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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. [Volume 39, Issue 8. April 1976]

Suppression of Trade Unions

Suppression of Trade Unions

To attract foreign investment, the P.A.P. has effectively crushed an independent trade union movement with a formidable array of anti-labour legislation. Examples of such include:
(a)The Contract of Employment Act 1968
(b)The Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 1968

These laws prohibit unions from including in collective agreements such basic questions as: promotion, transfer, termination of service by way of redundancy, dismissal or reinstatements of a worker assignment or allocation of duties by employer.

Fringe benefits (including overtime pay, bonuses, redundancy payments, retirement benefits, maternity and sick leave) have been drastically reduced and working hours increased. They curtail the right to industrial action and give management sole power over hiring and firing.

Furthermore, the government-appointed Registrar of Trade Unions can refuse to register a trade union without giving any reason.

These laws were described by the Times (London 5/8/68) as 'a bold package of labour legislation that should be the delight of a foreign investor.'

Not unconnected with the anti-labour measures is the suppression of all political opposition to Lee's regime, especailly those who champion the cause and receive the widespread support, of Singapore workers.

The Internal Security Act 1960 gives the widest power of detention without trial. There are about a hundred political prisoners in Singapore, some of whom have been detained for over a decade. Among those still in detention and subject to solitary confinement and other forms of mental and physical torture are:

Dr. Lim Hock Siew a founder member of the P.A P. and a leader of the opposition Barisan Sosialis which split from the P.A.P. in 1961.

Detained 1963

Said Zahari formerly editor of Utusan Melayu, a Malay daily; President of the National Press Club of Malaya and President of the Malay Journalist Association of Singapore.

Detained 1963

Ho Piew a trade unionist and Secretary of the Seamen's Union in Singapore.

Detained 1963

Lee Tee Tong trade unionist and Legislative Assemblyman.

Detained 1963

T.T. Rajah a lawyer who consistently defended political detainees in the past.

Detained 1974 (released Dec. 1975)

Today there are about 100 political detainees in Singapore held under the Internal Security Act. These people conducted their political activities within the constitutional framework and even the official grounds for thier detention, namely, their opposition to the terms of merger of Singapore with Malaysia, were rendered invalid when Singapore was expelled from Malaysia in August 1965 less than 2 years after the merger.

Yet they have been denied due process of law and no charges have been brought against them in the courts after these long years.

As a condition for release, the Lee Kuan Yew regime demands that the detainees publicly renounce their political beliefs and eulogise the regime.

As these men have refused to comply they have been subjected to long stretches of solitary confinement and "interrogation" at special centres in an attempt to break them. Most political detainees are treated in this way.