eLaw Journal: Murdoch University Electronic Journal of Law, Vol 18, No 1 (2011)

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Defending Singapore's Internal Security Act: Balancing the Need for National Security With the Rule of Law

Josiah Anthony Zee


The Internal Security Act (ISA) has long been a contentious topic in Singapore. Labelled as a weapon against any internal threat, its relevance and usage have evolved alongside the changing security and political climate over the past five decades since its enactment in the 1960s. Notably, the legislation provides for indefinite preventive detention, which serves as a deterrent measure combatting subversive behaviour and acts of terror. However, the lack of safeguards protecting people’s fundamental liberties and the limitations on judicial review by the ISA has made it open to criticism. This paper examines the two main issues concerning the rule of law in the context of the ISA: (1) whether the ISA allows the executive an arbitrary exercise of its discretion in enforcing preventive detention; and (2) whether the restrictions imposed on judicial review over executive discretion by the ISA contradict the rule of law. This paper suggests that the answer depends on the different perspectives adopted towards the concept of rule of law.

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