Opening Remarks by Ambassador Ong Keng Yong, Executive Deputy Chairman of RSIS, at the “2018 Southeast Asia Counter-Terrorism Symposium: A Collective Approach”
4 October 2018 | 9.00 am
Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel Singapore
Good morning, Gen (Ret) Ryamizard Ryacudu, Minister of Defence of the Republic of Indonesia and guest of honour at this Symposium, Excellencies, distinguished guests, friends, ladies and gentlemen.
Allow me to warmly welcome all of you to The 2018 Southeast Asia Counter-Terrorism Symposium: A Collective Approach.
The Symposium is organised by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, with support from the Ministries of Defence, Foreign Affairs, Home Affairs, and Culture, Community and Youth, and the National Security Coordination Secretariat.
I should leave the opening address to our Guest of Honour, Gen Ryamizard but allow me to say a few words about this particular event, and how we have arrived at this point.
Over three years ago, in April 2015, RSIS together with the Singapore government organised the East Asia Summit (EAS) Symposium on Religious Rehabilitation and Social Reintegration. That was a landmark symposium – the first time the East Asia Summit countries came together to discuss exchange ideas on terrorism in a dedicated fashion. We saw speakers from different domains come together to talk with purpose and perspective about extremism, radicalism and how to reintegrate those individuals involved in these activities into our respective societies.
This present symposium, organized as part of Singapore’s ASEAN chairmanship, takes stock on what has been achieved since then. Of note, Counter-Terrorism (CT) is now a key focus area for ASEAN, and this has translated into closer CT cooperation among ASEAN Member States, such as through platforms like the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting and ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crime. It has been organized also to examine how violent extremism has changed and to lay out suggestions for the work that needs to be done in this area by governments, law enforcement, militaries, civil society and the private sector.
This discussion and sharing of notes is an urgent priority.
The field has changed. ISIS has suffered serious battlefield reverses in Syria and Iraq, and on the face of it might seem to be a shadow of its former self. But for those of us in the room, we know that this is only part of the story. For one, there is the issue of ISIS returnees. Various countries would have their own mechanisms to deal with returnees. It was important for sharing of best practices when it came to deradicalisation or disengagement from extremism to take place, with countries learning and adapting as the needs of their own local context dictated. This was why Track 1.5 mechanisms like the present Symposium matter.
That is one part of the story. The other part is continued ISIS resilience particularly in the ideological battlefields of the mind, and especially in fostering its own brand of intolerance and exclusivist thought, even as nations attempt to shore up their own resilience. ISIS operatives, sympathizers and fanboys have benefitted greatly from use of the darker corners of the Internet. It is not by accident therefore that we have in the lineup social media companies represented. This itself is a testament to how necessary and vital their input and indeed their buy-in is when it comes to combating radical thought online and in the echo chambers of the mind.
Over the next two days, the Symposium will discuss four key topics: (a) building societal resilience against terrorism; (b) enhancing the region’s ability to tackle the increasingly militarised terror networks; (c) tapping technological advancements for CT; and (d) exploring areas of cooperation to enhance ASEAN’s collective CT capacity.
We also have presenters who will give the Singapore approach to these issues. But, as I am sure many of you know, the Singapore approach is to share what we know and what we have learnt. We do not prescribe universal solutions for others. Indeed in Singapore, we are keen to learn from others. Many things have happened in Singapore in recent years since EAS Symposium – for example, more self-radicalised individuals, and younger individuals detained, and these are not the same as those arrested from groups like the Jemaah Islamiah. They pose different challenges when it comes to deradicalisation. We ourselves in Singapore know that we do not have all the answers and therefore we are keen to learn from the vast expertise gathered in this room – from the panels, and of course from the many fruitful side discussions which I know will take places in the corridors and over meals.
I want mention also the site visits. Delegates and speakers will be visiting the Singapore Armed Forces’ Island Defence Training Institute and the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) Resource and Counseling Centre. They will learn how Singapore’s national security agencies cooperate in homeland security and how RRG leaders and counselors carry out Singapore’s religious rehabilitation efforts. Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs Dr Mohamad Maliki Bin Osman will also host the speakers, delegates and invited guests to an official dinner this evening.
In closing, let me draw you back to the EAS Symposium in 2015 – this was subtitled “Building Resilience – Reintegrating Lives”. These key words – resilience and reintegration – are just as resonant today as they were three and a half years ago. These words also speak to the multi-year, multi-pronged effort that will be needed not just to defeat not just ISIS, but an intolerant ideology that comes with it. Indeed, unless we are careful may well be ISIS’ by-product and legacy – an ideology that provides the atmospherics for sectarianiam and exclusivist thought.
I think I speak for many of us in saying that I look forward to hearing the discussions and recommendations from the various panels that will take place over these two days.
I would also like to thank the RSIS colleagues and the interagency team who have been working so hard to make this event possible.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to thank you all for making time to join us this morning, and I thank you for your kind attention.
- News Release
- Opening Address by HE GEN (Ret) Ryamizard Ryacudu, Minister of Defence, Ministry of Defence, Indonesia
- Remarks by Dr Mohamad Maliki Bin Osman, Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs, at the Official Dinner
- Event Page
- Three Challenges for ASEAN in Military’s Growing Role in Fighting Terror, The Straits Times, 13 September 2018
- Top Malaysian Defence Officials Visit Singapore, The Straits Times, 3 October 2018
- Singapore, Malaysia Reaffirm Warm Defence Relations, Channel NewsAsia, 3 October 2018
- Singapore Working Closely with Indonesia to Get more Support for Regional Counter-terrorism Network: Ng Eng Hen, The Straits Times, 4 October 2018
- Exchanging Information Vital to Fight Terror in the Region: Indonesian Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu, The Straits Times, 4 October 2018
- Top Malaysian Defence Officials Visit Singapore, The New Paper, 4 October 2018
- ASEAN Countries Seek to Forge Stronger Ties against Terrorism, Xinhua News Agency, 5 October 2018
- Jakarta Minister Cites Marawi Siege to Stress Sharing of Intelligence, The Straits Times, 5 October 2018
- Singapore Seeks Support for Regional Anti-terror Platform, The Straits Times, 5 October 2018
- ASEAN Calls for Enhanced Anti-terrorism Capacity, Vietnam Plus, 5 October 2018
Last updated on 02/07/2019