Parliament: 2 new cases of radicalised foreign domestic workers detected; 9 cases since 2015

Second Minister for Home Affairs Desmond Lee (pictured) responded to Mr Christopher de Souza (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC), who asked for an update on the threat posed by radicalised foreigners in Singapore.
Second Minister for Home Affairs Desmond Lee (pictured) responded to Mr Christopher de Souza (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC), who asked for an update on the threat posed by radicalised foreigners in Singapore.PHOTO: GOV.SG

SINGAPORE - Two new cases of radicalised foreign domestic workers have been detected here in recent months, bringing the total of such cases since 2015 to nine.

The two cases were revealed in Parliament on Tuesday (July 4) by Second Minister for Home Affairs Desmond Lee while he was responding to Mr Christopher de Souza (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC), who asked for an update on the threat posed by radicalised foreigners in Singapore.

Mr Lee said the pair came from different parts of Indonesia, and one of them was a 25-year-old who worked in Singapore for two years - the youngest radicalised foreign domestic worker detected to date. She intended to travel to Syria with her foreign boyfriend to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

The other, aged 28, worked in Singapore for close to five years.

"Similar to the earlier cases, both of them were ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) supporters, radicalised through social media," said Mr Lee.

All nine cases have been repatriated to their home countries, he added.

None had plans to carry out acts of violence here. In the newest cases, neither were known to have influenced their friends here as well, he said.

Mr Lee added that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has worked closely with the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to address the threat of radicalised foreign workers.

This is done through an advisory for them to be alert to signs of radicalisation. This was prepared after the arrest of radicalised Bangladeshi nationals last year, he said.

Besides a settling-in programme to sensitise foreign domestic workers to the threat of radicalisation, foreign workers will be regularly engaged by agencies such as MOM, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) and the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) as well.

"We will do more, to sensitise our foreign workers to Singapore's multi-religious social values," added Mr Lee.

Terrorism emerged as one of the major issues discussed during question time in Parliament on Tuesday, with many MPs noting with concern recent attacks in the United Kingdom and Philippines.

Mr Ang Wei Neng (Jurong GRC) and Mr Zaqy Mohamad (Chua Chu Kang GRC) asked if there are new initiatives to counter copycats of lone-wolf attacks, in light of recent terror attacks abroad.

In response, Mr Lee said that together with other agencies, MHA is reviewing existing security measures in public spaces, in particular against hostile vehicle attacks.

"Possible new measures include putting up bollards or security barriers," he said.

However, such measures must strike a balance between enhancing security and disrupting daily activities through restrictions, said Mr Lee.

A new Infrastructure Protection Act will be introduced this year as well, to help protect critical infrastructure and large-scale developments.

This follows amendments to the Public Order Act in April, requiring organisers of higher-risk events, or those with large crowds, to put necessary security measures in place.

Replying to Miss Cheng Li Hui (Tampines GRC), who asked about minimising the risk of self-radicalisation among students and school staff, Mr Lee said the authorities keep the Ministry of Education (MOE) informed of the overall security threat climate and risks.

"Based on this, MOE reviews and calibrates the security measures for schools," he said.

He added that schools are key platforms to counter dangerous influences, as youth spend a significant proportion of time in educational institutions, and consume a lot of information from the Internet.

"Radical preachers and terrorist groups know this. They exploit these media to spread their radical ideologies and terrorist propaganda," he added.

"Most of the Singaporeans who have been radicalised were younger than 30. Some were in their teens," he said. "They were mainly self-radicalised online."

This is why, besides incorporating counter-terror messages in the secondary school curriculum, schools provide a supportive environments for strong, positive relationships.

Staff also look out for students who display anti-social behaviour, he said.

But he stressed that the responsibility of protecting youth from radical influences does not lie with the schools alone.

"Family members, friends, colleagues, religious leaders and community leaders play a critical role," he said.

In response to a question by Mr Pritam Singh (Aljunied GRC), who asked what Singapore is doing, given the situation in Marawi city in the Philippines, Mr Lee said that MHA is actively looking at developments there with other agencies and will make sure that the necessary security measures are in place.