the world beyond four walls


Self-radicalised Singaporean youths – one arrested, one detained under ISA

A Singaporean youth has been detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for terrorism-related activities since April this year, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) announced on Wednesday (May 27).

Additionally, another youth was arrested in May under the ISA for further investigations into the extent of his radicalisation.

The youth detained since April, M Arifil Azim Putra Norja’i, a 19-year-old post-secondary student, is the first known self-radicalised Singaporean to harbour the intention to carry out violent attacks in Singapore, said MHA.

Investigations showed that he had made plans to join the terrorist group, Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and that his radicalisation began around 2013 when he started viewing terrorist propaganda online, said MHA.

The ministry said Arifil then grew to support the radical ideology and violent tactics of ISIS, and befriended individuals online whom he thought could help him join the terrorist group. Arifil also actively surfed the Internet for information on travel routes to Syria so that he could engage in armed violence there, and had done research on making improvised explosive devices.

Arifil also revealed that if he was unable to join ISIS in Syria, he intended to carry out violent attacks in Singapore, said MHA. He had put “considerable thought” into how he would attack key facilities and assassinate Government leaders. If he was unable to carry out these plans, Arifil planned to carry out attacks in public places “in order to strike fear within our society”, using “easily available” weapons such as knives, added the ministry.

His intentions to carry out violent attacks were subsequently corroborated by several persons who said he had tried to recruit them to help carry out these plans, according to the MHA. Investigations showed that while these people did not fall prey to Arifil’s attempts to recruit them, they also did not alert the authorities about him, it added.

“Fortunately, another person who knew Arifil noticed the changes in him, and had brought him to the attention of the authorities, who were then able to investigate the matter and take action before he could carry out his violent attack plans in Singapore,” said MHA.

The ministry added that another radicalised Singaporean post-secondary youth, 17, was arrested in May under the ISA for further investigations into the extent of his radicalisation. His family was informed of his arrest, and will be kept informed of the outcome of the investigations. Read More


As graduate numbers grow, a hard truth: Not all degrees are equal

By Ng Jing Yng/TODAY/23 May 2015

SINGAPORE: After graduating with a second-class upper degree in human resource management, Mr Tan, 30, took some time to land a full-time job and he is currently doing administrative work – buying office supplies and processing claims. “I wished that we were taught more skills in university instead,” he said.

Another graduate, Mr Tang, 27, who has a chemistry degree, has been working in an admin support temporary position for the past 18 months. “Unlike our parents’ time, it seems like there are many people holding a degree now but the fact is there are many jobs out there that do not require a degree holder to do the work.”

On the other hand, there are graduates who have, by their own volition, ventured into careers that have little to do with what they had studied for in university. A PhD holder in biomedical sciences, Dr Christopher Yang, was a research fellow at the National University of Singapore’s Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine when he made the switch into the financial sector four years ago.

The 41-year-old said his biomedical career was going well, having received a grant to advance immunology research. But a series of circumstances – including the outlook of the industry, and the birth of his fourth child – led to him making the career switch. “I had to seriously think about my career path and prospects,” said Dr Yang, who is now an accredited financial adviser.

In Asia, Taiwan and South Korea have been experiencing an oversupply of graduates, with double-digit youth unemployment rates. In contrast, Singapore enjoys close to full employment, and more than 80 per cent of graduates from publicly-funded universities and the more-established private institutions are able to find jobs within six months of graduation. Read More


Singapore to offer US$200,000 to support countries providing help to Rohingyas

The Singapore Government will offer an initial contribution of US$200,000 (S$267,000) through ASEAN to support the efforts of countries such as Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia that have been aiding Rohingya refugees, said Foreign Affairs Minister K Shanmugam on Saturday (May 23).

Singapore is concerned about the situation and welcomed efforts by countries, in particular Malaysia and Indonesia, which agreed to provide temporary shelter for the Rohingyas, said Mr Shanmugam.

He said the financial aid is part of an ASEAN-led initiative, adding that Singapore is prepared to consider further assistance, if there are specific requests.

Mr Shanmugam said the Rohingya crisis has raised two key issues – one is how to help those currently on boats and stranded at sea, while the other is the need to deal with the problem at its source.

This would require looking at living conditions created by countries of origin as well as the criminal organisations putting them on boats, subjecting them to terrible conditions. That, he added, is a “more serious problem” because tens and thousands of refugees could potentially suffer.

Mr Shanmugam stressed that the countries where the refugees originated from should take responsibility, and both ASEAN and the international community needs to address this issue.

Singapore’s contribution comes days after the Government said it is unable to accept any refugees or those seeking political asylum because it is a small country with limited land.

Over the past week, countries such as Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia have provided shelter to Rohingya refugees who have landed on their shores. Food and medical aid were also provided.

Up to 2,000 migrants are thought to be stranded in the Bay of Bengal, many at risk of falling victim to people smugglers. Most are Muslim Rohingyas from the western Rakhine state in Myanmar.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said finding and saving the lives of those migrants should be a “top priority”.


Singapore Botanic Gardens gets ICOMOS nod to be named UNESCO site Loke Kok Fai/15th May 2015

The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) on Friday (May 15) recommended that the Singapore Botanic Gardens be inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

In its report to the World Heritage Committee, ICOMOS noted that Singapore considered Singapore Botanic Gardens to be of Outstanding Universal Value as a cultural property. Some of the reasons cited include the garden being a well-defined cultural landscape, and that since 1875, it has continued to be a leading centre in plant science, research and conservation in Southeast Asia.

“ICOMOS considers that this justification is appropriate given the ability of the Singapore Botanic Gardens to demonstrate its different phases of design and uses for scientific and social purposes, and through the diverse range of plantings, gardens, buildings and other features,” the report said.

It added in its conclusion, recommending the landmark to be inscribed on the World Heritage List: “ICOMOS considers that the significance of the Singapore Botanic Gardens as an exceptional example of a British tropical colonial botanic garden in Southeast Asia, and an illustration of interchanges of values connected to ideas, knowledge and expertise in tropical and economic botany and horticulture.”

The ICOMOS’ recommendation will be taken into consideration by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, and a final decision will be announced in Bonn, Germany, in July.

Overall, ICOMOS has found the Gardens to be of outstanding universal value, having fulfilled two of 10 criteria used by the WHC to determine which properties should be inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, said the National Parks Board and National Heritage Board in a joint news release on Saturday.

With ICOMOS’ recommendation, the Gardens stands a good chance for inscription, the agencies added.


Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong said on Friday he was “absolutely delighted” with the ICOMOS recommendation.

But “it’s not time to pop the champagne”, said Mr Wong, as the final decision rests with the World Heritage Committee. “But this positive recommendation by ICOMOS will be a very positive step forward for our bid, and we will go into the World Heritage Committee in Bonn, Germany, in July with much greater confidence.”

As a rigorous assessment process by an independent panel of experts, Mr Wong explained that it takes about three years for a decision to be made on a submission by ICOMOS. The Botanic Gardens took about a year and a half.

“It says something about the intrinsic value of some of our heritage sites, particularly the Botanic Gardens, and also the commitment that we as a nation take to preserve our heritage and to conserve something that’s precious not just to us, but to the whole of humanity.”

Mr Wong also shared that the ICOMOS panel had also made some recommendations for the Botanic Gardens to strengthen its conservation efforts, and the protective buffer zone around the site.

“The Gardens was pivotal in making possible the rubber and orchid industries, and in Singapore’s greening journey,” added Mr Kenneth Er, CEO of the National Parks Board. “It also played an important social role as the venue where our founding Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew rallied the multi-racial nation towards social cohesion in 1959.”

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Singapore not in a position to accept refugees: MHA May 2015

Singapore will not be accepting refugees or people seeking political asylum, said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Friday (May 15).

“As a small country with limited land, Singapore is not in a position to accept any persons seeking political asylum or refugee status, regardless of their ethnicity or place of origin,” said an MHA spokesperson, in response to queries from Channel NewsAsia.

More than 700 migrants from Bangladesh and Myanmar arrived in Indonesia on Friday after fishermen rescued them from their sinking boat off Aceh province. Indonesian police said they were pushed away by the Malaysian navy to the border of Indonesian waters.

More than 1,000 migrants have also landed in Malaysia.

The Malaysian branch of the UN refugee agency UNHCR on Friday urged the regional governments to act urgently to help the migrants stranded at sea. Meanwhile, Indonesia said it will follow international regulation on illegal migrants in handling the refugees.


Racial, religious harmony something to be worked on continually: PM Lee

Do you know that our very own Mr Gurmit Singh is the current President of the IRO? What’s the IRO? Read on to find out! April 2015

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Singaporeans of all races and religions are able to live peacefully side by side despite the fact that the country’s racial and religious harmony is an “unusual and unnatural state of affairs”.

Mr Lee spoke at a Harmony Dinner at the Singapore Expo on Wednesday evening (Apr 15), an event organised by the Taoist Federation to celebrate its Silver Jubilee.

“There are studies of different societies and there was one study called a report on ‘Global Religious Diversity’ looking at how mixed different societies were – and in fact they ranked Singapore as the most religious diverse society out of 232 countries in the world, and we were the most religiously diverse,” said Mr Lee.

“The most different religions, the most intermingled, all the world’s major faiths are present in Singapore and many smaller faiths too. And yet we enjoy racial and religious harmony, and we live peacefully and happily side by side every day,” added the Prime Minister. It is something that should be continually worked on to be preserved, he said.

Mr Lee said building a multi-racial and multi-religious society is a key ideal that Singapore was founded upon.

Quoting the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, the Prime Minister said Singapore does not belong to any single community, but to everyone. Mr Lee said the Taoist Federation worked hard to foster good relations between the different religious groups in Singapore.

All 10 constituent religions of the Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO) were also present at the Harmony Dinner, and Mr Lee called on the religious leaders to lead by example.

Said Mr Lee: “Your communities look to you as role models. How you counsel and lead your congregations, your flocks, will shape religious relations in Singapore. So I am very happy that so many of our religious leaders are committed to building trust and friendships with other communities.”

“We also of course need to keep our society open and inclusive. We can be any race, any religion, but we are also – at the same time – all Singaporeans together. And we have learnt to trust and respect our different races and religions, and to live peacefully with one another,” he said.

The IRO said racial and religious harmony is also enhanced by having more dialogues between people of various faiths.

“It is educating everyone as to what another religion has and if you have better understanding of another religion besides your own, that’s when you have a better understanding and that’s where you will have peace and harmony,” said IRO President Gurmit Singh.