SINGAPORE - Singapore will play its part in the multinational coalition battling the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) by contributing personnel and equipment, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen in Parliament on Monday.
This is part and parcel of Singapore's ongoing efforts to combat terrorism, Dr Ng said, as he outlined how Singapore fought against the terrorist threat from Al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah.
It did so by strengthening its social, psychological and physical defenses at home, and joining other countries to deal with the sources of radicalisation and terror in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"As a result, both Al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah are weaker today. However, this terorrism threat is a long-term one, and new groups like ISIS will emerge even as existing ones falter. When they do, we must not lose focus or heart in dealing with the threat from ISIS. We must continue with the approach that has served Singapore well and protected us thus far," he said.
The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) will continue to participate in multinational coalition efforts against religious extremists who pose a terrorist threat to Singapore and Singaporeans, as it did in Afghanistan against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, h added.
Dr Ng was responding to Mr Alex Yam (Chua Chu Kang GRC) who had asekd whether the SAF will consider joining the broad coalition against ISIS, and in what ways the SAF will contribute towards the effort.
Singapore's contributions will include SAF liaison and planning officers to the United States Central Command and the Combined Joint Task Force headquarters, a tanker aircraft for air-to-air refuelling, and an imagery analysis team, the minister said.
These assets have previously been deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, were effective and appreciated by Singapore's international partners, he added.
No SAF combat troops will be on the ground in Iraq and Syria in the fight against ISIS, said Dr Ng. Instead, SAF soldiers will operate from surrounding countries with other coalition forces.
"Neverless, there will be risks to our SAF servicemen as they carry out their missions. To mitigate these risks, we will ensure that our servicemen are well equipped, and receive additional training in weapon handling, and against improvised explosive devices and other hostile elements," he said.
The minister also said that even terrorist groups that are based in countries far away from Singapore can pose a direct security threat to the country. For example, in late 2001, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) disrupted a terrorist plot by Al-Qaeda to mount suicide bombings in Singapore with the help of the Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist network.
ISIS is similarly a terrorist organisation that poses a security threat to Singapore, the Southeast Asian region and globally, he added.
Singapore has taken a clear public stand against ISIS, said Dr Ng. He noted that Singapore, for example, has co-sponsored United Nations Security Council Resolution 2178, which requires all nations to make it a serious, prosecutable crime for their nationals to join extremist groups like ISIS.
"We must tackle (ISIS) resolutely and use a multi-pronged apprroach, as this government has been doing, in order to keep our citizens safe," he said.
While international partnerships play a key role, "just as importantly, Singaporeans at home must understand that the radical ideology and acts committed by a small misguided extremist group in the name of Islam do not represent the majority of believers, who condemn these extremists as going against the teachings of Islam", he said.
Dr Ng said Singapore's Muslim religious and community leaders, including Mufti Mohamed Fatris Bakaram, have unequivocally denounced ISIS, and the Religious Rehabilitation Group has been actively countering the spread of terrorism.
"We must not allow terrorists to paralyse us with fear, to prevent us from doing that which is necessary, or to let them sow discord or distrust amongst us. If we relent, cower, and look upon each other with suspicion and distrust in the face of their threats, then the terrorists would have already fractured our resolve," stressed Dr Ng.
"The SAF will work with MHA to remain vigilant and step up security where needed. Most importantly, Singaporeans must continue to be united and cohesive to combat this terrorism threat effectively," he said.