RYAN URBAN WRITES – The recent detention of two Singapore men under a decades-old law that allows people to be held for two years without trial shows just how worried – and ill-prepared – some countries are in the fight against modern terrorism.
The men were detained under an old law known as the Internal Securities Act, which lets members of the government detain any individual for up to two years, if authorities believe they were planning any form of terrorism in or out of the country. In this case, the two men were suspected of planning to travel to Syria to fight alongside the militant group ISIS, or Islamic State.
It’s not the first time this year that Singapore has used the 60-year-old law to address alleged Islamic terrorism. And its deployment reflects a truth found in other countries as well: Legislation has not always kept up with the perceived need to fight terrorism. The result is that sometimes ham-fisted laws like the ISA are still used where perhaps more subtle steps could be taken.
In January, the Internal Security Department arrested 27 Bangladeshi nationals working in Singapore who were allegedly planning to take part in extremist activities in other countries, including their homeland of Bangladesh. Singaporean authorities said none of the Bangladeshis’ terrorist plans were aimed at or occurred in Singapore. One difference: While the group was deemed radicalized and detained under the ISA, they were still given a trial.
Singapore has been in a state of full alert ever since Indonesian police arrested a group of six men in early August over an alleged plot to launch a rocket attack in Singapore.
After learning of the alleged plot, which authorities say was being aided by ISIS,Singapore has doubled down on its anti-terror efforts. On a state visit to the United States, the country’s premier Lee Hsien Loong said, Singapore would deploy a new medical team in Iraq to help in the anti-ISIS fight.
Singapore had already been involved in international, anti-terror efforts. It was the first Southeast Asian state to join the U.S.-led Global Coalition to Counter ISIS and participates in non-combat efforts such as air-to-air refueling and image interpretation with the U.S. military. But sending actual bodies (in the form of medics) to the front represents a substantial upping of its game.