Latest News: 28 January 2021

1. 16-year-old Singaporean detained under ISA after planning attack on 2 mosques

News of a 16-year-old Singaporean boy being detained in December under Singaporeā€™s Internal Security Act (ISA) shook the nation yesterday, 27 January.Ā 

Authorities said that the boy was detained after making ā€œdetailed plans and preparations to conduct terrorist attacksā€. He had planned to use a machete to attack Muslims at two mosques in the Woodlands area on 15 March, the second anniversary of New Zealand’s Christchurch attacks.

The teen had been self-radicalised after watching the livestreamed video of the 2019 terror attacks at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. He had also read the manifesto of the attacker, Brenton Tarrant, as well as propaganda videos by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).Ā 

As a result, he came to the mistaken conclusion that ISIS represented Islam and that Islam incited violence.Ā 

The Internal Security Department (ISD) had found the teen with detailed plans to attack the two mosques, including his planned travel route, mosque entrances, and where to park his vehicles. Additionally, he also watched YouTube videos on how to inflict harm using his choice of weapon, the machete.Ā 

When arrested, the teen had been saving up for his choice of machete on Carousell but had yet to purchase it. He had originally intended to use an assault rifle but was deterred by Singaporeā€™s strict gun-control laws. He also purchased a tactical vest for the assault and intended to strap his mobile phone to it to livestream the attack.Ā 

Additionally, the teen also prepared two documents he intended to disseminate prior to his attacks, with the aim of spreading his ideology.Ā 

During the investigation, the ISD reported that the boy admitted he only saw two outcomes to his plan ā€” he is either arrested prior to carrying it out, or he executes his plan and gets killed by the police.Ā 

Investigations thus far indicate that the youth had acted alone, with no evidence that he tried to influence anyone with his extreme outlook or involve others in his attack plans.

The ISD said that the boy will be given psychological counselling to address his propensity to violence and vulnerability to radical influences. While in detention, he will be undergoing a holistic programme that comprises religious, psychological, and social rehabilitation.

2. Religious and national leaders speak out after teenā€™s arrest for plotting to attack two mosques

The National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS) issued a lengthy statement denouncing the ideology of a 16-year-old Singaporean Protestant Christian who planned terrorist attacks on two mosques.

In the statement, the NCCS said that the ā€œideology driving the youth to consider such acts of violence does not originate from the Scriptures”. It also reassured the Muslim community that ā€œthere is no animosity between our communities, and that we remain committed to defeating hatred and violence”.

Similarly, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore also released a statement that reflected its solidarity with the Muslim community and its belief that Islam is a peaceful religion; it called for a ā€œpeaceful co-existence of all religionsā€.

Meanwhile, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) condemned acts of terror and violence, emphasising that it has no place in any religion. It also commended the security agencies for their prompt actions and expressed gratitude for the friendship and trust among different faiths in Singapore.Ā 

The Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG), a non-profit organisation, warned that this case revealed how extremism and radicalisation can happen regardless of religion, race, gender, and age. It called upon religious leaders to address any misperceptions and misunderstandings of religions that can result in radicalisation and violence.Ā 

Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Masagos Zulkifli also spoke out in a Facebook post, saying that ā€œterrorism is not tied to any religionā€; he encouraged Singaporeans to stand united against terrorist elements regardless of our race, religion, or age.Ā 

Additionally, the Hindu Endowments Board, Hindu Advisory Board, Sikh Advisory Board, and Singapore Buddhist Federation have also urged vigilance and encouraged greater care and understanding for youths.Ā 

3. Seniors respond to COVID-19 community vaccination on first day of roll-out

Yesterday, 27 January, Singapore started vaccinating seniors in the community against COVID-19, starting with those in Tanjong Pagar and Ang Mo Kio.Ā 

Channel News Asia (CNA) visited the vaccination centre at Tanjong Pagar to gather their thoughts on the first day of the vaccination exercise.Ā 

During their visit, they recorded a steady flow of seniors coming in to get their jab or make their vaccination appointments. According to the lead physician for the vaccination center, there were about 300 appointments made for the first day, an encouraging turnout.Ā 

General sentiments from the elderly seemed to be positive based on the interviews conducted by CNA.Ā 

Angeline Ko, a 64-year-old masseuse, had decided to get vaccinated due to her line of work. Prior to taking the vaccination, Ms Ko had visited her family physician to ask questions about the jab and clarify her doubts.Ā 

Another interviewee, Richard Lim, 70, had said that he was prepared to take the vaccine once he was eligible to do so. He also praised the seamless and easy registration process.Ā 

Meanwhile, other seniors were understandably worried about the side effects, particularly with Chinese New Year festivities coming up.Ā 

4. Olympics-Paris 2024 will go ahead as planned despite concerns over Tokyo Games

Although the fate of this yearā€™s Tokyo Games is still uncertain, the French organising committee announced that the 2024 Paris Olympics will go ahead as scheduled.Ā 

“Since the beginning of this crisis, the world of sport has been adapting. Of course, the organisers of the Tokyo Olympics will only organise the Games if the conditions allow it,” Paris Games chief Tony Estanguet told French daily Le Monde.

“They have worked on different solutions to adapt to this sanitary context, with or without fans, the setting up of tests and a bubble system. Everything has been thought out so that these Games can be held with a very high level of health security.”

This comes even after British four-time Olympic gold medalist Matthew Pinseent called for the Tokyo Games to be held in 2024, as Japan declared a state of emergency due to the spike in the number of COVID-19 cases.Ā 

However, Estanguet has insisted that the Paris Olympics would not be moved.

“If I stick to the discussions with the IOC, I don’t have the impression that there will be another postponement,” he explained. “The impact for Paris 2024 is nevertheless quite limited; we have our own calendar. For the past year, we haven’t been impacted by the postponement.ā€Ā 

“Our Games will go well in 2024, whatever happens in Tokyo. I fervently hope, like many, that these Games will take place because it will create a strong dynamic ā€” particularly with the handover ceremony ā€” but Paris 2024 is not linked to Tokyo’s destiny.”

5. Tech companiesā€™ expansion plans affected as Singapore faces labour crunch

Although Singapore is looking to become a regional tech hub, an expert from Reuters has observed that this might not be attainable as the country faces a severe talent crunch as more firms move in ā€” such as the likes of Tencent, ByteDance, Zoom, Grab and Sea.Ā 

This talent crunch comes as Singaporeā€™s unemployment rate reaches a 16-year high due to the economic impact of the pandemic.Ā 

The crunch includes talent in the data science and computer engineering space, noted the CEO of Singaporeā€™s American Chamber of Commerce, Lei Hsien-Hsien. With a strong demand and relatively weaker supply, some companiesā€™ expansion plans in the city-state are being affected, he shared.

Nonetheless, the Economic Development Board has stated that it has been seeing strong interest from global tech firms. The government has also launched initiatives that encourage foreign talents, such as the Tech.Pass, which aims to help local tech companies recruit foreign talent and expand in the region. Pass holders can also start and operate businesses in Singapore, as well as work for and invest in Singapore-based companies.Ā 

6. New research lab enables doctors to customise treatment for patients through analysis of hormone samples

A new research lab will soon allow doctors to offer personalised treatment for patients with chronic diseases. The lab makes use of liquid chromatography, as well as tandem mass spectrometry which can accurately analyse clinical samples. This will enable the provision of more individualised treatment, instead of adopting a one-size-fits-all approach.Ā 

Known as the Shimadzu-CGH Clinomics Centre, the lab will be starting with tests for hypertension ā€” a condition which affects one in four Singaporeans, and is a leading cause of heart disease and strokes.Ā 

The mass spectrometer is able to take a tiny sample of blood to measure the two hormones ā€” aldosterone and renin ā€” that can identify the type of hypertension a patient has. It can also detect a patient’s hypertensive drug concentration from tiny urine samples, which allows doctors to ascertain if a patient is adhering to the medication schedule and understand why their hypertension still persists.Ā 

Principal investigator and consultant in endocrinology at Changi General Hospital Professor Troy Puar explained, “Treatment of hypertension is not precise as each patient is different and their cause of hypertension may differ. When one medication does not work, doctors may choose to increase the dose, add another medication or switch to another medication.ā€Ā 

Thus far, mass spectrometry has only been used in Singapore for research. For the past five years, around 1,000 hormone samples would be collected and sent to labs in the United States, which led to long waiting times of about two weeks before the results came back. With the opening of the new lab, the waiting time for the results will be reduced to one or two days.Ā 

 

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