conditions, I will be able to talk to more people and see what I can do for the people of Singapore."

Mr Chia was imprisoned from his arrest in 1966 until 1982, after which he was detained in government "half-way" houses.

In 1989, Mr Chia was moved to a house on Singapore's offshore theme park island of Sentosa, a popular tourist destination, where he was allowed visitors.

The government let Mr Chia return to Singapore's main island in 1992 with restrictions on travel, activities and associations.

In August last year, Mr Chia was allowed to travel to Hamburg, Germany, on a one-year Hamburg Foundation academic fellowship, to study politics and economics.

Former German chancellor Helmut Schmidt had written to the Singapore government about him in the mid-1980s, Mr Chia said.

"He intervened for me, asking for my freedom."

Published in the South China Morning Post. Nov 28, 1998

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