Chia Thye Poh, who was a political prisoner in Singapore for 23 years, is reportedly upset that Nelson Mandela is now widely recognized as the world record holder for longest-detained political prisoner. Mandela served 27 years in detention under apartheid before becoming the first President in the first democratic elections in South Africa. Chia, a physics teacher and member of parliament, was imprisoned October 29, 1966 for political reasons under the Lee Kwan Yew years in Singapore under the Internal Security Act, without trial, for 23 years. He was released to a one-room guardhouse in Sentosa in 1989 after 23 years in prison on the mainland, but was not allowed to leave Sentosa and had to pay rent for his room and upkeep. Chia apparently believes that the nine years spent on Sentosa should be counted toward the world record, making his total of 32 years in detention longer than Mandela’s.
Singaporeans are divided. “As Sentosa island is now a resort, it is hard to believe that 9 years spent there could be counted as ‘prison’,” said one. “Just being a normal Singaporean is sort of like being in prison too,” said another.