'Stay united' should terror acts occur

'Stay united' should terror acts occur
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs Teo Chee Hean.

IN SPITE of Singapore's best efforts to guard against the terror threat, it is not possible to ensure an attack will never happen here, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs Teo Chee Hean told Parliament yesterday.

Singaporeans therefore have to be ready to stand united as a community, and maintain social cohesion and harmony in the aftermath of an incident, he said.

On its part, the Home Team will continue to deter and deal with terrorism by securing Singapore's borders, strengthening infrastructure and building up its capability to respond to threats swiftly and effectively, he added.

"We will continue to conduct exercises to hone our response, as well as enhance our intelligence capabilities and work with international partners to identify and pre-empt terrorism threats," said DPM Teo during the debate on the Ministry of Home Affairs budget.

He said he agreed with Mr Hri Kumar Nair (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC) and Mr Arthur Fong (West Coast GRC), who said Singapore had to ensure its society was ready to withstand a terror attack.

"Those who carry out such attacks seek to divide our society and strike fear in innocent people," said Mr Teo.

"If an incident were to occur, we must stand united as a community and condemn the violent acts of these particular individuals. Such extreme views do not reflect the beliefs of the wider community, and indeed are rejected by them.

"As Singaporeans, we must continue to build on what we have in common, rather than accentuate our differences. We must also carry on with our daily lives, reach out to each other, and not allow fear to paralyse our society."

His comments come amid global concern about the danger posed by the conflict in Syria and Iraq, which has drawn more than 20,000 foreign fighters from over 60 countries, a number far greater and more diverse than in the Afghan conflict in the late 1980s.

An estimated 350 fighters from South-east Asia have gone to Syria and Iraq, Mr Teo noted.

"Upon their return home, these fighters may be more prone to violence. And almost on a daily or weekly basis, we see new revelations, videos of fighters from our region who have been involved in Syria and Iraq," he added.

Mr Teo said self-radicalised individuals may also be influenced by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria militant group to carry out attacks in their countries that are hard to detect and prevent.

Last December's Sydney siege, January's Paris attacks and last month's Copenhagen shooting took place even when these countries were on high alert, he noted.

He also gave an update that Singapore has detained 66 people for terrorism under the Internal Security Act since 2002, and 57 of them have since been released.

Currently, nine people are under detention and 21 are on restriction orders that regulate their movements, including some who wanted to fight overseas.

Mr Teo noted that community and religious groups, such as Singapore's Religious Rehabilitation Group - Muslim leaders who counsel detainees and radicalised individuals - play a key role in deterring terrorism.

They have also produced material to rebut hardline ideology.

Individuals, too, can play a part.

"If you notice any signs that a friend or family member has possibly been radicalised, you should alert the authorities," he said.

"Acting preemptively could help stop them from harming themselves and protect others from harm. Through such alerts, we have been able to refer young people who were becoming radicalised for religious counselling, to bring them back onto the correct path."

This article was first published on March 07, 2015.
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