400 praised for helping terror detainees, families

Community outreach officer Siti Nur Hasanah Mohd Yusoff with Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) vice-chairman Mohamed Ali (far left) and RRG secretary Mohamed Feisal Mohamed Hassan. They were among 400 volunteers whose efforts were recognised yeste
Community outreach officer Siti Nur Hasanah Mohd Yusoff with Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) vice-chairman Mohamed Ali (far left) and RRG secretary Mohamed Feisal Mohamed Hassan. They were among 400 volunteers whose efforts were recognised yesterday.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Volunteers' efforts vital to rehabilitation, reintegration of detainees, says DPM Heng

A mother of two who was resistant to offers of help after her husband was detained by the authorities for terrorism-related conduct opened up after three months of house visits by community outreach officer Siti Nur Hasanah Mohd Yusoff.

In another case, a student whose father was detained dropped out of school for about two years when she was in secondary school.

She was later placed in an out-of-school youth programme with Ms Siti's help, passed her O levels and recently graduated from polytechnic.

These were some family members of terror detainees that Ms Siti, 41, from self-help group Yayasan Mendaki, has helped to get back on track in the past five years.

She was among about 400 community volunteers and their families whose efforts were recognised at an annual appreciation lunch organised by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) yesterday.

The volunteers include those from the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG), Inter-Agency Aftercare Group (ACG), and the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis). Mendaki is one of the agencies under ACG.

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, guest of honour at the event, said the volunteers' dedication has been vital to the rehabilitation of detainees.

"You have shown them and their families that the community has not given up on them. This is the encouragement that they need to reintegrate into society... The Government deeply appreciates your commitment to help tackle the threat of terrorism and strengthen our community," he added.

The RRG, launched in 2003, is a non-profit group that trains religious teachers to counsel those who have been influenced or misguided by radical teachings. It also conducts workshops on countering extremist ideology in schools and mosques. ACG volunteers support the families of terrorist detainees.

Since 2002, more than 130 individuals found to have been involved in terrorism-related activities have been dealt with.

MHA said in June that between January and March this year, one Singaporean was issued with a detention order, while another two were issued with restriction orders for their involvement in terrorism-related conduct.

Mr Heng, who is also Finance Minister, said the commitment of these volunteers has grown, even while the terrorism threat has changed.

Today, Singapore faces not only threats from organised cells like the Jemaah Islamiah, but also from Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (Isis) returnees and self-radicalised individuals, he said.

RRG and ACG volunteers have adapted to these challenges, and learnt from others, such as through visiting Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Indonesia, to bring home best practices in dealing with the threat of self-radicalisation.

Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean and Minister for Law and for Home Affairs K. Shanmugam were also present at the lunch at Regent Singapore.

 
 

RRG secretary Mohamed Feisal Mohamed Hassan, 45, a research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said the partnership between the Government and the community is key to the success of rehabilitation efforts.

Persistence is also important, said Dr Feisal. "If you meet them one or two times, people will think you are just playing games. But they see us there for years. People change by understanding concepts, but they also change by touch - a touch of concern or love," he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 08, 2019, with the headline '400 praised for helping terror detainees, families'. Print Edition | Subscribe