Singaporeans must 'stand united in face of terror threat'

Singaporeans should continue to stand united and live in harmony at a time when terror attacks across the world seek to divide societies, three ministers said yesterday.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean emphasised the importance of racial and religious harmony in preventing, and dealing with, a possible terror attack here.

"We focus on what we have in common and what unites us as Singaporeans, rather than be drawn apart by what makes us different," he told residents in a speech at the 12th Punggol North Racial and Religious Harmony Street Parade and Family Carnival.

"The intention of any terror attack is not just to take lives, but also to strike fear and to divide society.

"We cannot stop every possible way in which terror attacks can be carried out, without locking down our whole society and preventing ourselves from living our lives as normally as possible," said Mr Teo, who oversees security matters across various agencies as Coordinating Minister for National Security.

"The solution has to come from our hearts, and from our minds, that we have decided that we want to live together in peace and harmony and that we will make sure that our society, our neighbourhoods, remain that way," added Mr Teo, an MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC.

His comments come a day after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told Singapore reporters that the recent spate of terror attacks globally underscores the severity of the threat.

Singaporeans have to be prepared to hold together as a society and carry on as one nation in the aftermath of an attack, he added.

Yesterday, some 12,000 Punggol residents attended the parade in Punggol Field Road, which featured musical performances, a multi-religious food fair and a showcase of festivals and weddings from different nationalities.

Mr Teo's words were echoed by Acting Minister for Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng, also an MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, who cautioned against taking racial and religious harmony for granted.

"We must always be mindful of the delicate balance necessary to maintain racial and multicultural harmony," he said.

"This is something we must not take for granted and we should build on the many years of friendships and solidarity. We must constantly remind ourselves of the need always to be tactful and respectful of each other's race, culture and religion."

DPM Teo also urged residents to alert community leaders and the authorities if they know of anyone who might be going astray in this regard.

"Tell someone, and we will work together to help to save him from doing damage to himself, his family, the society and our country," he said.

At a separate event to recognise the contributions of volunteers for Malay/Muslim self-help group Mendaki yesterday, Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim also highlighted the need to promote racial and religious understanding.

"Racial harmony is a work in progress," he said. "We don't wait for an event to jump into action, we have to continue to reach out to others to strengthen the core."

"Credit must go to the various communities - we've been working together, we've been running programmes for inter-faith understanding," added Dr Yaacob, who is also Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs.

Pressing on with such efforts to deepen trust and understanding between people from various communities is especially crucial, he added, as Singapore's population is constantly changing and becoming more diverse with new immigrants.

This article was first published on July 18, 2016.
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