Heated exchange over ISA at presidential forum

SINGAPORE - It was a studio discussion between the four presidential candidates and an audience of 18 Singaporeans, organised by The Online Citizen.

But things started to get heated when a member of the audience broached the topic of the Internal Security Act (ISA) and the 1987 Marxist conspiracy arrests.

The forum was held on Thursday evening.

Ms Clara Seng, a representative from human rights group Maruah, had asked the candidates for their views on the Internal Security Act (ISA).

Presidential candidate Tan Jee Say was responding to her question when he was interrupted by fellow candidate Dr Tony Tan, who cautioned him on his statement.

This prompted a short outburst from Mr Tan, calling Dr Tan's warning "an attack" on his "understanding of the English language."

Moderator Viswa Sadasivan had to step in several times to curb Mr Tan's vigorous responses and assured him that he would resurface the issue later on in the discussion.

Below is an exerpt of the exchange:

Tan Jee Say: I believe the ISA has outlived its usefulness. I don't even know whether it was justified in the first place, because the ISA has been used on political opponents, and those who are on the other political side of the law. So the history is such that it has been used for political purposes.

Dr Tony Tan: I think this is... to be fair, when one says it has been used against political opponents, I think this is a very serious charge.

Jee Say: Well!

Tony: You must be able to back it up!

Jee Say: Well! The people who have been detained have opposed the Government, that's what I'm saying. Have they been pro-Government?

Viswa Sadasivan: All right, why don't we move on.

Jee Say: No, let's... No! It's clear!

Viswa: No, no, no. You'll have the time later to...

Jee Say: No, no, no! Viswa! I have been attacked on my understanding of the English language!

Viswa: Jee Say, you'll have time later to...

Jee Say: No, no, no! Viswa, let's be fair! What is in his English dictionary about political opponents?

Viswa: We will give you the opportunity to later. If you don't bring it up, I'll bring it up, ok, to make sure this issue is not dropped.

Jee Say: Ok, fine...Let's be very clear..

Viswa: Let's stay on track, stay on track...Is there anything else you'd like to say, Jee Say? No? On this matter?

Jee Say: Oh...let's move on.

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