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Inconsistent “national security” focus has serious consequences for Singapore

By Ghui

National security is a subject that ought to be taken very seriously. This is especially relevant when put in the context of increased political volatility in many places in the world and the rise of terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda and of late, ISIS. It is precisely because of the importance of national security that the term should not be used inconsistently or lightly.

Recently, an incident whose plot read like that of a thrilling TV show, an UK citizen hired the services of Child Abduction Recovery International to retrieve her child from the custody of his/her Singaporean father. I do not wish to speculate on the motivations of the clearly desperate mother or cast aspersions as to the rightness or wrongness of the whole episode as these are the result of family conflicts which are private, subjective and complicated. What I would like to focus on however, is the manner in which employees of Child Abduction Recovery International were able to enter Singapore without detection.

Given that the perpetrators of the 2008 Mumbai attacks had gained access to Mumbai through the sea and through the reconnaissance efforts of the half American and Half Pakistani David Headley who posed as a rich playboy and was thus never investigated, the government should really give our more pressing national security breaches more weight. A shining yacht should not be exempt from police supervision just because of a presumption that its rich inhabitants are not up to no good. Just because Raffles Marina is the domain of the rich does not absolve it from being monitored.

It is ironical that while the government is focused on the banning of a film out of "national security" concerns, a real breach of national security was being carried out. A case of misplaced efforts?

Another incident that comes to mind is the Yang Yin saga. Given the rights granted to PRs in Singapore, shouldn't there be a transparent, objective and standardised means of obtaining PR status? How is it that someone like Yang Yin has managed to infiltrate even the PAP through the PA and grassroots activities?

Are we unwittingly welcoming people with malevolent intentions onto our shores without question? What happens if a terrorist organisation manages the same feat? What is being done to deal with real national security issues such as those allegedly perpetrated by Yang Yin? Given the ease at which Yang Yin has gained PR status and how Child Abduction Recovery so easily stepped onto Singapore shores, we really need to urgently focus our attentions on what really constitutes national security and tackle those as a matter of priority.

Is the government focusing too much on perceived national security issues and too little on what could potentially have more grievous outcomes for Singapore?

What does national security really mean to the government? It needs to clarify this further, and Singaporeans have the right to know. To me, and I am certain to any other average Joe, national security concerns relate to war, terrorism, riots and unrest. Foreigners without benign intent fall into this category much more than a film about Singapore made by Singaporeans discussing topics about Singapore.

More efforts should be placed on ensuring that the integrity of our island is made secure as opposed to the banning of a film which Singaporeans can easily cross the border to watch. Not focusing on what is really dangerous, such as how foreigners with ill intent can gain access to our country, could have much more dangerous consequences for Singapore than a film.

To use the term "national security" on a film is, in my humble opinion and with all due respect, a mockery of the term and the gravity it is supposed to instil. This is even more so when real breaches of security have occurred at around the same time.