G-20: No easy solutions to fight terrorism, world leaders must stand in solidarity, says PM Lee

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu meeting at the G-20 summit in Antalya on Sunday.

ANTALYA, TURKEY - There are no easy solutions to the threat of terrorism, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Sunday (Nov 15), as he urged all countries to remain resolute against terrorists.

This involves both domestic efforts and international cooperation. He said: "This is a transational problem - terrorists cross borders freely, and therefore, no country can defeat this international threat alone."

He added that, in countries standing in solidarity with one another, "we will raise the security bar for the terrorists and leave them in no doubt that they are up against a formidable coalition of countries that are determined to stop them".

Mr Lee made these remarks at a working dinner on the global challenges of terrorism and the refugee crisis at the Group of 20 (G-20) Leaders' Summit on Sunday night (early Monday morning, Singapore time).

The issue of extremism has taken centrestage at what has traditionally been an economic summit, after attacks in Paris last Friday which left 129 dead. In October, double suicide bombings in the Turkish capital of Ankara killed 102, while a bomb attack is suspected to have brought down a Russian airliner over Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 on board.

As a multiracial society, Singapore will face not only physical damage and the loss of life, but also psychological and emotional damage to its social harmony and cohesion in the event of a terrorist attack.

South-east Asia has been a key recruiting ground for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group, Mr Lee noted. Hundreds from the region have joined the fight in Syria, including a few from Singapore, so much so that there are enough people from South-east Asia who have formed a battalion by themselves, he said.

"We cannot avoid this problem, much less solve it by hiding or by keeping silent, hoping that the scourge will pass us by, on the other side," he said, as he told world leaders of Singapore's efforts to combat the terror threat.

The Republic has been part of an international coalition against ISIS, having deployed a KC-135 refuelling tanker, as well as an Image Analysis Team.

On top of that, Singapore's security agencies share intelligence with their foreign counterparts. It has also strengthened border security to stop would-be terrorists from entering.

Singapore, too, has preventive detention laws against terrorists before they do harm, said Mr Lee. He added: "But we don't just lock them away and throw away the key. We strive to rehabilitate the detainees."

The Republic has also brought different communities to fight the terror threat together, including through candid closed-door dialogues with community leaders of all races and religions. Muslim religious leaders, too, have formed a Religious Rehabilitation Group that counsels terror detainees and counters radical ideology.

Since the Sept 11, 2001 terror attacks, Singapore has detained about 70 people for terrorism-related actions. About three quarters have been rehabilitated and released.

"Other than a handful, none have relapsed," Mr Lee said. "I think it can be said to be a reasonably successful rehabiliation effort."

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.