Wong Kan Seng: Singapore Not Immune To Threat Of Radicalisation

SINGAPORE: Former Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng said there is no immunity to the threat of radicalisation for any society, including Singapore.

Speaking at a seminar by the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies on Tuesday (Nov 18), Mr Wong said that the “vigilance of the security services must ultimately be augmented by the vigilance of the society itself.”

He said groups like Islamic State (IS) are savvy in their use of social media to propagate radical rhetoric and recruit fighters to their cause. He also urged governments in the region to step up efforts in the sharing of information and intelligence.

Mr Wong said: “13 years on from 9/11 and Singapore’s discovery of the regional JI (Jemaah Islamiyah) network, we are none the safer from the terrorism threat. The terrorism threat has not diminished, but has evolved and adapted to a more hostile security environment. It has also become more diffused with the rise of the phenomenon of self-radicalised or ‘lone wolf’ terrorists.”

He felt that the conflict in Syria and and the IS have given new impetus to existing regional jihadist groups like JI and the Jemaah Anshorut Tauhid (JAT), which have sent their members to Syria to fight.

Mr Wong said the manner in which foreign fighters flock to Syria reminds him of how Muslims around the world had similarly been drawn to fight in the Soviet-Afghan war in the 1980s.

He added: “The Soviet-Afghan war not only led to the creation of the Al-Qaeda terrorist organisation, but also a global fraternity of terrorist brotherhood. Many governments anticipate that the Syrian conflict will likewise lead to the emergence of a new generation of mujahidin and the perpetuation of the terrorism menace for many years to come.”

Mr Wong, who was also Minister for Home Affairs, recounted how Singapore had taken a multi-pronged approach to counter the threat of jihadist terrorism.

“Apart from investigations and exchange of intelligence with foreign security services, the Government held closed-door national dialogues with religious and community leaders to share our concerns on the terrorism threat and how we must not let it destroy our Singapore’s social cohesion,” he stated.

Mr Wong said there was also the awareness to go beyond the detention of JI members to counter the deviant religious teachings. A core group of religious teachers formed the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) to provide religious counselling for the JI detainees and their families.

To this end, Mr Wong said that for some “hardcore” detainees, results so far have not been positive, and that they will only be released once they are rehabilitated.

Overall, he said that while Singapore has been successful in keeping the terrorism threat at bay, the general public must continue to remain vigilant and stay united in the event of an incident.

“The irony is, the more successful we are in our counter-terrorism efforts, the more the urgency and cogency of the terrorism threat will diminish in the public’s consciousness,” said Mr Wong. “We need every resident to be vigilant against this threat. Should we one day be unable to stop a bomb from exploding or a murderous act by an ISIL supporter in Singapore, I hope Singaporeans will have the resilience to overcome the attack, cope with the crisis and maintain our social cohesion.”


Source: www.channelnewsasia.com

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