Singapore's harmony cannot be taken for granted, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean on Tuesday, as he urged people to be mindful of new fault lines over immigration and gay rights.
Speaking to around 300 officers from national security agencies here, he told them to harness the diversity of views and create a more cohesive country.
During his opening address at the 11th National Security Seminar, the minister pointed to unrest in Sweden and France, where riots have broken out in part due to religious and racial tensions.
Such incidents are “sobering reminders” for Singapore, which has enjoyed stability for many decades. But economic and social changes in the form of higher costs, rising aspirations and the influx of immigrants can still lead to issues here.
“Race and religion remain sensitive, and other possible fault lines have emerged, including citizenship, sexual orientation and social values,” said Mr Teo.
The spread of social networking sites can exacerbate these divides. “Social media can help those with a common interest to come together, but it can also reinforce and entrench polarising views,” he explained.
With these challenges in mind, government agencies have to examine their plans to ensure that they can work effectively as a unit, especially in times of crisis, he said during the one-day seminar at Orchard Hotel.
He gave an example of how the 23 government agencies in the Inter-Agency Haze Task Force have been meeting every year ahead of Indonesia’s dry season since being set up in 1994.
The work paid off when the Pollutant Standards Index reached record levels this year, as the Government was able to give out a million masks to 200,000 low income households “overnight”.