Counter-terrorism priority as Singapore chairs Asean Defence Minister's Meeting: Ng Eng Hen

Multinational coalition efforts have resulted in the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (Isis) losing most of its territory, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen at the Overseas Service Medal presentation ceremony on July 28, 2018.
Multinational coalition efforts have resulted in the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (Isis) losing most of its territory, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen at the Overseas Service Medal presentation ceremony on July 28, 2018.PHOTO: MINISTRY OF DEFENCE

SINGAPORE - Tackling terrorism is top of the agenda for Singapore as it chairs this year's Asean Defence Ministers' Meeting (ADMM), according to Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen.

To that end, the Republic will host a counter-terrorism symposium in October and also put together a network of experts to counter chemical, biological and radiological threats within the ADMM framework.

Multinational coalition efforts have resulted in the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (Isis) losing most of its territory, Dr Ng told the Overseas Service Medal presentation ceremony, held at the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) on Friday (July 27).

"But even as the coalition partners succeed against terrorists in Iraq and Syria, we must be prepared for the next phase where over 1,000 Southeast Asians who have joined Isis there may make their way home," he warned, noting that more than 25,000 people died in terror attacks worldwide last year.

"Armed with battlefield experience and frustrated from the defeat of Isis there, they can escalate violence here," he said.

Dr Ng pointed to bombings in the Indonesian city of Surabaya, as well as the arrest of seven suspects earlier this month for plots against the Malaysian King and Prime Minister, as examples of terrorism threats in the region.

The Republic is not immune to these threats, which could come from both foreigners as well as radicalised Singaporeans, he said.

"Between 2007 and 2017, over 30 Singaporeans have been issued restriction and detention orders under the Internal Security Act," said Dr Ng, noting that just last year a Singaporean - odd-job worker Megat Shahdan Abdul Samad, 39 - appeared in an Isis propaganda video.

Singapore recognises terrorism needs to be tackled both overseas and at home, said Dr Ng.

He noted the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has deployed troops and assets to both Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years, while locally it has partnered with Home Team agencies to conduct exercises and training in responding to security threats.

The 2nd People's Defence Force Island Defence Training Institute has trained 18,000 soldiers for security operations, while earlier this year a new counter-terrorism community response module was introduced to train Mindef and SAF personnel to protect themselves and others in the event of a terror attack.

Friday's ceremony saw 64 SAF personnel awarded medals for their contributions towards the multinational effort to defeat Isis. These efforts are part of an "important fight" that helps keep Singapore safe by attacking terrorism at its source, said Dr Ng.

"Because if we don't join with others to stop terrorism from growing, it will be a matter of time before the threat overwhelms us here, and indeed, globally."