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Internal Security (Act/Dept)

Ex-ISA detainee Michael Fernandez sues Singapore Government

28th Dec 2010: Former ISA detainee Michael Fernandez rebuts MHA

See here and here for reports from The Online Citizen and Singapore Democrats.

Watch his 2-part interview on SDP’s talkshow Let’s Talk in Jan 2010…

Straits Times report in today’s edition…..

Former ISA detainee wants to sue Govt for damages

Lawyer M. Ravi to file writ today on behalf of Michael Fernandez

By Tessa Wong

Mr Michael Fernandez, 77, holding up a diary he kept during his detention from 1964 to 1973. He had written mostly on toilet paper which he later pasted onto proper paper and bound into a book. He plans to claim damages for his detention. -- ST PHOTO: ASHLEIGH SIM

FORMER Internal Security Act (ISA) detainee Michael Fernandez wants to sue the Government for damages arising from alleged torture during the nine years he was in detention from 1964 to 1973.

His lawyer M. Ravi told The Straits Times he will file a writ of summons today with the High Court naming the attorney-general as the defendant.

He tried to file it yesterday, but it did not go through as the writ had omitted Mr Fernandez’s address.

The Attorney-General’s Chambers has eight days from the writ’s submission to respond.

Mr Fernandez was a leftist union activist who, in October 1963, led a month-long strike involving 11,000 workers.

He was detained under the ISA the following year, according to the Ministry of Home Affairs, for undermining the security, stability and economic well-being of Singapore.

In his writ, he claims unspecified damages for, among other things, ‘pain and suffering’, ‘humiliation and loss of reputation’, and future medical expenses.

The writ claims he was manhandled in several instances during the detention period, and sleep-deprived by guards.

It also claims he was force-fed, with officers handcuffing his hands behind his back and manacling his legs to a chair and ‘forcing thick tubes down the plaintiff’s throat’.

In 1971, Mr Fernandez went on a hunger strike for 135 days over poor living conditions and food rations.

The writ also alleges that his cell was not ‘humanely habitable’, with blood-spattered walls and pest infestations, and that he was not given adequate medical attention for physical injuries sustained from battery.

As a result, Mr Fernandez has suffered long-term side effects of his detention, according to the writ.

It claims he suffered from severe sleep disorders during and after his detention, frequent hallucinations of being strangled or choked to death and lumps on his stomach – the result of intense pinching by the prison authorities.

The writ bases its claim for damages on certain laws applicable at the time of Mr Fernandez’s arrest, when Singapore was still a crown colony.

It states those laws as the Magna Carta of 1215, the English Bill of Rights of 1689 and Article 3 of the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights.

At a press conference held at Mr Ravi’s law office in People’s Park Centre yesterday, Mr Fernandez said he was taking action now because younger Singaporeans should be aware of the experiences that detainees went through.

He added: ‘Secondly, I am now 77. Before I drop off, I think it is important for me to record my experiences and (that of) people like me, thousands of them, including Malaysians, as part of our struggle for democratic rights and justice.’

In a separate phone interview with The Straits Times later, Mr Fernandez said: ‘The money would be useful, but it is the principle of the thing. The Government must compensate us for what it has done to us.’

He added that he was contemplating the idea of a class-action suit, but had not spoken to any former detainees yet.

This is not the first time Mr Fernandez has spoken out about his detention experience.

In 2006, he and fellow former detainee Tan Jing Quee talked about their experiences in detention at a public forum organised by theatre group The Necessary Stage.

Under the Limitation Act, any legal action claiming damages for personal injury must be brought within three years of the alleged incident, or three years from the earliest date when the plaintiff had the knowledge required for bringing an action for damages.

The same Act also states that other kinds of legal actions would have a time limit of six years from the alleged incident, or three years from the earliest date when the plaintiff had the knowledge required for bringing an action for damages.

Who is Michael Fernandez?

MR MICHAEL Fernandez, 77, was a leftist who was a member of the University of Malaya Socialist Club from 1960 to 1962.

He later became a trade unionist and allegedly operated as part of the Communist United Front in the 1960s.

In June 1963, he joined the Naval Base Labour Union as its acting secretary-general. In October that year, he led 11,000 workers in a strike over issues such as overtime, annual leave and pay.

After leaving the union in 1964, he became the paid secretary of the Singapore Commercial House and Factory Employees’ Union, and adviser to the Singapore European Employees’ Union. In September 1964, he was detained under the Internal Security Act until 1973.

The Government accused him of being part of the Communist United Front (CUF), which supported the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM), an underground organisation which used terror and violence to subvert the democratic process and overthrow the elected governments of Singapore and Malaysia.

The CUF was a key part of the CPM’s strategy to infiltrate and exploit legally established organisations such as trade unions and student organisations to generate civil disorder, the Ministry of Home Affairs said in a letter to The Straits Times Forum page in March 2006, in response to a report about Mr Fernandez and another former detainee.

Mr Fernandez maintains that he merely had socialist leanings and was championing workers’ rights.

Mr Fernandez was detained again in 1977 for two months when he was implicated in statements by Mr G. Raman, a lawyer who at that time was detained and accused of being a Euro-Communist activist.

Since his release, Mr Fernandez has worked in insurance and education consultancy. He is married with four grown children.

Updated on 4th Jan 2011 with this Straits Times report…..

AGC to contest ex-detainee’s lawsuit
Tessa Wong, 4th Jan 2011

THE Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) will contest a lawsuit brought against the Singapore Government by a former detainee, who alleged that he was tortured while in prison.

A spokesman for the AGC said yesterday a memorandum of appearance was filed in the High Court last Thursday, in response to the lawsuit by 77-year-old Michael Fernandez.

This means the AGC intends to contest the suit. It must file a defence by the end of next week.

Two weeks ago, Mr Fernandez initiated legal action against the Government, alleging that he was tortured while he was detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) from 1964 to 1973.

He named the Attorney-General, who is the legal representative of the Government, as the defendant.

Mr Fernandez was a leftist union activist who, in October 1963, led a month-long strike involving 11,000 workers. He was detained under the ISA the following year, according to the Ministry of Home Affairs, for undermining the security, stability and economic well-being of Singapore.

In his writ, he alleged that he was force-fed, manhandled, deprived of sleep and made to live in insanitary conditions, among other things.

He is claiming unspecified damages for pain and suffering, loss of amenity, mental distress, humiliation, loss of reputation and future medical expenses.

Mr Fernandez also plans to file a similar lawsuit against the Malaysian government, naming the government and its Attorney-General as the defendants.

At the time of his arrest in September 1964, Singapore was part of Malaysia. Singapore left Malaysia in August 1965.

Mr Fernandez’s lawyer could not be reached yesterday for confirmation on whether the lawsuit has been filed in Malaysia.


4 thoughts on “Ex-ISA detainee Michael Fernandez sues Singapore Government

  1. The Singapore History will not be adequately documented unless it starts with the Japanese Occupation in which the locals, some are still living, were maltreated with the brave ones resisting and the pragmatic ones working for the Jeps. The reactions of the locals then constitute a vital part of the historical struggles for survivals. Though Singapore was under British Rule before the Japanese invaded, Singaporeans did not have to fight the British militantly and only a very small minority wrangled with the British for self rule.

    Another vital part of the local history involved the local political infightings amongst the settlers here prior and post independence. There was stiff ideological differences amongst the population then with the socialist, communist(mainly Chinese educated) and the westernized english educated embracing diverse and different political ideals. The so-called communist and or suspected communist were outlawed and many had to escaped the purge before and after independence. The many communists that are now stateless and domiciled at the Thai Malayan Border formerly led by Chin Peng, the Plen and some other more wellknown members were locals in their younger days. Some liked Lim Chin Siong, Chia Thye Poh, Said Zahari and other non-conformist politicians and labour activists were imprisoned on political and social security reasons. The fairness and justification for their detentions had always been controversial. Some of my young neighbours in the 60s, male and female, had to leave Singapore for associating with the Barisan Socialist Society and never returned. And there were no further news from some of them.

    Hopefully, those active in the political struggles and labour movements just prior and post independence could, like Michael Fernandez, help to provide the factual events and happenings in those earlier days. Most of the younger Singaporeans born after the 60s have little or no knowledge of Singapore’s historical recent past, not that it really matters to our livings now. However, it’s always good to know the factual history rather than the political version of it.


    Posted by patriot | December 23, 2010, 16:40
  2. It looks like the “Ghosts” of X’mas’ PAST are coming back to HAUNT the Men In White….It is time the people of Singapore decide they want a truly Democratic Government.

    Posted by Bobbty | December 28, 2010, 10:03


  1. Pingback: {Video} Ex-ISA detainee talks about experience in ex-CID HQ prison cells now turned into horror house attraction | Jacob 69er - December 28, 2010

  2. Pingback: Ex-ISA detainee’s lawsuit against Singapore Govt thrown out by High Court | Jacob 69er - February 19, 2011

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