11 Jul 2005

The Official Launch of The Counter-Terrorism Security Briefing for Taxi Drivers - Speech by Mr Wong Kan Seng, Minister for Home Affairs

‚ÄčTerrorism has posed a threat to Singapore for many years, even before our independence. We fought the communist terrorists in the 1950s to 1970s, and dealt with other terrorist groups in the following years. For example, some of you may remember the "Laju" incident in 1974, when four international terrorists hijacked a Bukom ferry, and the SQ117 hijacking in 1991.

2 Then in December 2001, we uncovered the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) terrorist group. The JI was plotting to bomb key installations in Singapore, which would also have killed many Singaporeans. The JI wanted to use violence to overthrow the governments in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Singapore.

3 The JI's plot against Singapore was prevented by ISD, and its network in Singapore has since been crippled, but this does not mean that Singapore is now completely safe. The JI network across Southeast Asia still views Singapore as a target, and they will continue to try to attack us. One reason is that we have arrested more than 30 JI members in our security operations, and placed many others on Restriction Orders. Singapore also provided information to neighbouring governments on the JI, which led to the JI members there being arrested as well. The JI, therefore, would want to avenge their "brothers" who have been caught as a result of our operations against them. Additionally, radical elements in the region, including the JI, who see the US as their principal enemy, associate Singapore as a US ally, because of our strong support for US actions against terrorism.

4 Even though more than 200 JI members have been arrested in Southeast Asia, there are many more members who are in hiding and planning to carry out more attacks. Among the JI members at large are Singaporeans who managed to escape ISD's arrests. Moreover, the regional JI has been recruiting more members to fill the ranks of those who have been arrested, and are also collaborating with other terrorist groups. The JI, therefore, has the manpower and resources to continue their terror plans in the region, including against Singapore. Singapore continues to face a real and immediate threat from terrorism.

5 We are fortunate that there have been no attacks in Singapore, but we cannot take this peace for granted. We cannot just sit back and hope for the peace to continue. Instead, we must be proactive in our security measures, so that we can stay several steps ahead of the terrorists. To this end, we have implemented a variety of measures, such as using advanced technology and training new security officers, to ensure Singapore's security. For example, we have deployed cargo scanners, mechanical sniffers and X-ray machines at our checkpoints, and air marshals on board Singapore airplanes. We have tightened security at likely target places in Singapore.

6 These efforts by the authorities, however, may not be enough. The terrorists are resourceful, and may be able to evade the detection measures. Just look at what happened in London. Because of their experience with the IRA terrorists, London has always been on the alert and has never been complacent about the threat of terrorism. Since 9-11, they have stepped up security even more. Despite all this, the terrorists succeeded in bombing the heart of their city.

7 So we must never be complacent. We must not assume that we can leave the security of Singapore entirely to the Police and ISD. Moreover, the Police and ISD cannot be everywhere. To be comprehensive in our security coverage, we need every Singaporean to be our additional eyes and ears on the ground, to detect and alert us to any terrorist planning and activity.

8 All of you in the taxi service sector, as well as other workers in the transportation industry, can play a critical role in preventing terrorism, more than what you may think. To carry out an attack, the terrorists need to do the following: select the target and conduct reconnaissance of the target; talent-spot, cultivate and prepare the individuals to carry out the attack; and procure materials to build the bomb. To carry out these activities, the terrorists may need to acquire information from the local population, such as at the information counters of hotels and shopping malls, to familiarise themselves with the target. The terrorists will need transportation to get to the target area, and there, to conduct reconnaissance. In many cases, they will borrow or rent vehicles or hire taxis to take them around. The terrorists may also need to purchase locally, some of the materials for the bomb, for example, handphones to remotely detonate the bomb. For communications with each other, they will likely purchase prepaid mobile phonecards or use Internet facilities at Internet cafes. Finally, they will require a "safe" place to assemble their bomb; for this, they may use the home or office of a local collaborator or rent a room or home or warehouse.

9 At these points where the terrorists come into contact with the local population, they can be detected, and foiled. If Singaporeans are alert to the terrorists' suspicious behaviour and intentions, and report it to the Police or ISD, we will be able to deal with them before they attack. This is why since January 2002, the Police and ISD have embarked on a security outreach programme to the general public, and to specific groups of Singaporeans who may be used or targeted by the terrorists in their operations, like hotels, transport perators, government buildings, airline offices, as well as commercial buildings including shopping malls, convention centres, and banks. In the coming months, we will be reaching out to other groups of Singaporeans.

10 Today's programme for taxi drivers is an important part of this counter-terrorism outreach. There are 40,000 of you, taxi drivers, who work our roads, day and night. You are, therefore, in an excellent position to contribute to Singapore's security by being our additional eyes and ears. Indeed, since last year, after we produced our pamphlet and video-clip on how taxi drivers can help keep Singapore safe from terrorism, a good number of you have reported suspicious activities to the Police and ISD. Please keep these calls coming. When terrorists know that every Singaporean, every taxi driver, is keeping an eye out for suspicious behaviour and suspicious characters, they will be more deterred from trying an attack here. They know that there is a high chance that they may be discovered and alerted to the authorities.

11 Let me end by thanking all of you for taking time off from your driving, to be here today. I thank also the organisers and sponsors who have made this counter-terrorism briefing possible. Together, let us make Singapore a difficult target for terrorists.

Last Updated on 21 Mar 2016
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