Singapore, Indonesia working to build intelligence-sharing platform
S'pore to work closely with Indonesia on proposed platform
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 yesterday.
He said it is working with Indonesia over the proposed platform that shares intelligence on terrorists and their networks, given that terrorism is one threat facing Singapore today.
"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," Dr Ng said at the annual Total Defence Awards Dinner at the Raffles City Convention Centre yesterday.
Singapore and Indonesia are in the Our Eyes Initiative, 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, comes after the siege of Marawi city by Islamic State in Iraq and Syria-linked (ISIS) 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.
Yesterday, 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 yesterday.
In his speech at the awards dinner, Dr Ng said 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 attacks in May - where two terrorists co-opted their families, including their children, as suicide bombers - 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".
Digital defence may be added as a sixth pillar of Total Defence
To address the very real impact of cyber attacks, the Government is taking steps to shape the Total Defence framework that may see digital defence added as a sixth pillar, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen.
He said it is time to apply the concept of Total Defence to cyber threats and that the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) is working through the details with other ministries.
"Total Defence has been around for more than three decades. It started in the last millennia; we're now in the new millennia. I think it's time to apply the concept of Total Defence to threats from the digital domain," said Dr Ng.
Total Defence began in 1984 to reflect the multi-dimensional nature of defence, comprising five pillars in social, psychological, military, civil and economic.
Speaking at the annual Total Defence Awards Dinner held last night, Dr Ng said Singapore is less prepared as a society against threats from the digital domain, compared to physical threats.
"And yet, the impact of some of these threats from the cyber area can be as devastating, if not more."
Dr Ng cited examples of cyberthreats, like how Facebook experienced its worst security breach recently, in which hackers accessed the accounts of some 50 million users.
He added that individuals, companies and Singapore can suffer from weak digital defences while Internet scams target the vulnerable to steal information and cheat individuals. He revealed that he has been a target of such attempts.
Also worrying is how false information through weak cyber defences can have disastrous social consequences, and cyber attacks on critical infrastructure could disrupt lives and even lead to injury and death, said Dr Ng.
He cited how false claims spread online about the disruption of a Thaipusam procession by a police officer and a member of the Hindu Endowments Board this year had garnered at least 3,000 shares on Facebook in less than three days.
"Given our multicultural make-up, this misinformation could have caused great division along racial or religious fault lines," he said.
Dr Ng gave out awards at the event, with the NS Advocate Awards presented to small and medium-sized enterprises, large companies, individuals and organisations.
It is the highest accolade conferred in recognition of their exemplary support towards Total Defence and national service. - LIM MIN ZHANG