RONALD Crelinsten states in his book Counterterrorism (2009) that three important pillars play a vital role in counterterrorism strategies – surveillance, intelligence gathering and monitoring.
These are the soft approaches in dealing with terrorism, where most of the work is conducted behind the scenes and are usually undertaken by the special branch of the police force in most countries.
Specially trained officers are assigned to investigate suspected terrorist sympathisers, recruits and would-be terrorists, who are then kept under constant surveillance and every move they make is recorded to prevent any attacks.
Malaysia has a sophisticated surveillance system, thanks to the Emergency Period from 1948 to 1962. Over the years, improved techniques have earned Malaysia the reputation of being one of the most active and successful counter intelligence services dealing with terrorism. Our men in blue should certainly be praised for their pro-active stance in detaining many would-be terrorists.
A good example is the recent arrest and detention of several suspects who reportedly planned to blow up non-Muslim places of worship in the Klang Valley. They had also targeted several VIPs to be assassinated. Imagine what the outcome would have been if their plan had succeeded.
A point to consider here is the terrorist attacks that took place in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday. It was a case of intelligence failure, as the authorities had been warned by India and the United States of the potential threat.
Sri Lanka has taken a lackadaisical attitude since the 2009 defeat of the Tamil Tigers in the east of the country. The political struggle between President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has also led to a dysfunctional government. This standstill gave the dormant terrorists an opportunity to plan and execute their terror attacks.
As such, political stability, an effective intelligence service and good leadership are essential in dealing with global terrorism.
But citizens also have an important role to play, and they can do this by being the eyes and ears of the government, alerting the authorities of any suspicious activities.
Politicians should refrain from making racial and religious remarks and always remember that Malaysia is a multiracial nation, a mosaic of different cultures held together by the glue of tolerance and acceptance of each other’s faith. Let us not give in to intolerance and bigotry, which international terrorist organisations such as the Islamic State thrive on.
Let peace and harmony prevail.
DR HJ AHMAD