SINGAPORE — From a planned gas cylinder explosion attack to an actual assassination-by-hand-grenade attempt, anecdotes and artefacts not seen by the public before that depict the dangers faced by Internal Security Department (ISD) officers were revealed for the first time on Tuesday (Oct 24).
The exhibition, held in conjunction with the ISD’s 75th anniversary, traced the department’s origin as the Singapore Special Branch in 1948, as well as key security events and threats faced by Singapore since pre-independence.
The one-day exhibition was open only to the guests attending a closed-door dinner on Tuesday at the Ritz Carlton, Millenia Singapore. In attendance were Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who was the guest-of-honour, other ministers, as well as past and present ISD officers.
In a speech at the dinner, Mr Lee spoke about why it is vital to have a capable and vigilant ISD to protect Singapore, and highlighted three key security issues that he said preoccupy the Government — the threat of terrorism, the dangers posed by foreign influence operations and domestic vulnerabilities.
He noted that Singapore’s terrorism threat springs from the broader security situation in the region.
He added: “As a diverse multiracial and multi-religious nation, our inherent fault lines will always exist. And being such an open and interconnected society, our people are susceptible to many external influences.”
Here are some highlights of the artefacts and anecdotes displayed at the exhibition, which the media were given limited access to:
Grenade attack on two Special Branch officers
The Communist Party of Malaya on Sept 11, 1952 carried out a grenade attack on two Special Branch officers — Chief Inspector Lau Siew Foo and Detective Sergeant Yow Chong Hoi — and their driver.
An ISD officer, only identified by his initials IAR, said this of the kidnapping plan: “This strengthened our officers’ determination to neutralise the JI threat.”
‘Laju’ ferry hijacking
Four armed terrorists staged an attack on an oil refinery facility on Pulau Bukom Besar, south of mainland Singapore.
After the failed attack, the four then hijacked a ferry called Laju and held its crew members hostage in exchange for a safe passage out of Singapore.
Pages from the Bukom/Laju case report displayed a car used by the hijackers, armed with improvised hand grenades.
The hijackers demanded that 13 Singapore government officials accompanied them on their flight out of Singapore as guarantor for their safety.
The 13 volunteers included the late former President S R Nathan, who was then director of security and intelligence at the Ministry of Defence, and former ISD officer Saraj Din.
Mr Saraj, who had just learnt two weeks prior to the incident that his wife was pregnant with their first child, said: “We did not know what was going to happen to us but we were prepared to do whatever the situation demanded. To us, we saw it more as a duty than a sacrifice.”