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Singapore to implement national anti-terrorism strategy

Date: August 21, 2004
Source: Channel News Asia
By: Yvonne Gomez

Dr Tony Tan has said that he plans to give priority to implementing a national terrorism strategy during his tenure as Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister

Dr Tan, who is also Coordinating Minister for Security and Defence, plans to get the new National Security Coordination Secretariat up and running before he retires from the Cabinet around the middle of next year.

For more on the threat of terrorism to Singapore, Yvonne Gomez spoke to Dr Rohan Gunaratna from the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies in Singapore.

RG: Singapore certainly faces the threat of terrorism, but this threat has been managed very well by the Singaporean leaders and the Singaporean people. In Singapore, the JI (Jemaah Islamiyah) as an organization, has been neutralized, but in the region, JI is still very active. So it is important to protect Singapore from the external threat of JI penetration and JI attacks.

Picking up in that point, how will the new National Security Coordination Secretariat help to protect Singapore against acts of terror?

RG: It is important for there to be greater coordination between internal and external security. I am confident that the new organization that has been created, will play an important role in bridging that gap.

Dr Tony Tan also spoke of safeguarding Singapore's essential infrastructure, like its power and water supply. He said that the list of things to do is never-ending. Can you give me an idea of what some of the things to consider are?

RG: The terrorists, world-wide, are very keen to target public infrastructure. Therefore, the comments by Dr Tony Tan must be taken to heart. And I think that some effort must be made, especially to protect public infrastructure.

How exactly would terrorists target power and water supply. I mean, how would acts of terror take place against power and water supply in Singapore?

RG: Singapore is a classic case. If you recall, one of the plots JI had was, to disrupt the water supply between Malaysia and Singapore. So certainly, because we know the terrorists' intention has been to do that, we must take extraordinary care. In other countries, we've seen terrorist plans to disrupt, for instance, the electricity grid in Australia. Early this year, they made a number of arrests of a group called Lashkar-e-Toiba, planning with a French Al-Qaeda member who was planning to attack the electricity grid in Australia. So certainly it is important to protect this infrastructure.

He also spoke about cyberterrorism. What are your thoughts on this?

RG: We've not seen cyberterrorism as a significant threat. We've sent hat terrorist groups are using the Internet very effectively to recruit, politicize and radicalize potential supporters. But certainly, at a future date, this is an area where we will see greater activity on the part of terrorist organizations, in order to disrupt computer-controlled and Internet-controlled security and functioning of infrastructure.

Earlier we spoke about the National Security Coordination Secretariat. What recommendations do you have for the coordination of the different security agencies here?

RG: Unless Singapore invests in a sustained way, to bring all branches of government together and have a unified approach against terrorism, the threat of terrorism will remain significant. You can reduce the threat by developing programmes and projects that would ensure that various government organizations work together, and you have a common approach to security. By creating this institution in the Prime Minister's Office, what we've seen is that - the home ministry, defence ministry, the information ministry and the education ministry - all these organizations will be able to develop a common approach towards the problem of terrorism. Today, terrorism is a significant threat. It is not only a law and order problem, or a public nuisance. Therefore, it is important to coordinate the efforts of all branches of government. I believe that the current thrust will enable the government to do that effectively.Singapore to implement national anti-terrorism strategy
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2004-10-07 06:06:25 - Dr. Tan, Congratulations. Dr. J. A.... Dr. Joe Resnick
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