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Serious Good PM Lee Wish ISD Happy 75th Anniversary! ISD Helps To Uphold Democracy In Singapore!


Alfrescian (InfP)
Generous Asset

SINGAPORE – Countries have to defend themselves against all sorts of threats, and it would be gullible to think that everyone wishes Singapore well, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Tuesday.

He noted that the country faces dangers on two fronts. From abroad, Singapore can be targeted by foreign influence operations and covert activities, while domestically, vulnerabilities and fault lines need to be managed.

While it is necessary for a country to have leaders with great ideas to inspire people to work hard and unite behind a common cause, this is not enough to ensure progress and prosperity, PM Lee said at a dinner to mark the Internal Security Department’s (ISD) 75th anniversary.

Real life is more complicated and nation-building is not “all sweetness and light”, he said.

“While we must not be paranoid and see shadows behind every corner, neither should we be naive about the real threats to an open and stable society,” he added. “It is therefore critical for the government to stay well informed about such threats, and be equipped to deal with them.”

Speaking to past and present ISD officers at the dinner, held at the Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore, PM Lee said the department plays a crucial role in providing the Government with timely information and insightful assessments beyond what is in the public domain.

PM Lee said to the officers at the closed-door event: “You are our eyes and ears on the ground, keeping in touch with all these various groups. You watch the trends vigilantly, and when problems threaten to grow serious, nip them in the bud before they can get out of hand.

“In essence, you protect the public space for the proper and successful functioning of Singapore’s democratic process.”

While Singapore has come a long way in building trust between its different communities since independence, it would be unwise to imagine that differences in perspectives have entirely disappeared, he said.

One only has to look at recent developments to see that such differences still exist and can cause friction and serious problems if not properly handled, he added.

He listed US-China tensions, violence in the Middle East, and the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict as examples of issues that have caused strong reactions among Singaporeans of different age groups or religious beliefs.

“On the US-China tensions, Chinese Singaporeans, especially the older ones, tend to have different views compared with other Singaporeans. Every time conflict and violence flare up in the Middle East, passions get roused... in South-east Asia, and to some extent in Singapore too,” PM Lee said.

“The ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict is an especially emotive issue for Muslim Singaporeans, who empathise strongly with the plight of the Palestinian population, just like Muslim communities worldwide. And on the other side, certain segments of our Jewish and Christian communities get worked up too.”

He added: “All these differences are a reality that we must recognise and accept.”

The threat of terrorism, which springs from the broader security situation in the region, also continues to be a security issue for Singapore, he noted.

While it has been 22 years since the 9/11 attacks in New York, the threat from transnational Islamist terrorist groups remains persistent and they continue to operate in nearby countries, including Indonesia and the Philippines, he said.

These groups are employing new strategies for recruitment and fund raising and have developed novel tactics for their attack operations.

Aside from large terrorist groups, there are also lone-wolf and small-group attacks, using easily available weapons, which have become a more frequent modus operandi. These individuals do not need a well-defined structure for indoctrination, training, or command and control – only an Internet connection to call them into action and turn them into a danger to others, said PM Lee.

New forms of extremist ideologies are also emerging. In late 2020, Singapore dealt with its first far-right radicalisation case when a 16-year-old boy who was inspired by the 2019 Christchurch attacks planned to attack Muslims at two local mosques in Singapore. The boy was detained under the Internal Security Act.

PM Lee said: “We take this danger seriously, because a single act of terror could tear apart the racial and religious harmony and trust that we have painstakingly built over the decades... This is where ISD comes in – to make sure our people do not get captured by some extreme ideology, or caught up in quarrels which are not ours, to sow chaos within our own community.”

In addition to terrorism and domestic vulnerabilities, Singapore is also threatened by foreign actors who seek to subvert society, mount influence operations to manipulate Singaporeans or conduct espionage to compromise national secrets, he said.

While these covert activities are not talked about much, there is no shortage of such threats in the world, and foreign influence and espionage remain a major security issue, added PM Lee. While the Singapore Armed Forces deals with physical attacks and wars, the ISD looks out for insidious threats that lurk in the shadows.

He cited the 2017 incident involving a professor from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy who was expelled from Singapore for trying to influence senior decision-makers here. The China-born academic, Huang Jing, had worked with foreign intelligence groups and agents.

PM Lee said ISD is the first line of defence when it comes to such influences and espionage operations, and must be as capable and shrewd as its adversaries when deciding how best to deal with these threats.

He noted that ISD, which was established by the British colonial government as the Singapore Special Branch in 1948, has been transforming itself to ensure it remains capable today amid a constantly evolving environment.

This includes having good facilities and offices that are conducive to ISD officers’ work and training, and attractive career propositions that involve developing officers well and keeping them committed and motivated.

PM Lee said it is not by chance that Singapore has succeeded in mitigating and neutralising security threats to domestic security and sovereignty since its independence.

“ISD has been the steady force at our front lines. It has been neither shaken, nor stirred. Often staying away from the limelight, but ever present and ready to respond,” he said.

“We all sleep easier at night, knowing that ISD is there, keeping a watchful eye on things which can go bump in the night,” added PM Lee.



Alfrescian (InfP)
Generous Asset
Detaining PAP critics and dissidents without trial is democratic? Quite a stretch of the imagination!

ISD evidence is reviewed by judges and the Home Affairs ministers to ensure that there's no abuse of power. Relax.