Opposition party investigated for organizing video forum with former detainees in exile

The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) is being investigated by police for organizing a public video conferencing with two former detainees under the country’s detention without trial law, Internal Security Act (ISA). The duo, Francis Seow and Tang Fong Har, were among those arrested in the Operation Spectrum claimed to foil a Marxist conspiracy in 1987.

The event was organized on 8 October at the Quality Hotel as a video conference as Seow is in exile in US while Tang lives in Hong Kong. Two days later on 10 October, the Singapore Straits Times quoted the Ministry of Home Affairs as saying that the police were investigating the party, which has “arranged for a fugitive from justice, Mr Francis Seow, and a foreign national, Ms Tang Fong Har, to participate in a discussion on Singapore’s domestic politics’. The ministry said in a statement that the organisers had arranged for the speakers to do so from outside Singapore’s jurisdiction, ‘allowing them therefore to be involved in the country’s domestic politics at a public assembly in Singapore without being physically present and accountable. The police are investigating whether there has been a breach of the law.”

Seow was a former Solicitor-General and arrested under the ISA in 1987 when he arrived at the detention centre to be the counsel for another detainee, Teo Soh Lung. The government released him 72 days later, but charged and convicted him of tax evasion after he left for US to seek medical treatment for his heart condition. According to the SDP website, Seow said during the video conference that the government tried to accuse him during his detention of being “under the influence of CIA”.

Tang, a lawyer, was released after the arrest in June 1987 but was then re-arrested about a year later after she and other fellow detainees issued a joint statement repudiating their earlier confessions. She escaped the re-arrest as she had then left the country.

According to website The Citizen Online, both Seow and Tang called for the repeal of the ISA during the video conference, which was attended by more than a hundred people at the Singapore venue.

Another forum on political issue organized by filmmaker Martyn See at the Singapore Human Resources Institute (SHRI) training room at The Verge shopping mall on 24 September, however, was cancelled at last minute as the venue owner disagreed to hosting political discussion.


SEAPA (http://www.seapabkk.org/) is the only regional organization with the  specific mandate of promoting and protecting press freedom in Southeast Asia. It is composed of the Jakarta-based Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) and the Institute for Studies on the Free Flow of Information (ISAI); the Manila-based Center for Media Freedom andResponsibility (CMFR) and Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ); the Bangkok-based Thai Journalists Association (TJA); and the network’s Kuala Lumpur-based associate member, the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ). SEAPA also has partners in Cambodia, East Timor, and exiled Burmese media, and undertakes projects and programs for press freedom throughout the region.

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