Senior law enforcement leaders share ideas on security challenges at new international programme

Mr Juan Zarate, the US' former deputy national security adviser for combating terrorism and now head of a strategic advisory firm, speaking at the Phoenix International Programme on March 5, 2019.
Mr Juan Zarate, the US' former deputy national security adviser for combating terrorism and now head of a strategic advisory firm, speaking at the Phoenix International Programme on March 5, 2019.ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - Senior law enforcement leaders from around the world gathered in Singapore this week for an inaugural programme to network and exchange information on managing emerging security challenges.

The Phoenix International Programme saw 18 law enforcement leaders from 12 countries sharing their views and hearing from nine expert speakers on topics ranging from transnational crime and cyberspace security to terrorism financing.

Conducted by the Ministry of Home Affairs' Home Team Academy, the four-day programme, which concluded on Friday (March 8), was attended by participants from countries such as Australia, Canada, Vietnam and Malaysia.

The speakers included Singapore Police Force's Deputy Commissioner (Investigation and Intelligence) Florence Chua, who talked about transnational crime, and Lord Jonathan Evans, a member of Britain's House of Lords and former director-general of the country's security service, who spoke about using intelligence to manage security threats.

There was also a dialogue session on Singapore's perspectives on public safety and security, chaired by Minister for Home Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam.

One of the speakers, Mr Juan Zarate, who is the United States' former deputy national security adviser for combating terrorism, said the discussions have yielded some insightful perspectives on security challenges. He highlighted Singapore's efforts to shore up its cyber security following the massive data breaches in the healthcare sector.

Singapore's approach after the breaches has been a uniquely "thoughtful" one, said Mr Zarate, who heads a strategic advisory firm.

"It's not a knee-jerk reaction... The ability of the authorities to take a step back and reflect on what the strategy and the processing should be, and to do it in a rather methodical way, is pretty unique to Singapore," he added.

He noted, however, that the cyber-security problems that plagued Singapore's healthcare sector are not unique to the country, as many other countries have the same issues.

The world is facing a cyberarms race, where barriers to entry for the bad guys are very low and the authorities need a lot of resources to maintain defence systems, said Mr Zarate, who gave an overview of the contemporary and emerging global security challenges during the programme.

"I think part of the reason we have a conference like this is to share lessons learnt, and also to commiserate with one another about where we all have to do better, and perhaps help one another with best practices," he added.

Assistant Commissioner Ling Young Ern, senior director of MHA's International Cooperation and Partnerships Division, said the course is a good complement to the International Programme on Crisis Leadership that the Home Team Academy also runs.

While that programme focuses on senior command leadership in managing major incidents, the Phoenix programme looks at broader safety and security issues, he said.

"They offer excellent opportunities for leadership development and networking at the very senior levels."