Speech by Law Minister K Shanmugam at the Enterprise 50 Club Annual General Meeting cum Dinner
15 Jun 2010 Posted in Speeches
Mr Andy Lim, E50 Club President,
Mr Poh Kay Ping, E50 Club Vice-President,
Distinguished E50 Club members,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good evening. Thank you for inviting me to join you at the Enterprise 50 Club’s Annual Dinner event tonight.
Most of you would be totally immersed with the ongoing economic events. Greece, whether PIIGS can fly; and so on.
Tonight, I will take you out of that frame and try to give you a perspective on issues which are also important for business – the regional security landscape.
Regional Security Situation
- It has been almost nine years since the events of 9/11 shaped our world view about the global reach and ambition of terrorists. Governments around the world rallied and measures were put in place to deal with the threats. However, attacks such as the Madrid train bombings of 2004, the London underground bombings of 2005, and the Mumbai attacks of 2008 exposed further vulnerabilities.
- What is the status in this region?
- In Southern Philippines, the Abu Sayyaf and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have been fighting to establish a Muslim state in southern Philippines. The Superferry 14 bombing by Abu Sayyaf in February 2004 killed 116 persons and is considered to be the worst terrorist incident at sea. Groups fighting for political causes have also added to the violence and death toll. In the run up to the Philippines’ Presidential elections this year, the New People’s Army made at least 10 attacks each month, many of which were against targets connected to the elections, such as polling stations and election officials. In November last year, one massacre resulted in 57 deaths.
- In Southern Thailand, insurgents have been fighting for secession of three Muslim dominated provinces from Thailand. The region witnessed some 3,500 deaths between 2004 and 2009. In the first four months of 2010 alone, there were 80 improvised explosive device incidents. And just one week ago on 9 June, another attack took place in Pattani, Southern Thailand. A drive-by bombing near a mosque wounded 23 persons, including a 14-year-old girl, who was in critical condition.
- In Malaysia, 10 persons were detained for “acts of terrorism” in January this year. They were believed to be associated with Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who had attempted to bomb Northwest Flight 253 approaching Detroit using explosives concealed in his underwear on Christmas Day last year.
- In Indonesia, Aceh, which practises a more conservative form of Islam compared to the rest of Indonesia, had been fighting for its independence. This caused over 12,000 deaths between 1976 and 2003. T he Bali bombing in 2002 (again in 2005) and Marriott Hotel bombing in South Jakarta in 2003 are well-known and served as grim reminders of the terrorists’ penetration in Indonesia. [Indonesia paesantarans]
- So that is Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines and Malaysia.. Malaysia has less of a problem.
- Jemaah Islamiyah was active in Singapore. We dealt with it in 2001. Fortunately, we have not suffered an attack on our own soil, but in November 2008, a Singaporean tragically lost her life in the Mumbai terrorist attack which killed 165 others.
- But the threat of terrorism in Singapore remains. Just last month, Indonesian police found a map of the Singapore MRT network with Orchard station circled. They recovered it from a terror suspect, Ahmad Sayid Maulana, who was killed by Indonesia’s counter-terrorism unit, Detachment 88, during a raid last month.
Measures by Governments in the Region
- The governments in the region have recognised that terrorism is a common threat to the peace and safety of our region. There is a common goal – to deal with terrorism. Governments share intelligence on terror organisations. Regional counter-terror organisations have made some good progress in fighting the terrorist threat. Detachment 88 in Indonesia has had notable success in recent months, capturing or eliminating large numbers of terrorists, and eliminating a nascent militant training camp in Aceh.
- Nevertheless, regional countries have faced difficulty tracking and curbing the movements of key terrorist figures, such as Dulmatin, one of the most wanted terrorists in Southeast Asia. Dulmatin managed to travel from Indonesia to Southern Philippines. Even with a publicised reward of US$10 million for his capture, he managed to remain undetected for several years. He has been killed by the Indonesian security forces but other key terrorists continue to be at large.
- The recent re-arrests of terror suspects during the crackdown of the nascent Aceh terror cell shows a worrying phenomenon that some ex-detainees have resumed terror-related activities after their release. The challenge of recidivism is not limited to Indonesia alone. The most recent US estimate is that 20 per cent of ex-Guantanamo Bay detainees have resumed terror-related activities.
- As an aside, I will mention a point:-
- When we arrest a terrorist, we work intensely to rehabilitate the detainee and get him to realise that his beliefs on religion are perverse. We work with independent scholars.
- When we believe that the detainee is reformed, we release him.
- In contrast, the Americans use Guantanamo. Without a clear legal framework,they face a difficult question: (1) do they try the terrorists? (2) Or release them?
- They (Americans) have no preventive detention laws. The scale of the issues they face is different. But a point to note: for years, we were criticised for having and using the ISA. But these criticisms have become more muted now that they have had to deal with terrorist type threats.
- The point is: we must honestly decide what is in our best interests – and our people, you know what works best in our country. We must listen carefully to what others say, but then adapt it to our own circumstances.
- Coming back to the region, there is no clear end in sight for terror-related activity, for instance, in the southern parts of Philippines. Despite continued action by the Philippines military against the Abu Sayyaf, the Abu Sayyaf group has managed to continue conducting occasional terror attacks on civilians. A positive development nonetheless has been the recent signing on 3 June 2010 of the “Declaration of Continuity of Peace Negotiations” between the Philippines government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. </li>
- Southern Thailand has also seen high levels of terror activity. The situation in Thailand is fairly unique as insurgent leaders have remained anonymous making it difficult for the government to identify the appropriate persons to open negotiations with. Thailand’s deployment of Peace Development Units of 26 men each to villages which are insurgent dominated aims to collect intelligence on village insurgent activities, and to win the hearts and minds of the villagers.
Terrorist Ideology and Propaganda
- Underlying the terrorist threat is the spread of the radical ideology. Al-Qaeda’s global terrorist ideology against the USA and her friends and allies attracts extremists from all over the world. In more recent times, the trend of self-radicalisation in particular, makes counter-terrorism more challenging, and is currently one of several concerns. There is a growing number of cases of “self-radicalised” individuals who develop down the path of terrorism. While these individuals are not members of any terrorist group, some become so inspired by Al-Qaeda’s global jihad ideology through what they read on the internet, that they link up with militant groups or undertake militant action on their own. Singapore has not been immune to this. We have uncovered Singaporeans who were self-radicalised, or in the nascent stages of radicalisation.
- In Singapore, the December 2007 arrest of Muhammad Zamri bin Abdullah showed that self-radicalisation is a serious threat. Zamri was self-radicalised through radical propaganda and subsequently managed to influence two other persons with his jihad ideology. One of them, Maksham bin Mohd Shah, subsequently sought to construct improvised explosive devices for use in armed jihad. Both of them travelled overseas seeking to make contact with foreign jihadist groups in order to receive training and wage armed jihad overseas.
- This trans-national and persistent threat is highly complex and constantly evolving to attack areas of weakness. We have thus adopted a multi-faceted counter-terrorism strategy.
International and Regional Cooperation
- Firstly, we cooperate closely with international and regional security and intelligence agencies to share information on terrorists.
- We also engage other governments and participate in international government organisations (e.g. United Nations) platforms to forge a united commitment to countering terrorism.
- Secondly, Border Security measures are put in place to prevent the entry of terrorists and the weapons and explosives which they use. As an island nation heavily dependent on sea-borne trade, maritime security is a major component of border security.
- In this aspect, our Navy works closely with their Indonesia and Malaysia counterparts in conducting joint maritime and air patrols to enhance security in the Malacca Strait. This joint programme, also supported by Thailand, has been highly effective in reducing the piracy in the Malacca Straits, from 150 attacks in 2005 down to two attacks each in 2008 and 2009.
- Closer to home, our Navy and the Police Coast Guard (PCG) jointly patrol the Singapore Territorial Waters against intruders to prevent the smuggling of terrorists, weapons and other dangerous materials into Singapore where they may be used for terrorist or other criminal activities.
Hardening of Targets
- The third aspect is hardening of potential terrorist targets to reduce the possibility of a successful attack, and to mitigate the effects of an attack. We have taken measures that include deployment of security guards to patrol the premises, X-ray scanning of items brought into the facility and incorporating design features that reduce the susceptibility of the structure to bomb blasts.
Well-trained and Coordinated Security Forces
- We have also invested in well-trained and coordinated security forces to prevent terrorist attacks and mitigate the effects of a terror attack.
United and Involved Community
- Last but not least, it is important for Singapore to have a united and involved community. This includes community and religious leaders who provide moral guidance and act as role models to prevent their followers from being led astray by the extremist ideology used to justify terrorist acts. Their role in fostering harmonious resolution of inter-community disputes is particularly crucial in countering the terrorist’s myth that violence is an appropriate way to resolve religious or racial disagreements.
- The public must also realise that security is a shared responsibility, and that everyone plays a part in keeping Singapore safe and secure. The two street vendors who alerted the authorities who then evacuated Times Square would have saved many lives had the bomb exploded instead of fizzling out. Singaporeans must similarly play their part by acting as “eyes and ears on the ground” and reporting suspicious happenings to the authorities.
Safe, but not foolproof
- We must constantly improve our security environment and build up our resilience and community spirit. The business community plays a significant role in this, having a substantial reach and influence in Singapore and beyond. Hence, it is important for businesses to take charge of security within each of your domains, and not see security as merely a cost-centre, or treat it as an afterthought. The Government thanks you for your support.
- Once again, thank you for inviting me to join you at this event.
Last updated on 25 Nov 2012