Singapore working closely with Indonesia to get more support for regional counter-terrorism network: Ng Eng Hen

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen with Indonesian Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu on the sidelines of the 2018 Southeast Asia Counter-terrorism Symposium. PHOTO: MINDEF

SINGAPORE - Singapore is working closely with Indonesia to get more support to build a regional counter-terrorism intelligence-sharing network during an Asean meeting later this month, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen revealed on Thursday (Oct 4).

With terrorism one of the threats facing Singapore today, it will work with Indonesia to get more support for a platform that shares intelligence on terrorists and their networks, Dr Ng said.

"We will be tabling the proposal in the upcoming Asean Defence Ministers' Meeting in two weeks' time."

"And we hope to get support for this important initiative that will combine intelligence resources from Asean countries and beyond to deal with this pressing problem," he said, in a speech at the annual Total Defence Awards Dinner held at the Raffles City Convention Centre on Thursday.

Singapore and Indonesia are now involved in the Our Eyes Initiative, which is an arrangement designed to facilitate the sharing of strategic intelligence on terrorism among six Asean countries, including Thailand, Brunei, Malaysia, and the Philippines.

The intelligence-sharing arrangement, launched in January this year (2018), comes after the siege of Marawi city by Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)-linked militants in the Philippines last year.

Dr Ng said that Indonesia is a key player for counter-terrorism in our region, having experienced the "horrendous" Bali attacks that killed hundreds of civilians in 2002.

On Thursday, he met Indonesian Defence Minister, General (Retired) Ryamizard Ryacudu, who gave the opening address at the 2018 Southeast Asia Counter-terrorism Symposium, organised by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

The ministers discussed the agenda for the upcoming Asean ADMM and ADMM-Plus, including the plans to enhance counter-terrorism cooperation through Indonesia's Our Eyes Initiative, said a Mindef statement on Thursday.

In his speech at the awards dinner, Dr Ng said that each generation of Singaporeans will face security threats "simply because we don't live in a perfect world free from troubles".

For the Pioneer Generation, it was World War II, the Japanese Occupation and colonisation, and for the Merdeka Generation, it was independence, Konfrontasi, communism and communalism, he said.

He said terrorism is one threat that today's generation faces - first fuelled by Al-Qaeda globally and Jemaah Islamiyah regionally, then ISIS and their affiliates in the region.

Dr Ng cited the Surabaya bomb attacks in May this year - where two terrorists co-opted their families, including their young children, for suicide bombing missions - as a stark reminder that the threat is "real, present, and growing".

"Unfortunately, the threat of terrorism will be a long-term one - all terrorism experts think so. In fact, even as ISIS is decimated in the Middle East, the threat here is expected to grow, as foreign fighters return to wage jihadist battles in our region," he added.

This is why Singapore is working closely with Indonesia on the intelligence-sharing platform as it "must never let up, and in fact must do more".

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