Terror fight: Jakarta, Singapore officials stress value of cooperation

Partnerships among countries are critical in fighting terrorism, and the strong and ongoing cooperation between Singapore and Indonesia on counter-terrorism is a good way to narrow the space for radicals to use in this region.

This was a point experts and government officials from both countries made at a focus-group discussion initiated by the Indonesian Embassy in Singapore on Monday to share best practices.

Speakers included the Indonesian Foreign Ministry's Director- General for Multilateral Affairs Hasan Kleib, Indonesia's National Counter-Terrorism Agency chief Tito Karnavian, Muslim group Nahdlatul Ulama's chairman Marsyudi Syuhud and Singapore's Second Permanent Secretary for Home Affairs Loh Ngai Seng.

"While preventing radicalisation and terrorist attacks is important, rehabilitation of terrorists is equally critical," the Ministry of Home Affairs said in a statement on the closed-door meeting.

Discussions delved into having effective laws to respond swiftly to potential threats, and managing terrorists in prisons. For example, those convicted of terror-related offences should be separated from other inmates to prevent them from radicalising others.

Programmes also need to be comprehensive and sustainable, so that the social, psychological and spiritual aspects of an inmate's well-being are taken care of.

More importantly, participants added that rehabilitation cannot end in prison. This is why post-release programmes are needed to ensure rehabilitated terrorists who go back to society do not rejoin their former terror networks.

Participants also discussed the need for continuous research to complement existing rehabilitation, and for periodic reviews of religious narratives and counselling to keep materials up to date.

They also said it is crucial for the community at large to join the effort to rehabilitate terrorists and foster an environment that does not sanction violent ideology.

The ministry added that the discussion was a "useful starting point" for collaboration with others, including Malaysia and Brunei, to develop a regional blueprint to counter violent extremism.

In a post on its website, the Indonesian Embassy in Singapore said the meeting was timely as the growing terror threat requires "more comprehensive strategies and closer cross-border cooperation".

"Effective cooperation to promote deradicalisation is also essential," the embassy added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 18, 2016, with the headline 'Terror fight: Jakarta, S'pore officials stress value of cooperation'. Print Edition | Subscribe