SINGAPORE: The COVID-19 had ravaged the lives and livelihoods of millions around the world for the past two years and the onset of the Ukraine-Russia conflict has triggered seismic repercussions.
Senior Minister of Defence, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein said, based on the two events, the topic “Developing New Forms of Security Cooperation”, is timely considering a lot has changed in the past two years.
The Senior Minister asked, the question now is what are our common challenges that necessitate security cooperation? There are four and it includes 1) An increase in trans-boundary crime from border re-openings, 2). A surge in online disinformation arising from terror groups and extremists, 3) Continued threat of biological warfare, and 4) Food insecurity that is giving rise to instability worldwide.
“As nations recover from COVID-19 and reopen their borders to promote people to-people movement, boost tourism, and increase business – the threat of illegal migration and trans-boundary crime is expected to increase. This is the dark side of reopening borders and is something we in this forum cannot and must not deny.
“The second challenge is the proliferation of cyber attacks and the online war. We cannot deny humanity’s overwhelming preoccupation with COVID-19 over the past two years. The constant media coverage and attention lulled many into a false sense of security with the lack of exposure giving the impression that these threats had slowed down or even disappeared.
“In the digital world today, targeting the propagation of hatred and violent ideologies spread online is an imperative. The widespread uncertainty and global anxiety represent for terror groups a golden opportunity, to combine their wicked narrative with falsehoods about COVID19.
“These were pursued through a coordinated disinformation campaign such as conspiracy theories about the vaccines; claims of God’s vengeance against the non-believers, and even accusations to weaponries the virus.” Hishammuddin said.
Hishammuddin said that in the Third Plenary Session :”Developing New Forms of Security Cooperation” at the 19th Asia Security Summit| IISS Shangri-La Dialogue Singapore on 11th June 2022.
The Senior Minister added, this serves as a reminder that we must continue to be vigilant in our fight against extremism, and can ill-afford to take our eyes off this war.
“The third is the threat of biological warfare.
We have seen first-hand how COVID19, an unseen virus, brought nations to their knees. It has definitely reminded us of our vulnerabilities and we are all still trying to rebuild and recover from the devastating impacts COVID-19 left us.
“During the pandemic our focus shifted completely; expenditures were redirected to healthcare; meetings had to re-align to focus on how best to bring our daily numbers down. But, behind the scenes – potential enemies saw the sheer scale of devastation this unseen virus brought and were planning their next steps. Yes, I may be scaremongering but isn’t it our duty to always ‘hope for the best, and prepare for the worst’, Hishammuddin said.
According to Hishammuddin the fourth is food insecurity that threatens societies and exacerbates conflicts. No country is immune to this. COVID-19 has already seen supply chain disruptions globally where national lockdowns have halted the flow of food supplies and raw goods.
He said, the Ukraine-Russia conflict made commodity price volatility has surged, with food prices reaching levels not seen since the 2007-08 price spikes.
Hishammuddin emphasized that the combination of unhappiness from two years of the pandemic and rising food prices may generate a wave of political instability, with potential riots and protests affecting the security environments in our nations.
Hishammuddin said: “As security and defence practitioners – now find ourselves at a crossroads. The choice is for us to either chart and shape a new post-pandemic era, one that is mutually beneficial for all – or simply return to the old days.
“We must strive to be better and embark on a new era of security cooperation, one focused on actionable deliverables, working strategically, working smarter and most importantly – working together.
“There’s a popular Chinese proverb that says, the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. If you haven’t yet, the second-best time is now.”
“Basically, in the context of our deliberations here today, this means that if we want peace and stability in the future, the best time to act is now,” Hishammuddin said.-Malaysia World News