Laws to counter terrorism strengthened over the years

Mar 11, 2021 | 🚀 Fathership

Singapore has been strengthening its laws over the years to meet the persistent threat of terrorism, said Minister of State for Home Affairs Desmond Tan.

Prohibitions on terrorism financing have been expanded and stringent controls on the sale and possession of weapons imposed, Mr Tan said yesterday, highlighting the continued relevance of the Internal Security Act (ISA).

He was responding in Parliament to eight questions from four MPs on the recent arrest of the 16-year-old self-radicalised Singaporean and regarding the country's measures against extremism and radicalisation.

The Protestant Christian youth was arrested in December, after he made detailed plans and preparations to attack Muslims at two mosques here using a machete.

He is the youngest person to be dealt with under the ISA for terrorism-related activities.

Mr Tan said the Terrorism (Suppression of Financing) Act was updated and came into force in April 2019. "Key changes included expanding the prohibition on financing terrorism activities to include terrorism training, and increasing penalties for failing to disclose information relating to terrorism financing to the authorities."

He also cited the detection and arrest of the 16-year-old to underscore the continued importance of the ISA. It is a law that enables the authorities to act pre-emptively before attacks happen, thus preventing injury, loss of life and damage to Singapore's communal harmony, said Mr Tan.

The Government also exercises tight control over offensive weapons and firearms, said Mr Tan, with the Guns, Explosives and Weapons Control Act passed by Parliament last month. It replaced the Arms and Explosives Act.

He noted that the law applies regardless of the mode of sale, be it via physical retail stores or online e-commerce platforms.

Yesterday, Mr Tan also said Singapore denounces terror attacks whenever they happen "to send a clear message about where we stand as a people on this".

"The Government has publicly condemned overseas terrorist attacks. We are also fortunate to have the support of our religious leaders, who have been proactive in publicly condemning terror attacks and reminding their followers to stay calm and not react to expressions of extreme sentiments and acts of violence in the name of religion," he said.

Such unity was seen in the wake of the Christchurch shootings in March 2019 and again after news of the 16-year-old's arrest.

In response to a question from Mr Desmond Choo (Tampines GRC) on whether the youth had operated as a "lone wolf", Mr Tan said that the Internal Security Department's investigations found that he was operating alone, with no indication that he had tried to involve others in his plans.

"This case shows clearly that violent impulses are not restricted to any particular racial or religious group. People who have been exposed to hate speech can become influenced by it," said Mr Tan.

He added that the youth will undergo psychological and religious counselling to correct his radical ideology and address his propensity for violence.

Fabian Koh

PSP's Tan Cheng Bock voted out as Sec-Gen after alleged party infighting

Apr 01, 2021 | 🚀 Fathership

Former Republic of Singapore Air Force colonel Francis Yuen has been appointed secretary-general of the Progress Singapore Party (PSP), taking over from party founder Tan Cheng Bock.

Dr Tan, 80, has become party chairman. This was announced by the PSP on Thursday (April 1), after its central executive committee (CEC) met on Wednesday.

In a Facebook post, PSP Non-Constituency MP Leong Mun Wai said Mr Yuen was the committee's unanimous choice to "lead PSP to the next level".

"Francis will lead and galvanise the party while (Dr Tan) concentrates on strengthening external support for PSP," he wrote.

Chairman role is basically a glorified flower pot

In many organisations around the world, the Secretary-General position has the authority to make all the decisions of running the organisation - or party. The Chairman generally does not have any more power pe se than any other voting member of the Executive Committee, except the power to run board meetings.

Comparatively, the Secretary-General is like the Chief Executive Officer of the company.

For example, the People's Action Party chairman is Gan Kim Yong while the Secretary-General is Lee Hsien Loong.

Party infighting?

The change comes amid reports of a rift in the party. An online news site, the RedWire Times, said in March that some party cadres have demanded for Dr Tan to step down as secretary-general, and allow for "more talented rising stars" to take over.

Commenting on the Redwire Times report, PSP member Kumaran Pillai said the new CEC line-up is in no way a reflection of any disagreement over the leadership of the party. Rather, Mr Yuen assuming the secretary-general role is part of a planned transition, he added.

“When Dr Tan started the party, he said he will mentor someone younger, and he hasn’t deviated from his original mission. People shouldn’t be reading too much into it.”

Mr Pillai added that he had a long dialogue with the party cadre who was quoted anonymously by Redwire Times as saying that some cadres are mustering support to demand for Dr Tan to step down from his post.

“His intention is not to stage a coup within the party. I think people have misinterpreted it and misunderstood what he said, sometimes it's like playing broken telephone, you say one thing and by the time you get to the last person, the whole story gets distorted along the way... there’s no infighting, there's no malice,” he said.

In other words, the flower pot needs watering.