My interview with an ex-ISA detainee

Passion for activism extinguished…but not for long

This article is the first part of a week-long focus on The Online Citizen of the 22nd anniversary of the 21 May 1987 government clampdown on a group of so-called “communists” and “marxists”, who were detained under the ISA – and never charged or brought to trial.

On 21st May 1987, 22 social activists in Singapore were detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for allegedly plotting a so called “Marxist conspiracy” to overthrow the Singapore government. Although they were never tried in an open court, the full weight of the government’s machinery, including the state-controlled media, was used to make the government’s case against these activists.

The detainees’ side of the story has seldom been heard by the general public. In the 20 years after the detentions, the mainstream media has shied away from telling the ex-detainees’ stories.

Mr Tan Tee Seng was 28 years old when he was detained, along with 21 others. In an exclusive two-and-a-half hour interview with The Online Citizen, Mr Tan speaks about his background and activities in the 1970s and 80s, his arrest in 1987, his experience under interrogation and detention, and his life after his release.

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