SINGAPORE: Singapore’s approach to safety and security is underpinned by three pillars — robust laws, effective enforcement and strong community partnerships.
Speaking in Parliament during the Committee of Supply debate on the Ministry of Home Affairs on Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Teo Chee Hean said this comprehensive approach allows the country to tackle issues both upstream and downstream.
"The Home Team’s scope of responsibilities is wide and deep. We have to continually keep a strategic view of the larger issues that impact us, such as terrorism and cyber—security. At the same time, Home Team officers also have to focus on more specific issues which can give rise to serious consequences if we let up in our efforts against them. Resources, both personnel and technology, as well as attention and emphasis, can then be applied accordingly," he said.
Outlining the range of challenges faced by the Home Team, Mr Teo first touched on terrorism and the implications to Singapore.
He explained that the terrorist threat remained a persistent one, both globally and regionally, and Singapore is also concerned by terrorist elements’ growing use of social media to spread propaganda and recruit new radicals.
Mr Teo said with Singapore’s high internet penetration, especially among youths, there is a need to inoculate the young from coming under the influence of radical ideology and this was even more critical given that it was not easy to de—radicalise a person once he had imbibed terrorist ideology.
One example was a former detainee Abdul Basheer Abdul Kader who was a self—radicalised individual.
Mr Teo told the House that he was detained from 2007 to 2010 as he had made specific plans to pursue militant jihad in Afghanistan.
After his release in February 2010, he initially made some progress in re—integrating into society.
However, while under the ISA post—release supervision regime, he was detected to have reverted to his past interest in undertaking militant jihad abroad and even made enquiries as to how he could leave Singapore, illegally if necessary, to pursue his jihad plans.
ISD re—arrested him in September 2012 and placed him under detention the following month, to prevent him from pursuing his violent agenda.
Mr Teo said: "Abdul Basheer is a timely reminder that Singapore must continue to invest efforts in the rehabilitation of our terrorist detainees. Since January 2002, 64 persons have been detained under the ISA for their involvement in terrorism—related activities. Of these, more than two—thirds have been released after they were assessed to have been rehabilitated and to not pose a security threat that warranted preventive detention.
"This is why the work of the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) in counselling the detainees is so important and must continue. To commemorate its 10th anniversary, the RRG will be co—organising an international conference on terrorist rehabilitation and community resilience later this month with the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.
"The conference will bring together experts and practitioners from Egypt, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the US, as well as European and ASEAN countries, to share best practices and lessons learnt."
Mr Teo said a second challenge is cyber—security.
"Cyber attacks, whether by criminals, terrorists or state—sponsored groups, have grown in frequency, potency and sophistication. The attacks can take on different forms, including threats to national security, cyber—espionage, cyber—crime such as theft of identities, data, and intellectual property, or the use of cyberspace to perpetrate traditional crime," he said.
So the nation will continue to build up domestic defences against potential attacks with the Home Affairs Ministry setting up a Cyber Security Lab within the Home Team Academy by 2014.
It will provide a safe and realistic hands—on platform for participants to hone their skills in countering cyber attacks.
Singapore will also continue to work closely with other like—minded countries, including through the new INTERPOL Global Complex for Innovation which will open in Singapore next year.
It will facilitate cyber research and innovation, provide cyber security training and operational support for law enforcement agencies around the world, and house the INTERPOL Digital Crime Centre.
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