Country Report on Terrorism 2017 - Chapter 1 - Singapore

Overview: Singapore identified counterterrorism as a top policy priority and has developed a comprehensive counterterrorism strategy based on global and regional trends. This strategy includes vigilant security measures, regional and international law enforcement cooperation, counter-radicalization efforts, and strategies to prepare the populace for eventual attacks. As such, Singapore remained a committed, active, and effective counterterrorism partner in 2017.

Counterterrorism remained a pillar of the civilian sector security relationship between Singapore and the United States. The highly productive levels of counterterrorism cooperation developed in recent years continued as did expanded information sharing. Singapore’s domestic counterterrorism apparatus and its ability to detect, deter, and disrupt threats remained effective. Singapore has been a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS since 2014 and expanded its support in 2016 beyond military assets to include medical teams in Iraq.

The United States worked closely throughout the year with Singapore to identify and develop new capabilities that meet a wide variety of requirements for countering terrorist threats. Through a cost-sharing bilateral relationship, both countries advanced their technical ability to defeat or mitigate the evolving capabilities of terrorists and criminal organizations.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Singapore uses its Internal Security Act (ISA) to arrest and detain suspected terrorists. The ISA authorizes the Minister for Home Affairs (MHA), with the consent of the president, to order arrest and detention without warrant if it is determined that a person poses a threat to national security. The initial detention may be for up to two years and the MHA may renew the detention for an unlimited period – in increments of up to two years at a time – with the president’s consent. Alternatively, the government can issue a restriction order limiting a person’s international travel and changes of residence or employment without government approval. ISA cases are subject to review by the courts to ensure strict compliance with procedural requirements under the act.

Singapore’s existing legal framework, in conjunction with the ISA, provides the government with the necessary tools to support the investigation and prosecution of terrorism offenses. In October, Singapore passed the “Infrastructure Protection Act” that mandates enhanced counterterrorism security measures for public buildings and sensitive sites. Law enforcement agencies displayed coordination, command, and control in responding to threat information affecting Singapore’s security.

The Government of Singapore has a “not if, but when” stance regarding the likelihood of terrorist attacks within the city-state. The government’s SGSecure public awareness campaign was launched in 2016 to improve emergency preparedness, promote security awareness, and build national resiliency. The campaign continued in 2017 with a broad advertising campaign and public information sessions with local police.

To better detect possible terrorist movements via air into or transiting through Singapore, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority worked with the United States to improve its passenger screening system by integrating both Advanced Passenger Information and Passenger Name Record data transmitted from air carriers into its border screening processes. Implementation of this program by Singapore will help its government safeguard international travel and supply chains against terrorism by analyzing traveler data and developing targeting rules and methodologies.

Singapore issued at least four detention and two restriction orders to Singaporeans under the ISA in 2017. With these arrests, Singapore has issued detention or restriction orders to at least 19 Singaporeans for terrorism-related activities since 2015. In 2017, Singapore expelled several radicalized foreign domestic workers, fined and expelled a foreign Muslim teacher for reciting an inflammatory prayer, and banned three foreign Muslim preachers from entering the country due to the preachers’ “divisive” comments that were contrary to Singaporean policies of racial and religious harmony and inclusion. We refer you to the State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for further information.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Singapore is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering, a FATF-style regional body. Singapore’s Suspicious Transaction Reporting Office is a member of the Egmont Group. In April 2017, Singapore announced the creation of an Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Industry Partnership (ACIP). The ACIP is a joint initiative between the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the Commercial Affairs Department of the Singapore Police Force, with the goal of bringing together relevant government agencies and private sector participants to strengthen Singapore’s capabilities to combat money laundering and terrorist financing. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2018 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes.

Countering Violent Extremism (CVE): Through entities such as the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research (ICPVTR) and the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG), Singapore serves as a regional CVE hub. The ICPVTR conducts research, training, and outreach programs aimed at understanding the causes of radicalization to violence and formulating practical rehabilitation programs. The government also encourages inter-religious and inter-ethnic dialogue through Interracial and Religious Confidence Circles, local community fora that bring leaders from Singapore’s religious and ethnic communities together to discuss issues of concern and build trust.

The government believes in building regional capacity to counter violent extremism and has highlighted opportunities for constructive engagement, such as promoting legitimate charities working to ease suffering in Syria and Iraq. The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore, the Islamic authority in charge of Muslim affairs, maintains a Facebook presence and holds outreach and educational events to counter terrorist propaganda and recruitment efforts.

The RRG, a volunteer organization, has had success in counseling detainees held under the Internal Security Act. The comprehensive program includes religious and psychological counseling and involves the detainee’s family and community. In 2016, the RRG launched a smart phone app designed to counter terrorist voices by providing users with opportunities to ask questions and have conversations with RRG imams and counselors.

International and Regional Cooperation: Singapore is an active participant in counterterrorism cooperation efforts in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the ASEAN Regional Forum, and Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, and has prioritized regional counterterrorism cooperation as ASEAN chair. In December, Singapore hosted Philippine forces at its new urban conflict training center and participated in its first counterterrorism tabletop exercise with Indonesian forces in November. In March, Singapore co-hosted, with Turkey and the United States, the First Regional Workshop of the Global Counterterrorism Forum’s Protection of Soft Targets in a Counterterrorism Context Initiative.