In answer to Non-Constituency MP Lina Chiam in parliament on 21 November 2011, DPM Teo Chee Hean said that 2460 arrests were made under the ISA and the Preservation of Public Security Ordinance (PPSO) from 1959 to 1990. Of these arrests, four in 10 or 1045 people were detained i.e. issued with detention orders.
The number of people who were not detained i.e. 1415 is misleading. It is common for people who were arrested to be detained for months without being served with any detention orders. The trick was to let them out of the prison gate before the expiry of the 30th day and re-arrest them immediately. The ISA allows a person to be detained for 30 days without being served with a detention order.
Prior to 1959, hundreds if not thousands were arrested under the PPSO and its predecessors, the Emergency Regulations Ordinance. Many were forcibly deported, leaving their spouses and children to fend for themselves.
Since 11 September 2001 (9/11), about 80 people were arrested and many detained for more than 5 years. According to DPM Teo, 17 are still in detention. About 8 of the 17 have been in detention for more than 10 years.
The government has refused to release the identities of all those arrested and detained saying that “many of these individuals and their families have put their past behind them and carried on with their lives over the past several decades”. If this is true, we can only conclude that terror has struck those lives so deeply that even today, they do not wish to be identified.