Sylvia Lim and Shanmugam cross swords over “untenable” bill that allows for detentions without trial


Workers’ Party Chairman Sylvia Lim crossed swords with Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam in Parliament yesterday over the proposed renewal of the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act (CLTPA).

This is not the first time the two prominent politicians have clashed in Parliament. The Minister and the opposition chief have previously crossed swords in the House over the age of the new Attorney-General and, perhaps more famously, over the counting of the presidential terms that triggered the reserved Presidential Election last year.

This time, Shanmugam and Lim contended over the CLTPA – a bill that allows for detentions without trial if the authorities deem such detentions necessary in the interests of “public safety, peace and good order”.

The Act lapses every five years unless it is renewed. It was last renewed in October 2013, which was the 13th time the Act was extended since it was introduced in 1955. Parliament debated on whether the Act should be extended for the 14th time, for another 5-year-term, yesterday.

Calling the proposal to renew the bill now “premature,” Lim said that she was “very surprised” that Parliament was called on to make a decision on renew the bill this month, when the Act only expires in October 2019 – about 20 months later.

Lim branded the bill a draconian one and asked:

“Past debates did not have such a long timeline. Why is timing important? At each renewal, MPs are asked to consider the prevailing crime and order situation then, and to decide whether the extension is justified.
“Today, Parliament is asked to assess the circumstances to justify the renewal of the Act from October 2019 to October 2024. How do we know what the situation will be like towards the end of next year? Things can always change.
“Does this not make a mockery of the careful consideration Parliament is to exercise, when assessing whether the prevailing circumstances justify a renewal of this draconian law?”

She further declared that the amendments to the bill “attempt to make the Minister (for Home Affairs) all-powerful”:

“Yes, the current Act does not list which kind of activities make a person liable to be detained. But that does not mean the Minister currently has carte blanche to detain anyone he pleases.
“The Schedule will likely short-circuit the assessment process of cases suitable for detention, and maybe enable the Minister to bypass answering questions such as whether cases are serious enough, or why it’s not possible to prosecute these persons in court.
“Also, the Bill potentially allows for persons to be detained for alleged activities of more minor nature, now there is a list of defined activities.”

Besides this, Lim also highlighted that an amendment to the bill now includes “participation in or facilitation of an organised crime activity (OCA)” as one of the offences chargeable under the CLTPA. Lim feels that this would mean that the CLTPA can be used to include activities done overseas or activities that “may not pose a threat to public order in Singapore”:

“By linking the OCA to the CLTPA – is the new Schedule not expanding the Minister’s powers?
“This expansion of the kind of activities subject to the Act in effect makes the Minister a global policeman with no equal in the world. This is a position too arrogant for the House to support.”

Minister Shanmugam sharply responded that while Lim’s comments “made for a good reading on a website,” the bill is built to protect the interests of “public safety, peace and good order”. On the new listing of offences, he added:

“It’s not the case that if listed in the Schedule, you can automatically be detained,” he said. “So how does it increase the powers (of the Minister)?
“Rhetoric has got to match reality, and it’s useful to read clauses carefully before making speeches.”

Lim further challenged a clause that makes the Minister’s decision to detain, final:

“What is the justification? The Minister keeps saying and saying the clause is not intended to change the legal position and it is meant to preserve judicial review. But it is a tenet of interpretation that Parliament does not legislate in vain.
“If what the Minister is saying is correct – that the clause is not meant to change anything – then why introduce it at all? Why not leave it at status quo, instead of causing confusion and possible problems down the road about what this clause is meant to cover?
“The CLTPA has been enforced since 1955 for more than 60 years and no minister has come forward to ask for a finality clause. We find this very troubling.”

Shanmugam responded that “there is no intention to oust judicial review”:

“As a matter of law, this clause cannot oust judicial review and I buttressed it by saying to go ask any lawyer. Second, I’m prepared to stand up here and say as the Law and Home Affairs Minister that there is no intention to oust judicial review.
“There have also been questions as to why amend the Act and why not just stay with the current situation. But I’m making an amendment on something else – on the Minister’s decision being final, that relates to non-appealability, and not getting the courts or anyone else to substitute their views for the Minister’s views.”

Despite this, Lim labeled the bill “untenable” and later asserted, “Despite my own reservations …WP would have been prepared to support the renewal, if not for these new changes.” She added:

“On the one hand, we know Singaporeans want Singapore to be a safe place to live in for ourselves and our families.
“At the same time, we are very mindful of tradeoffs and of giving the Government too much power to detain people without fair trial – as power can always be abused. This is all the more so when dealing with powers to deprive people of their liberty for years.”

The Minister added sharply, “It’s possible to make grand statements about liberty and security if you don’t have to deal with real world problems.” He added:

“The current situation of law and order we have is based on the current legal framework we have, and if you remove the Criminal Law, or tinker with it very substantially, you will get some trade-offs in terms of increased levels of criminal activity.
“Our current structure also has a trade-off – society accepts some risk in vesting power in the executive, which we try to reduce with the safeguards. And I have come to accept the path we’ve taken is probably better for Singapore and its society.”


  1. Basically saying ‘we give ourselves super powers but we won’t use it one, we put there just in case only’.

    Our safeguard is the president and that was taken away too. So draw your own conclusion.

  2. Then we gonna see alot of people going to jail, many of whom will be political opponents and citizens who speak ill of the government. Maby some “special favours” for some favoured high flyers can also be done…baiyeeeee lah

  3. So by amending the Laws, does it mean there is an increase of dangerous activities here by people who threaten the public safety, peace and good order? If there is please show some numbers to support.

    • Excellent point Wilson. What the hell is meant by ‘people who threaten public safety, peace and good order’? Shanmugam has one drink too many. He is drunk with power! We’ve got to stop him and NOT surrender to his idiocy at OUR EXPENSE!

  4. The law of natural justice is that no man shall be condemned unheard!
    Only animals can be locked up in the zoo and lost their freedom but not any human being, especially not the clowns who holds the whip at the circus show !!!

    • Possible, Curio. PM LHL was talking about commemorating the Bicentenary or two-hundredth anniversary of the founding of Singapore by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1819 and he may think it auspicious to call the GE in 2019.

  5. This is an evil thing to do. Having the power to detain without trial. There is great potential to abuse such power when it can be applied so broadly and to anyone. How can we, or anyone for that matter, be sure that the decision to detain without trial is fairly made? Who is to check that the execution of such act has been fair and just?

  6. Other countries living in the free world facing real world problems don’t have this cruel backward legislation. The one who is making grand statements is the minister. In a free world, he’ll be refuted and told off for having such beliefs. He is not living in a real world with real world problems. He lives in a bubble and taking human rights away from Singaporeans.

    • Yes, Zulkarnian. Shanmugam thinks too much of his cleverness. He is talking at us! NOT to us or with us. If he thinks that his stupid rule will frighten us then he is delusional. This dolt must be put in his place, namely, OUT of The Parliament.

  7. This 3 tongued snaky Shamemagun ……roti prata augument at his best ! every thwarted law he sure to have thwarted logic to rebuts doubters and critics !!! pundek ! come 2020 make sure WP field in a super strong Hammer candidate to smash him flat out of his strong hold !!! nahbeh !!

  8. Another blunder from this regime. How to rebuild trust when you introduce such a law that gives you an absolute
    power? The consequence is to encourage the “people power” to rise to the occasson by voting you out in the next GE 2020.

    • Adeline Goh Swee Kheng : EXACTLY! And, if we give the PAP the landslide win again in GE 2020 …….OK, I’ll say it with a broken heart: Mati-lah Singapura. You made your own lives banyak banyak susah!

    • Guys….the only way to put a stop to all this nonsense power grabbing is to shift the major race from voting them…..the minorities are dumb and daft…..they dont even know what hit them

    • Without the necessary change to have a honest and competent government by year of 2020, my humble assessment for a tiny Singapore without any natural resources to continue to survive and progress as a nation is less than 40% chance in the next decade. Hope that i can be proven wrong. The choice is ours.

  9. Get real everyone…..harm is around the corner……with these laws, u r preventing. Don’t u get it, it’s deja Vu if it’s like CHC, if it happens den u go change the law. And the person walks away with least remorse.

  10. Does our Law Minister think he and his PAP colleaues are the only people in Singapore living in the real world. For your information, we the majority of Singaporean with normal hard earned wages and NOT millions dollar’s salaries are the people living in the real world. NOT YOU. So please get off your bloody high horse’s and stop lecturing to us about how hard to govern the real world. Try living like we to.

  11. PAP Ministers and MPs are
    the ones who don’t know what real world problems are….can’t solve problems known back yard, create a law to instill fear to keep themselves in power…

  12. NB: The notion of detention without trial is not, never has been, and never will be, part of any democratic process; it is not democratic; it simply reflects the unfettered use of power at will; we got it from the British, and their people dumped it a long time ago; we kept it because we believe it is useful to shut peple up when we want to…that is what happens when there is no trial …no case is heard, no argument made, no legal statutes reviewed and reassessed…..Dr. R G Eli…see my FB page on Think Hard, Write Well…and learn…

  13. there is one only one Law, the Law of Good Karma and Bad Karma, Those who do good will get good Karma, those who are bloody nasty, will get his horrible Karma!

  14. One day, any comments against them will be deemed as a “national security” issue, and they will be able to detain you without trial for an indefinite period of time…

    It is obvious that they know they are losing the support on the ground, and they are trying to consolidate their power to threaten anyone who tries to interfere with their plans.

  15. Ever wonder why one Indian minister is so very hated by the general public while the other is so very loved by his country men ??? What an unfathomable contrast of character …………..indeed!

  16. Heated debates in Parliament will not make the difference.

    It is to win at the next GE and form the next government as nothing is sacrosanct.

    Not the Constitution, not all the laws and policies, as all can be rescinded when one has full power of control in Parliament and in the Presidency.

    Trump has proven this. He rescinded, renegaded and changed many policies, laws, and agreements. To him, nothing is sacrosanct.

    He has no political experience. He is still learning on the job. He is still firing.

    He fired more than 4000 top people and replaced with his own yes-man cronies.

    This is power, the power in the hands of the man at the helm.

  17. This is evil. There is nothing to justify the extension, let alone the existence, of this draconian law.

    The PAP government continues to rule by law according to their will. Not the will of the people.

    ALL Singaporeans must wake up and realise that Parliament is the battle field to reclaim our voice, to reclaim the will of the people.

    The role of MPs are of paramount importance. NOT to run town councils. NOT to look into estate management. They are here first and foremost to question, to debate, to vote in laws and policies which are reasonable, morally sound, fair and humane. To be OUR voice and to do right by the people of Singapore.

    • @ Justina Yapp: This Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act should be abolished and replaced with a Better Law. It can be easily done. Shanmugam is stupid. His new ruling will NOT bring fear but fury from The PEOPLE who are now Better Educated (informed). We know our rights and entitlements as free citizens of The Republic of Singapore. Agree that ‘This is evil”. Shanmugam’s day of reckoning is nigh!

    • Mani, Minister Shanmugam is a coward. Protecting the PAP and stealing more power for themselves (abuse) is what he is doing. His duty is ACTUALLY to PROTECT THE PEOPLE! He is also the Minister for Home Affairs and we still have the Internal Security Department thugs to harass the citizens instead of going after genuine internal security threats. When we vote him out I want to see how TOUGH he really is!

  18. @ Minister Shanmugam: ‘Real world problems’??? The truly REAL world problem is that you are too highly paid and wasting taxpayers’ time and money! It is TIME for us, The PEOPLE, to tell you with the furious ‘POR’! Tamil for ‘get out’!

  19. Why punch under the belt …. WP Sylvia asked a question , no answer say so , cannot answer say so , why must say she doesn’t have to deal with real world problem …

  20. Are and your colleagues the only ones in the world dealing with real problems. Your problem is not being holistic in your approach. You charge people without a holistic understanding and the courts have to tell you to redraw the boundaries. As Law Minister did you take accountability for the flaw in the charge and tender your resignation. If Edwin Tong could convince 2 set of judges, it means Edwin Tong had beaten you at your home turf. Your 2 AGs have failed you big time.That is an example of how holistic you are. You take short cuts and hope you bully people into submission. Only the lazy and the lost will resort to such lame statements. Why make a big deal about dealing with real problems. If you don’t have it in you just throw in the towel.

  21. WP has done a fine job. They have done excellent research and delivered their response professionally. The minister’s reply is limpid. We all deal with “real world” issues, and not our egos!

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