Friday, 29 January 2016

Singapore to keep contributing to global anti-terrorism effort: Ng Eng Hen

SINGAPORE: The Republic’s military will carry on deploying resources to the international effort against terrorism as it directly contributes to Singapore’s safety, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen on Thursday (Jan 28).

Dr Ng was responding in Parliament to questions from MP Alex Yam for updates on the nation’s involvement in the global anti-ISIS coalition.

The House was first informed in November 2014 that the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) would support the multi-national coalition against the extremist threat posed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Dr Ng recalled. Since then, there have been attacks in Paris, Istanbul and recently Jakarta. Along with the arrest of the 27 radicalised Bangladeshis in Singapore, these are “unfortunate but stark examples that underscore a truth”, he said.

“As long as terrorist organisations can influence and induct others to their cause and to their bidding, no country is safe, not even those located thousands of kilometres away,” Dr Ng warned. “Terrorism, too, has globalised.”

He noted that an estimated 600 Southeast Asians have travelled to Iraq and Syria to take up arms with ISIS, and that 129 people in Malaysia have been arrested to date for suspected links to ISIS - including members of its own armed forces.

In Singapore, two families have travelled to Syria to join ISIS since 2014, and five more Singaporeans were detained last year for planning to join the jihadist militant group.

“Returned waves of acolytes trained, some with battle experience with arms and explosives, can wreak much destruction to their home countries,” said Mr Ng. “But more than physical destruction, ISIS’ ability to successfully propagate its misguided form of Islam is a threat to the fabric of our multi-racial society.”

This, he added, was why “Singapore as a community must stand in solidarity against the threat of terrorism”.


Mr Ng, the MP for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, then provided Parliament with updates on the SAF’s deployments to aid the global fight against terrorism.

An SAF tanker supported air-to-air refuelling operations from May to August last year, said Dr Ng, and in this “short period of three months” saw its aircraft fly 52 sorties and refuel 142 coalition aircrafts.

The SAF has also deployed a liaison officer (since December 2014) and an intelligence planner (since January 2015) to the US Central Command Headquarters, said Dr Ng. And since September last year, a team of imagery analysts have been deployed to the Combined Joint Taskforce HQ in Kuwait.

This team of imagery analysts was the coalition’s first such capability based at the central HQ in Kuwait, he added. “They’ve provided the coalition with useful intelligence support by identifying terrorist infrastructure and facilities, even where they gather to plan, as well as to avoid targeting civilian areas for the coalition.”

Dr Ng revealed that upon request, the SAF has agreed to deploy this analyst team for another year in 2016.

“The threat posted by terrorism is a long-term one. The campaign will not end quickly. By contributing to the international effort to tackle the threat at its source, we are contributing directly to our safety,” said Dr Ng. “This is the reason why the SAF will continue its deployments throughout 2016.”

He added: “More countries have understood this, and joined the coalition, including our closest neighbour Malaysia. Because they too recognise that unless the sources of radicalisation are disrupted, our citizens at home cannot be protected - even for Malaysia or Indonesia, with their majority Muslim population.”

“As the fight against ISIS evolves, we will continue to assess on a regular basis the relevance and effectiveness of our contributions, and work with partners to see how Singapore can best contribute moving forward in ways within our means and capabilities,” Dr Ng concluded. (Channel News Asia)

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