Overview: Singapore continued to identify counterterrorism as the nation’s top security policy priority and developed a comprehensive CT strategy based on global and regional trends. This strategy included vigilant security measures, regional and international law enforcement cooperation, counter-radicalization efforts, and a campaign to prepare the populace for possible attacks. Singapore was a committed, active, and effective CT partner in 2019. Counterterrorism remained a pillar of the security relationship between Singaporean and U.S. law enforcement and security services. The levels of cooperation on CT efforts and information sharing remained steady in 2019. Singapore’s domestic CT apparatus and its ability to detect, deter, and disrupt threats remained effective. Singapore is a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.
2019 Terrorist Incidents: There were no terrorist incidents in Singapore in 2019.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Singapore uses its Internal Security Act (ISA) to arrest and detain suspected terrorists. The ISA authorizes the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), with the consent of the president, to order arrests and detentions without warrants, if it is determined that individuals pose a threat to national security. The initial detention may be for up to two years, and the MHA may renew detention orders 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 the necessary tools to support the investigation and prosecution of terrorism offenses.
Singapore detained numerous individuals under the ISA for terrorism-related activities in 2019, including a Singaporean who was an alleged supporter of Sri Lankan radical preacher Zahran Hashim, identified by the Sri Lankan authorities as the mastermind of the April 21 terrorist attack in Colombo. Singapore issued detention orders against foreign domestic workers for the first time in 2019, detaining three Indonesian women in September while investigating their terrorism financing activities. Singapore released at least four individuals who were being detained under the ISA after assessing their rehabilitation progress and determining that the individuals no longer posed a security threat that required preventive detention.
Singapore maintains a “not if, but when” stance regarding the likelihood of terrorist attacks within the city-state. The government’s SGSecure public awareness campaign, started in 2016 to improve emergency preparedness, promote security awareness, and build national resiliency, launched a “SGSecure Roadshow” program in August to bring interactive and informational tools on emergency preparedness directly to communities. Roadshows will be held in shopping malls and town centers throughout the country. The Singapore Police Force and Singapore Civil Defense Force continued regular CT exercises in 2019, including conducting simulated terrorist attacks in a place of worship and a concert setting for the first time. The MHA launched the Home Team Science and Technology Agency in December with a mandate to develop science and technology capabilities to enhance Singapore’s ability to address emerging threats and evolving challenges on the security landscape.
To better detect possible terrorist movements by air into or transiting through the country, Singapore’s primary border security agency, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority, is working to improve its passenger screening system by integrating API/PNR data transmitted from air carriers into its border screening processes.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Singapore has maintained an Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Industry Partnership (ACIP) since 2017. 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. In April, Singapore’s “Serious Crimes and Counter-Terrorism (Miscellaneous Amendments) Act” went into effect, strengthening AML and CFT frameworks. The law updated the Terrorism (Suppression of Financing) Act to expand the scope of prohibited activities to include financing travel for terrorist training and increase penalties for terrorism financing. The law also allowed Singapore’s FIU, the Suspicious Transaction Report Office, to exchange financial intelligence with FIUs in a broader range of overseas jurisdictions. Singapore convicted and sentenced the first Singaporean national under the Terrorism (Suppression of Financing) Act in October. The accused was sentenced to 30 months in jail for providing approximately $1,000 to an individual overseas who was facilitating terrorist acts.
Countering Violent Extremism: 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 “extremism” and formulating practical rehabilitation programs. The government also encourages inter-religious and inter-ethnic dialogue through Interracial and Religious Confidence Circles and the inter-agency Aftercare Group, 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 CVE capacity, and has highlighted opportunities for constructive engagement for those concerned with the conflict in Syria and Iraq, such as promoting legitimate charities working to ease suffering in conflict zones. The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS), 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. MUIS manages the Asatizah Recognition Scheme that vets Islamic Religious Council teachers and scholars in Singapore.
Singapore’s RRG, a volunteer organization made up of Islamic scholars and teachers, has had success in counseling detainees held under the ISA. The comprehensive program includes religious and psychological counseling and involves the detainee’s family and community. The RRG also operated a resource and counseling center for the Muslim community and held community events, such as a documentary screening and dialogue with foreign domestic workers in Singapore, to discuss religious concepts and indicators of radicalization.
International and Regional Cooperation: Singapore is an active participant in CT cooperation efforts in ASEAN, the ASEAN Regional Forum, and APEC. Singapore is a strong advocate for the ASEAN “Our Eyes” regional initiative, which strives for ministerial-level CT information sharing. Singapore remains interested in improving regional CT information sharing at the operational level as well. In October, Singapore and Jordan co-hosted the “Aqaba Process” Southeast Asia Expert-Level Meeting. Singapore attended the Fifth Counter-Terrorism Financing (CTF) Summit 2019 held in November 2019 in Manila, Philippines, and contributes actively to a number of information sharing projects under the CTF Summit’s South East Asia Counter-Terrorism Financing Working Group.