Malaysia’s Counter-Terrorism Strength Among World’s Best – Analysis


The recent worry over the presence of a group linked to the Islamic State (IS) in Malaysia, and the potential larger threat of terrorism in the country, deserves to be a matter of concern and priority, but Malaysia’s collective capacity and strength in counter terrorism efforts both in preventive and mitigation capabilities are among the world’s best.

The ever diligent and very much respected capabilities of Malaysia’s esteemed intelligence community (IC) have often gone unnoticed.

The authorities have been well and fully aware beforehand of the attempts by the group identified as Al Malaka Media Centre to expand its influence in the country. Continuous close ties and cooperation with our international security and counter-terrorism partners have also reinforced our joint detection and preventive measures in thwarting, limiting and monitoring the scope of the activities and intent of any groups that will pose a threat to Malaysia’s national security.

The Nordic Counter-Terrorism Network’s (NCTN) Cyber Counter Terrorism Division has highlighted the group’s radical ideologies and the potential to trigger indiscriminate small-scale acts of violence in the country, which also involves the association with IS media outlets in Indonesia and the Philippines.

Malaysia’s established and highly respected and efficient counter-terrorism panel that consists of an integrated domain across different enforcement agencies from the police to the military that spans over a wide and holistic spectrum of early detection, prevention and enforcement capacities have been pivotal in securing public and national safety and interests. It covers the whole collective arena that involves the cyber and digital domain and other areas that will serve to block any attempts or threats to public safety. Past threats and attempts have been thwarted, and early and strategic actions have been taken through our integration and pooling of resources and expertise across different dimensions.

In the ever evolving nature and scope of measures and strategies employed by the growing structure and reach of the threats posed by these extremist and terrorist groups, Malaysia’s enforcement teams have been working in cooperation with other international agencies in preventing the activities of these groups. Intelligence sharing and deep integrated cooperation with allies and partners as well as international enforcement agencies including Interpol have bolstered its resilience and capacity in counter terrorism efforts. This is only possible based on mutual trust and respect and recognition of its established success and impact on the field, which has facilitated platforms of data sharing and joint action.

Malaysia has been playing an extensive and crucial role at the international level in creating a comprehensive and integrated culture and action plan that are forward-looking and inclusive in nature in managing the highly complex issue of extremism and terrorism, looking at them from different perspectives and approaches.

Malaysia is supportive of all pillars of actions contained in the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy (GCTS) and has responded positively to the international call for cooperation to combat terrorism by strengthening its legal framework to implement the 20 international counter-terrorism conventions and protocols.

It is now a party to 11 of international counter-terrorism conventions and protocols and a party to the ASEAN Convention on Counter Terrorism (ACCT), sharing its expertise and playing its part in regional and global efforts to fight terrorism and the far reaching ripple implications.

The Joint Special Operations Command (JSO) consists of integration of the nation’s elite forces which rank among some of the world’s best. These include the GGK, Paskal, Paskau, the UTK, VAT69 amd others that have increased their joint interoperability and effectiveness.

The importance of winning the “hearts and minds” in the psychological war against terrorism is crucial, and is reflected in Malaysia’s strength including its very own Southeast Asia Regional Centre on Counter-Terrorism (SEARCCT) in continuing to engage with youths through counter messaging initiatives. Kuala Lumpur is also well respected and highly sought after in the field of deradicalisation and rehabilitation of extremists and those that have been misled and indoctrinated by extremist elements, which it has shared its expertise and strength with its partners and international security friends the world over.

Deradicalisation is a key element of Malaysia’s counter-terrorism and violent extremism strategy, with the potential to reduce the further spread of militant propaganda which poses threat to the social stability of the nation and beyond.
Kuala Lumpur’s initiatives in this regard aim to address radicalism due to religious misconceptions, with the specific purpose of rehabilitating and subsequently reintegrating militant detainees into society.

Malaysia also remains vigilant to the emerging threats of cyberattacks against critical national infrastructure and of bioterrorism, all of which create future potential risks which are exacerbated by growing state led and individual driven pursuits out to achieve both geopolitical and national goals.

The swift nature and growing sophistication of the various strategies and measures used to extend the influence seeking propaganda or any attempts to build greater network and presence are proving to be more difficult, especially in capitalising on technology in serving their agenda, but Malaysian authorities have always strived to be a step ahead. They remain highly capable in their preventive strength as well as in the monitoring and intelligence gathering on threats to its national security, both in traditional and non traditional scope.

Often, these crucial works done are not known to the public at large and thus contributing to this systemic lack of awareness and appreciation of the ever critical efforts done to preserve the security and safety of the country. This lack of understanding and appreciation has also contributed to the wrong perception, narrative and judgment on the capabilities of the country’s anti terrorism capabilities.

More understanding and public awareness need to be instilled in Malaysia’s assured and respected enforcement authorities and their crucial role, responsibilities and expertise, especially its Special Branch Unit and Counter-Terrorism Division. The public needs to play a greater role in supporting joint counter terrorism efforts, and the support from the government has to be stepped up in ensuring that the country’s professional teams receive their best tools and capacities.

Collins Chong Yew Keat

Collins Chong Yew Keat has been serving in University of Malaya, the top university in Malaysia for more than 9 years. His areas of interests include strategic and security studies, American foreign policy and power analysis and has published various publications on numerous platforms including books and chapter articles. He is also a regular contributor in providing op-eds for both the local and international media on various contemporary global issues and regional affairs since 2007.

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