MINDEF-SAF personnel forced to download SGSecure app

From ‘All Mindef-SAF personnel required to download SGsecure app’, 28 July 2017, article in Today

All Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and Ministry of Defence (Mindef) personnel are required to download the SGSecure application on their mobile phones and complete the e-learning modules within, the ministry said on Friday (July 28) amid online complaints from users who said they had been forced to install the software.

The app, which enables the police and the Singapore Civil Defence Force to send alerts to the public in times of emergencies, and for the public to report suspicious activities, is part of the SGSecure movement launched in 2016.

…Mindef and MHA’s comments came amidst online complaints by users who alleged that they had been threatened with disciplinary measures if they did not install the app. Many of the complaints were written in the reviews section of the app.

One user, Mr Dylan Leong, wrote: “Got forced to download if not disciplinary actions will be placed against us.”

Mindef did not directly address queries on the alleged punitive measures faced by those who refused to install the app.

“Global and regional terror threats are persistent and long-term issues that should not be taken lightly. Singapore is just as susceptible to these threats as any other country,” the ministry said in its statement.

Total defence calls for totalitarian measures, though it doesn’t mean people will end up using the SGsecure app, preferring to park it in a folder so hidden that in the rare event that you do really need it, you would get discovered and killed while the app is still loading or your phone is struggling to detect Wireless@SG.

An anti-terror app sounds sexy and all, but we shouldn’t rush into technology without considering human elements. There are some common sense scenarios where you SHOULDN’T use your phone when hiding from a terrorist raid. Take this scene from the Run. Hide. Tell Crimewatch promo, for example, when our protagonist decides to sms the police in a dark room, which is basically telling your enemy ‘YOOHOO I’M HERE’.

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But terrorism is no joke, of course. So as an inactive NSmen myself, I decided to give the app a go.

The first notification I got was to enable location services and I was immediately reluctant to do so. Not only was my privacy at stake, but it would deter users from making reports that may be perceived by the defenders of Singapore as frivolous or pranks. What if they hunt me down and arrest me for making a false bomb alert which I thought genuine? On the flipside, the app makes it almost TOO EASY to troll the authorities. Which means more time spent on investigating false alarms than doing important work like, you know, catching rapists and shit. Personal Batman beacon, this is not.

I also checked out the e-learning module, which is basically scrolling down some infographics and watching two Youtube videos. Once you’re done, you need to ‘register completion of e-learning’, which means giving your personal info in a form. Now you’re a qualified SGSecure expert!Yay!

But what’s really telling about the whole concept of the app, and bugs me like hell, is that it has NO FEEDBACK OPTION. You can’t tell MINDEF how to improve the app, even if it sucks one-star donkey balls. What the app would be useful for, though, is tracking missing persons, with the right incentives. If we had this app during Mas Selamat’s escape and rewarded users with cash prizes, he wouldn’t have made it past the beach with his makeshift raft. We would have the whole of Singapore manhunting like Pokemon Go.

You know who we should really force this upon instead? Convicted upskirt voyeurs. With their talent for stealth filming they would make excellent reconnaissance agents. They could sneak up close and personal with suspicious characters like a ghost. We could also reduce their jail sentences for their penance in return for their heroic deeds. And if they get caught, well, too bad you sick pervert!

Good effort, MINDEF. But if I ever find myself in trouble, I’ll stick to the tried and tested method of calling 999. By the time I dig out this app, fiddle with the glare settings, skip the time-wasting opening tutorials, and swipe for the emergency contacts, I’d probably have my head lopped off by then.

 

 

 

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Terrorism is like a spring

From ‘Terrorism is like a spring – stretch it to make it lose its strength’, Today Voices, 31 Jan 2016

(Ng Chee Keon): The spate of attacks in Germany, Turkey and Jordan suggests that it is tough to prevent such terrorist acts, notwithstanding the plots foiled in Indonesia and Australia (“World needs a better plan to confront threat of terrorism”; Dec 22).

Terrorism is like a strong spring; compress it with military force and the recoil will be just as hard, with more retaliatory attacks. Overbear it with military successes in Mosul and Raqqa, and the attacks spread from the Middle East to Europe, South-east Asia and other countries.

Another way to handle such a spring would be to stretch it. The world could start by attempting to appreciate and address the terrorists’ sources of hatred and any grievance suffered, real or perceived, as part of the deradicalisation process.

The next step could be to identify common ground and explore possible win-win solutions to the problem. I am sure that, barring any groupthink or wish to be seen as politically correct, many terrorism experts would know of other ways to elongate this spring slowly so that it loses strength over time

And I hope the scourge of terrorism may thus abate steadily.

In 2002, then DPM Lee Hsien Loong compared the JI threat to a stubborn cancer that refuses to go away. The analogy to a condition once stigmatised as the ‘Big C’ has stuck ever since. Terrorist groups are called ‘cells’. When legions expand, they’re described as ‘metastasising‘.

Like cancer, the war on terror demands a multi-faceted solution, and not just rely on precision killing or sweeping obliteration. The problem with this metaphor is that cancer can actually be defeated and most healthy people don’t need to be reminded of getting it in the first place. On the other hand, this anxiety over the scourge of terrorism will live on with us for posterity as long as warped religious doctrine, guns and large vehicles continue to exist.

Yes there are things we use to describe the war against terror like the ‘Crusades’, a disease, an epidemic, and then we have the writer above with the bizarre insight to peel away the layers of bloody violence surrounding the idea of terrorism and compare it to something innocuous that goes ‘boing-boing’. If terrorism had a name, it would be King Coil. With a crown made of flaming blades. Dealing with terrorism may be the ‘new normal’, but there is such a thing as over-normalising something that makes young children bomb-strap and blow themselves up with other innocent human beings.

Regardless, analogies are useless even if people understand them. Calling terrorism a deadly, insidious plague, a sprawling weed in your backyard or a satanic bouncy mattress won’t make it go away. If there’s anything that needs to SPRING into action it’s getting everyone to play a part in slowly excising this growing cancer at its root.

Terrorists using Pokemon Go to launch mass-casualty attacks

From ‘Think twice about giving Pokemon Go-ahead’, 21 July 2016, ST Forum

(Estella Young): The frenzied playing of augmented-reality game Pokemon Go abroad makes it increasingly clear that the Singapore authorities should think twice about allowing the game to be played here (“Local fans try various ways to get hold of Pokemon Go“, last Thursday).

Apart from the reported incidents of “Pokemon zombies” injuring themselves or others due to poor situational awareness, is it in Singapore’s best interests to permit a game over whose targets it has no control?

Pokemon Go should not be played at certain locations for reasons of public safety and human decency. Schools, hospitals and public transport interchanges should be off limits due to the risk posed by uncontrolled surges of human traffic.

Nor does it befit the dignity of other locations, such as houses of religious worship and cemeteries, to be invaded by gamers blindly chalking up points.

Americans have already objected to the appearance of Pokemon Go characters at the Holocaust Memorial Museum and Arlington National Cemetery, while the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Poland has had to ask game developer Niantic to exclude the former Nazi death camp from the game to safeguard the solemnity of the site.

At present, Pokemon Go targets are assigned by Niantic. While one can request certain locations to be removed from play, the game developer is not legally obliged to do so and cannot be held accountable for the consequences.

Since private individuals can purchase “Lures” to attract Pokemon Go players to a location, a person could harass someone else by placing a Lure near the victim’s home or workplace to attract disruptive crowds.

And in this age of lone-wolf terrorism, an extremist could easily buy a “Lure” to draw players into a low-security zone before launching a mass-casualty attack.

While Pokemon Go is certainly good for getting fans off the couch and out exploring the “real world”, Singapore would do well to seek a degree of control over how Niantic assigns its Pokemon targets before letting the game into the country.

Until Pokemon Go makes its long awaited debut in Singapore, its potential as a weapon of mass destruction blasting all the Pokezombies into ‘Vaporeons’ remains to be seen. It could, however, be a concern for our SAF when it comes to trespassers stumbling into protected areas. You don’t a situation where a Pokemon Hunter treks through a forest and finds himself smack in a rifle range.

In order to protect national security like stopping random mobs from infiltrating MRT stations resulting in freak deaths everywhere, I won’t be surprised if Singapore would be the first in the world to lead by example and ban Pokemon Go entirely, nevermind that there’s another non-gaming module of the handphone that ‘gets you off your couch’ but puts you in extreme peril at the same time. Various people have died using it while standing on the edge of precipices. If Pokemon should Go, then we should ban SELFIES too.

Calling for regulation on the distractions of technology is nothing new. People were complaining of pedestrians walking out plugged into their Walkman headphones in the 80s. If video games like Mortal Kombat were not blamed for violence in children, they drew flak for promoting gambling, like the Pokemon-inspired Animal Kaiser . Despite fans debunking the writer’s unfounded fears of Pokemon destroying us all, her underlying concern that Pokemon Go is not exactly harmless either is worth ‘thinking twice’ about. If a crowd of Pokemon trainers go berserk at a ‘Lure’ and a fight breaks out, would they all be charged for an unlawful assembly? If a child sneaks out past midnight to catch a rare Pokemon and gets hacked down by a psycho killer, would the parents file charges against the game creators for being partly responsible for murder? Already we have reports of people getting robbed while in pursuit of  Pokemon so such a scenario, bizarre as it may be, may not be entirely implausible.

So while using Pikachu to launch a terrorist attack may seem rather far-fetched, just as businesses could jump on the Pokewagon to draw more customers, there will be that random oddball who will use Pokemon for nefarious means like how fake DHL phone-scams you of your life savings. Pokemon Go may well boost the economy or our general well-being, though at the expense of a few people bumping their heads in a cemetery, or otherwise bright students failing their exams because they’re hooked. Still, you don’t need an addictive game to get people to make a nuisance of themselves at solemn places. Folks from church group Rock of Ages ran wild over Kranji memorial some years back, Pokemon or no Pokemon.

With education, creativity, some self-discipline and the appropriate privacy settings, the Pokemon Go concept could be harnessed as a force for good where you need the power of crowdsourcing to get a job done, like drawing players to a place to clean up a mess for Poke-points, or deliberately planting Poke-stops where illicit activity tends to take place like forest brothels. Given Singapore’s national psyche of Kiasuism, we can be certain that local gamers will go PokeBALLS-out to ‘catch them all’. Let’s hope what they catch is just pixellated monsters and not bio-engineered smallpox.

Metal detector gates in MRT stations

From ‘Install metal detector gates at MRT stations’, 11 July 2016, ST Forum

(Seow Joo Heng): Terrorist hits are becoming daily news nowadays, and they are inching ever closer to our homeland. It is not a matter of if they will happen, but when. We must act to minimise potential casualties in such an eventuality. We must provide a bulwark for one of our softest targets – our MRT trains and crowded stations.

Approximately 2.9 million people use the trains daily. The sheer numbers warrant our best protection efforts. There are bag-check counters at MRT stations, but they are ineffective as the checks are ad hoc. Only one person carrying an explosive device needs to slip through to create carnage in a packed train.

Similarly, the presence of armed guard patrols serves as a general deterrence. The patrols can handle altercations in open spaces, but their effectiveness is doubtful when the threat is in a packed train.

Metal detector gates are one idea to explore. They can be installed just before each fare gate.

No doubt, such an implementation will slow down passenger flow, but people will understand and get used to it, just as they readily accepted the inconvenience when airports started doing additional checks as a result of terrorist attacks.

For a start, we can have trial runs at a few train stations, to build up patience and foster such a culture before extending this to more stations. A side benefit of such a scheme could be a change in travel patterns, so people will travel during the less-crowded hours.

Metal detectors will no doubt deter terrorists from bringing assault rifles into the train. It’s also effective against lone wolf samurais.

BUT.

It also means you have to momentarily surrender your house keys, ipad, handphones, watches and goddamn nose rings before even tapping your EZlink card. We have ‘accepted the inconvenience’ of airport security because we don’t take plane rides every single day. Making us walk through a detector at least once a day as if we’re paying a visit to the President in his private suite is totally impractical, unacceptable, and frankly, rather lame.

Introducing another barrier to make MRT travel more irksome than it already is will only push commuters away from achieving our ‘car-lite’ ideal. To address a risk as remote as a drunk Hawkeye boarding the train with bow and arrows, the writer suggests an inexplicably expensive and cumbersome option that slows things down for everyone. If this rolls out, you’d have to start queuing for your train OUTSIDE the station, next to the bubble tea shop. Add a train breakdown and half your working day is already gone. The terrorists have won before even stepping out of their caves.

Terrorists think outside the box too. If they can’t bring in anything metallic, there’s the less deadly, but no less dramatic option of spraying ACID on everyone. In fact, someone already managed to lather a seat with corrosive fluids, burning someone’s buttock off in the process. And of course POISON GAS may make a comeback, a nod to the sarin attacks in Tokyo’s subway. If these murderers had the means they could kamikaze a damn helicopter right into a passing train without bothering about our metal detector gantries no matter how sophisticated they are.

MDA banning photos of freedom fighters from arts fest

From ‘Photos cut from show’, 24 June 2016, article by Nur Asyiqin Mohamed Salleh, ST

When Iranian photographer Newsha Tavakolian’s exhibition I Know Why The Rebel Sings opened on Wednesday night, black cards took the place of 15 photographs depicting Kurdish female soldiers who had joined the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The Media Development Authority (MDA) had asked that these photographs be removed before a licence could be given for the exhibition, which is part of the Singapore International Festival of Arts’ pre- festival programme, The O.P.E.N.

Responding to queries from The Straits Times, MDA said the festival team had submitted about 150 of Newsha’s photos for the exhibition. “These included photographs of members from a terrorist-linked organisation, who had committed acts of violence to further their cause, for example suicide bombing.”

MDA asked that these photographs be removed from the show. “Singapore takes a firm stand against extremism and will not allow photographs that undermine public order, national security and/ or stability to be displayed,” it said.

It did not name the organisation, but the women in the photographs removed from the exhibition are part of the YPJ, an all-woman offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which seeks to establish an independent Kurdish state in south-east Turkey.

Dear MDA,

I was browsing around at the local library and found this book featuring a photo of an extremist on the front cover. I’m concerned that this may undermine public order and influence readers into strapping bombs to themselves and killing Singaporeans. Please do the necessary. NLB, surely if you could pull out a book on gay penguins you would do the same for this too.

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Dear MDA,

I was shocked and disturbed to find portraits of radicalised Bangladeshis on the MHA website. Please ask your fellow stat board to take down these photos immediately. They are seriously undermining public order. After my kid saw their faces, he insisited on bringing his water pistol to class everyday since.

https://www.mha.gov.sg/Newsroom/press-releases/PublishingImages/Pages/Arrests-of-27-Radicalised-Bangladeshi-Nationals-under-the-Internal-Security-Act-/Photographs%20of%20Bangladeshi%20Nationals%20arrested%20under%20the%20Internal%20Security%20Act.pdf

 Dear MDA,

What is the meaning of this? How did you even let this poster by the Police slip by without mosaicing the said terrorist’s face?

Dear MDA,

Please take action against the Straits Times. Although nobody has seen the face of the Chinese Singaporean taking up arms against Syria named Wang Yuandongyi, an editorial on which his capture was based on (April 2 2016) featured a photo of Kurdish Peshmerga fighters during training, which clearly glamorises terrorist-linked violence. I enclose the artistically-taken photo and offending page herein as evidence. Do you want more brainwashed citizens to take up this extremist cause because of the ST’s inexcusable undermining of our national security?

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Dear MDA,

Thanks to your decisive action and making your censorship newsworthy, I googled ‘I Know When the Rebel Sings‘ and found the uncensored version online. Now I know which sites to block in case my children stumble upon this image and get hypnotised into joining a foreign rebel army.

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Now you see me

The Singapore version:

st_20160624_nanewsha24k6ij_2390905

Calvin Cheng on the killing of terrorists’ children

From ‘Calvin Cheng’s killing children remarks insensitive and inappropriate: MLC Chairman’, 28 Nov 15, article by Raymond Tham, CNA

Recent remarks made by former Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) Calvin Cheng online were “insensitive” and “inappropriate” for a member of the Media Literacy Council (MLC), said the council’s chairman Tan Cheng Han in a statement on Friday (Nov 27).

“I have spoken to Mr Cheng and counselled him that as a member of the Council he will be held to and judged by a higher standard compared to a private citizen,” Professor Tan said.

On Nov 17, Mr Cheng posted a four-lined comment online, which seemingly advocated killing the children of terrorists “in case they grow up to take revenge”. Mr Cheng had been responding to a thread about liberalism and security started by Future-Moves group chief executive Devadas Krishnadas.

After receiving negative feedback, Mr Cheng took to his blog on Nov 24 to elaborate further on his initial comment. According to Mr Cheng, his initial comment was meant to be “provocative and outrageous” to spark deeper thought into a “complex moral issue”.

Mr Cheng also referenced two schools of thoughts regarding the topic: Moral absolutism versus utilitarianism. “Take self-defence. If a child is holding a rifle and is about to shoot at you, do you have the right to kill him?” Mr Cheng wrote.

In 2011, a Young PAP member named Jason Neo was accused of racism for captioning an image of bus of kindergarten kids with the phrase ‘young terrorist trainees‘ and posting it on Facebook. Now the MLC would condemn such discrimination as ‘hate speech’, but when a more renown public figure sparks controversy by suggesting how children of terrorists should be handled for the ‘greater good’, the incident is let off the hook on the grounds of ‘insensitivity’. Cheng, as expected of a man of his character, remains grudgingly apologetic/(unapolegetic?) about the whole affair.

Incidentally, both Jason and Calvin Cheng were from the Young PAP (YPAP), though the latter scooted out of that organisation in a hurry to become NMP once his ‘curiosity’ was sufficiently stoked. Back then, Cheng explained that he was ‘curious’ all the time, and that his YPAP stint wasn’t on a ‘whimsy’ or a fling even though he never collected his membership card, and one wonders if that’s the same reason given for being part of the MLC.

While inciting provocative moral issues like whether you should shoot a child in the face if it’s really a demon spawn from the Children of the Corn appears to be out of scope of the MLC’s mission and core values, they do frown upon commentators with a brazen lack of respect or those who engage in personal attacks.

One saga which casts doubt upon Cheng’s capacity to champion media literacy/etiquette was when he targetted playwright Alfian Bin Saat in a FB post, even threatening to invoke the ISA:

…In countries where Muslims are minorities, ISIS propaganda takes advantage of feelings of insecurities, fabricate lies that they are being oppressed and then thereafter persuade them to commit acts of violence against their alleged oppressors, all under a twisted version of Islam.

That is why in Singapore, we have to be careful as we have similar fault-lines that can be exploited.

People like Alfian Sa’at for example need to be careful of their irresponsible rhetoric, which allege racial discrimination against our Malay-Muslim brethren.

…The Government should watch commentators like Alfian Sa’at closely and if red lines are crossed, the use of the ISA on these domestic agitators should not be ruled out.

And then there’s this rant against the evil forces and ‘traitorous’ individuals that threaten to do Singapore (or rather, him) in, namely Kirsten Han and the folks at TOC.

…These tactics must also be fully condemned, and especially Singaporeans like Kirsten Han and the editors of TOC who would gang up with Western forces to do Singapore in. Kirsten Han especially needs to be stopped as she regularly writes for anti-Singapore publications to run us down, and to suck up to the Western liberals.

According to Cheng, enemies of the state are everywhere, not just kids with machine guns. I’m not sure such ‘right-wing’ rhetoric is becoming of a council member of the MLC. Cheng is currently a director of media company Juice Pte Ltd,  though he seems to be branding himself as a leading expert in Muslim religious affairs and terrorism with a wishlist of who should be rounded up and detained without trial.

Since he’s a fan of moral conundrum, here’s one delicious dilemma for Cheng to ponder upon: If you had young LKY tied up on a railway track and a train full of innocent children hurtling towards him, would you blow up the train given the choice?

By the way, how long is one entitled to call yourself ‘Former NMP’? I’m curious.

Self-radicalised teen released under Restriction Order

From ‘Singaporean teen arrested under ISA released, under Restriction Order’, 29 June 2015, article in CNA

A Singaporean youth who was arrested under the Internal Security Act in May has been released from custody and is placed under a Restriction Order (RO) under the ISA for two years from June, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said on Monday (Jun 29).

Investigations showed the 17-year-old had become radicalised after viewing videos, websites and social media materials propagated by radical ideologues and terrorist elements, MHA stated. “He had wanted to engage in armed violence alongside the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and had started making preparations to carry out his plans,” MHA said.

Under the Restriction Order, the youth will have to attend religious counselling and has to stop accessing violent or extremist online material. He will not be allowed to leave Singapore without permission or to issue public statements. Further measures will be taken against him if he breaches the conditions of the RO, or if it is assessed that further measures are needed to protect public, MHA added.

The teen ‘radical’ has not been named, and was arrested sometime in May, which means he’s been under lock and key for not more than 2 months. This leads me to the inevitable comparison of ISIS boy’s fate to another kid around his age, one who got into trouble after badmouthing a certain dead leader. That kid is none other than Amos Yee.

1) Identity

The identity of ISIS Boy remains under wraps. Not so secretive was another 19 year old detained under ISA for planning violent attacks, with the death wish of assassinating the President and Prime Minister. It’s puzzling why the name of this guy got leaked, but not the younger teen whom the ministry folks seem to think can be ‘de-radicalised’ with ‘religious counselling’, and not with that thingamajig used in A Clockwork Orange.

Amos, on the other hand, made a grand show-and-tell of how he felt about LKY, through his own Youtube Channel no less. Despite depicting the man in a rather unflattering position with Margaret Thatcher, he did not call for his followers to gun down the rest of the Lee legacy, or strap themselves with homemade bombs and detonate them inside 38 Oxley Road.

We also know who Amos’ parents are, which school he dropped out from and maybe even where he lives. We know that he LOVES bananas. We know absolutely nothing about ISIS boy or his friends. At least if you see Amos in the streets one day you could run and hide in case he unleashes a torrent of anti-Christianity rants on you. ISIS boy is practically invisible, and exactly how the shady organisation wants him to be.

2) Time spent ‘in remand’

Excluding a pending 2 week stint in IMH, Amos has already spent at least 40 days in remand, and may potentially exceed the time ISIS boy spent ‘detained’. What gives? The kid who’s an actual threat to public safety getting out of prison before another who dissed Christianity and broadcast some cartoon porn for the world to enjoy. Which is the more heinous crime? Amos probably knows more about the history and geography of Syria than any blind follower who looks forward to a training stint there like it’s the Disneyland of the Middle East.

3) Victimisation

Amos has been threatened with castration, and even hit square in the face by a random attacker with dumbstruck reporters standing by snapping away without lifting a finger to help. His fashion sense has been made fun of, and his parents shamed for not doing their job.

What about ISIS boy? Were people afraid of teaching him a lesson in case his secret ISIS brethren begin blowing up our stuff and loved ones? Where was that slapper when we needed him the most?

4) Cause

An eminent psychiatrist from IMH has suggested that Amos may be suffering from autism spectrum disorder, which may explain his behaviour. It’s also the kind of tactic lawyers resort to when they don’t know how to keep extremely rebellious teens out of jail. If diagnosed, Amos may be at the receiving end of the ominous-sounding Mandatory Treatment Order, which has been dished out on maid abusers, bra sniffers, schizophrenics and bipolar disorder sufferers. He may never be the same again after 2 years of forced rehab. Or maybe this was a devious ploy all along to escape NS.

ISIS boy, on the other hand, isn’t suffering from a mental disorder, but merely mixed up with bad company and swayed into some murderous doctrine disguised as rap videos. Unlike Amos, there seems to be hope for ISIS boy, that he shall be guided onto the path of righteousness with religious elder support. Yet, the one labelled ‘sick’ here and set to be coerced into therapy is not the one with aspirations to actually fire weapons at other human beings, but the boy who merely had one too many things to say, and refused to take those words back.