Mr Chiam See Tong, the lone opposition MP in Parliament in 1987, spoke up strongly against the arrest of 22 Singaporean social workers who the Government under then PM Lee Kuan Yew had arrested in May that year.
Here is an extract of his speech:
CHIAM SEE TONG:
What is the case against them? What evidence do you have? Although the Government has been saying, “Yes, we have evidence, otherwise we would not have arrested them.” What evidence? You tell me. There is no evidence. The only evidence is their own confession. That is all. Any court of law would throw out this kind of a confession. You arrested them at 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning, hauled them roughly to their offices, searched them, treated them very roughly and brought them to the Internal Security Department, not allowing them to contact anyone. No lawyers and no relatives were allowed to talk to them, at least for the first initial stage. They were interrogated, continuous interrogation. The Government says there is no torture. But this is a form of torture. Continuous interrogation is a form of torture.
According to reports in the papers, one of them has been interrogated for 72 hours continuously. Perhaps maybe the Minister could clarify all these points. I should be grateful if you would allow me to talk to these people who are under detention.
There were allegations that some of them were held in a very small room underground, totally dark, no windows, and the room was lit by an electric bulb which was never turned off. These are all reports that I read. Of course, this is being done, interrogation in a cold room, air-conditioned room. One of them even had water poured over him. Can you imagine the cold? They were interrogated under these conditions. I did not watch all the television programmes in which they were interviewed. I watched the last one. I notice that a question was put to one of them, Tang Fong Har, a lawyer, “How do you feel now?” She hesitated. She had to search and think of an answer to make sure that she gave the correct answer. From the television programme that I saw, it was so obvious that a lot of editing was done. When they continued to say a lot of good things in their favour, it was cut off. When they were saying something which implicated them, all right, there was a close-up view, zoomed. We are all living in the 1980s. Everybody knows this thing. You cannot hide anything. Nobody will believe you. What evidence? There are a few letters of exchange between Tan Wah Piow and a few of them. I think there must be a lot of people having letters of exchange, what they can and cannot do against the Government. But does that exchange of letters justify their further imprisonment after you have put them through such humiliating situations? You have already broken them down. What more do you want? You have got more than your pound of flesh.
Students will be re-enacting the parliamentary exchange on 20 May 2012, as follows: