PostHeaderIcon Singapore calls for community involvement in counter-terror fight

Beefing up security measures would remain the first line of defence against such threats, but communities could challenge the extremist ideology that fuels them, said Senior Minister for Law and Home Affairs Ho Peng Kee. "We cannot afford to only rely on the police and security services to guarantee our long-term security," he told diplomats, academics and foreign ministry officials. "Ultimately, it rests on whole communities to come together in a consolidated effort to challenge and defeat the extremist ideologies and keep our society together." Ho cited Singapore's rehabilitation programme for detained members of the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) militant group linked to an alleged plot to bomb US and other foreign targets in the city-state in 2001. Comprised of volunteer Islamic scholars and leaders, the Religious Rehabilitation Group aims "to correct JI members' distorted understanding of their religion which had been fed to them by their leaders," Ho said. Under the programme, core doctrinal concepts in the JI ideology are identified and refuted. The detained members are also given counselling. Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng said last month three of the JI members arrested over the alleged bomb plot were freed after they cooperated in the investigation and were rehabilitated. Ten are still being held under the Internal Security Act which allows for detention without trial. Singapore has also taken steps to prevent militants from "sowing seeds of distrust and animosity" in the ethnically diverse nation through a community engagement programme, which aims to maintain social harmony in the event of a national crisis, Ho said. "Terrorism developments can potentially lead to increased polarisation," he said. "This is where the public at large can take active steps to build bridges and defuse misunderstandings between and within communities to improve the situation." The two-day Singapore meeting, which focuses on counter-terrorism efforts, was held under the auspices of the ASEAN Regional Forum, Asia's premier security dialogue involving 26 nations, including the United States, Russia, China and Japan. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.mba/bh/mtp