Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Two Messages About Terrorism In Singapore

I initially wanted to write about an annual lecture organised by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS), which I was invited to attend by a colleague.

But two messages I read in the past two days made me put this initial plan on hold.

An unknown person in Singapore sent me the following message yesterday:
"Thank you, again, for an article that tries to be politically correct, but at the same time, managed to provoke others to think about Basheer in a less reductive way. I also appreciate your recent blog [posting] on the issue. I know Basheer would also appreciate the fact that someone who is not even a close friend, has managed to see beyond the grey clouds. I must admit that I do not really have much regard for the law profession at times, but in these trying times, the irony is that it is a lawyer who is now defending an ex-lawyer using the very rules that he (Basheer) has once discredited. I know you are not defending him, you are defending his rights as an individual. For that, I have utmost respect for you. Thank you once again and I hope you don't get in trouble for your guts."

The day before I got this message, a known person in Singapore, His Excellency, President Sellapan Ramanathan, delivered another message. He said, "Terrorism is a kind of crime. For you to prove it is not easy. When we used to have secret societies, somebody would bash someone else up. There would be no witnesses. How do you bring these people out? How do you prove it to them? We, in Singapore and Malaysia, must understand the nature of terrorism and how it impacts society."

Reading these two messages side by side, it appears that there is a divide between at least one top thinker of this country and one sentiment from the ground. One, however, cannot be absolutely sure how indicative this is of the present situation in Singapore.

The unknown person has also left me with more questions than answers! Do I actually have guts? Have I really seen beyond the grey clouds? Will I get into trouble?

After all, I am merely doing what His Excellency has encouraged, "We, in Singapore and Malaysia, must understand the nature of terrorism and how it impacts society."

I believe such understanding can only begin when one asks questions, and begins the search for answers to those questions. This is a fundamental part of any learning process. And, of course, not all the answers we find will be correct.

On another note, with all due respect to His Excellency, the Executive did not use the Internal Security Act - which is the legislation being used to combat alleged terrorism - to deal with secret societies. The measures to deal with secret societies required special permission from Parliament and the use of another statute: the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act.

Unlike the Internal Security Act, the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act is subject to regular review by Parliament. This, in my view, is an important safeguard in the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act.

Also, I am neither defending Abdul Basheer for his alleged involvement in terrorism nor defending his fundamental rights. As a corporate counsel (as opposed to being a member of the Singapore Bar), I have neither the standing nor the competency to do so. This is the responsibility of an independent lawyer, duly appointed by Abdul Basheer or his immediate family to represent Abdul Basheer.

His Excellency raises a very critical question: How do we catch terrorists and prove that they have done it?

At this point in time, looking at my growing list of questions and those of others, I am not sure if the Internal Security Act is really the most practical solution, if at all.

On a more personal note, I cannot agree with those in Singapore who "do not really have much regard for the law profession". Please do read this 1994 interview with David Marshall!

Dharmendra Yadav

Please consider the environment - do you really need to print this?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear DY,

Some other quetions that might be interestng to ask are: "why would a person learn Arabic to make contact with the Mujahidin in Afghanistan?" .. when the CIA fact book wrote this about the Afghan's language:

"The CIA factbook on languages spoken in Afghanistan is shown in the right image box. Persian (Dari dialects) 50% and Pashto 35%; both are Indo-European languages from the Iranian languages sub-family. Pashto and Persian are the official languages of the country. Hazaragi, spoken by the Hazara minority, is another dialect of Persian. Other languages spoken include Turkic languages (primarily Uzbek and Turkmen) 9%, as well as 30 minor languages 4% (primarily Balochi, Nuristani, Pashai, Brahui, Pamiri languages, Hindko, Hindi/Urdu, etc.). Bilingualism is common.

According to the Encyclopædia Iranica,[54] the Persian language is the mother tongue of roughly one-third of Afghanistan's population, while it is also the most widely used language of the country, spoken by around 80% of the population. It further states that Pashto is spoken by around 50% of the population..."

Errrr.. do you see Arabic as one of the languages spoken in Afghanistan? Wouldnt someone as intelligent as Basheer be aware of what language to learn in order to "COMMUNICATE" with the Afghans? Of course, that then begets the questio- is the claim that he learned Arabic to contact them even right? Or maybe, like one blogger said: "maybe he studied Arabic cos he wants to learn the language of the Quran". And of course, if he wanted to go to Pakistan and join them, shouldnt he be learning Urdu instead?? None of the above of course deny that he did the wrong thing by wanting to do all that Jihad stuffs... but just wondering whether these associations are valid ...