Vital for aSEaN couNtriES to SharE iNfo oN rEturNiNg fightErS
Noting that fighters returning from Iraq and Syria pass through Asean countries, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said yesterday that it is important for police forces in the region to exchange intelligence and biometric information of some known individuals.
One way to facilitate that will be through an improved version of a secure, Web-based database Aseanpol (Asean National Police) Database System, or e-ADS 2.0.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the 37th Aseanpol Conference, Mr Teo said the terrorist threat in South-east Asia “is at its highest level in recent years”, with the Islamic State (IS) trying to establish a caliphate in the region.
Hundreds of fighters from the region have joined the IS ranks and carried out deadly attacks in capitals of Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean) countries.
“Returning fighters from Syria and Iraq also mean that more of them are traversing our borders, passing through our countries on the way there, and on the way back. We must therefore coordinate more closely among the law enforcement agencies in Asean ...” said Mr Teo, who is also Coordinating Minister for National Security.
Apart from the terrorist threat, he cited cyber crime and drugs, as two other key challenges faced by Asean countries. A common thread in addressing them is “that we must be bold and creative and use technology and IT solutions to support our work and enhance timely information sharing,” he said.
At yesterday’s opening conference, which was held at Resorts World Sentosa, Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam also launched the e-ADS 2.0 which allows police forces in Asean countries to exchange information on regional crime trends and security issues.
The older version of the e-ADS was launched in 2006.
The new system enables police forces to share best practices and has several new features, like the Aseanpol e-Library, a discussion forum to exchange ideas and opinions among the forces, and an announcement portal.
“The e-ADS 2.0 will result in better connectivity and exchange of information among Asean law enforcement agencies,” Mr Teo said.
To inoculate the community against radical ideology, Mr Shanmugam called for greater engagement by Muis, the Religious Rehabilitation Group and other community groups.
The government also takes a firm stand against exclusivist preachers.
In April, an Indian imam was fined S$4,000 and repatriated for making offensive remarks against Jews and Christians. Last month, two foreign Christian preachers who had made offensive comments about people of other religions had their applications to speak in Singapore rejected.
Turning to other challenges, Mr Shanmugam said that the Malay-Muslim community is over-represented in drug statistics. Over half (53 per cent) of drug offenders arrested last year were Malay, up from 32 per cent in 2006. A similar proportion (54 per cent) of new drug offenders nabbed last year were Malay, more than double the 22 per cent recorded in 2006.
Malay-Muslim organisations can help address this, he said. Grassroots leaders can reach out to residents in need through house visits and community aid programmes, and partner others in advocating against drugs.
The participation rate of MalayMuslims in community events is lower than the national average, he said. “If your resident says this is political and this is controlled by the Government, tell them: ‘You can vote for the opposition but still come and take part in the activities.’”
The third challenge is employment for Malay-Muslim professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs). To help PMETs facing job loss or switching sectors, the Government set up a new committee — cochaired by Parliamentary Secretaries Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim and Amrin Amin — in March.
The talk, attended by 400 participants, was followed by a closed-door dialogue on terrorism that included Minister in Prime Minister’s Office Chan Chun Sing and Mr Amrin.
At a People’s Association talk for Malay-Muslim staff members and grassroots leaders, Mr Shanmugam highlighted terrorism and radicalisation as one of three challenges besieging the community.