Stern reminder of terror threat, say S'pore leaders

Stern reminder of terror threat, say S'pore leaders
Members of the public look at floral tributes placed near the cafe where hostages were held for over 16-hours, in central Sydney December 16, 2014.

SINGAPORE - The Sydney hostage crisis is a stern reminder that the threat of terrorism remains a real and present concern, Singapore's leaders said yesterday.

They also expressed sadness at the loss of innocent lives from the incident on Monday, in which a gunman took hostages at a cafe in the city centre. Two people and the gunman were killed, and at least four others were injured.

In a Facebook post yesterday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the incident is a lesson for Singapore to keep up its guard. "Despite all our precautions, we can never completely rule out such an incident here," he wrote.

"If it ever happens, we need the cohesion and resilience to deal with it calmly and as one united people, and not let it divide or destroy our society."

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam and Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs Masagos Zulkifli also took to social media to comment on the 16-hour siege, which ended early yesterday morning after heavily armed security forces stormed the cafe.

PM Lee recalled a briefing that he held with local community and religious leaders on extremist terrorism last month, where they talked about how terrorism remains a live threat and the danger of self-radicalisation.

Mr Shanmugam, who is also Minister for Law, noted that gunman Mon Haron Monis was out on bail while being accused of being an accessory to the murder of his former wife, and had a history of criminal offences.

This calls for a careful relook, he said. "I have asked MinLaw to review our framework for granting bail."

In Singapore, murder and most sexual assaults are non-bailable offences. A person charged with abetting in such offences will also not be eligible for bail.

Meanwhile, DPM Teo said the siege in Sydney showed that terrorist attacks by individuals can take place even when there is heightened security - Australia had raised its terrorism alert to "high" in September.

Everyone can play a part in the fight against terrorism by staying sharp and reporting any suspicious activity to the authorities immediately, said Mr Teo, who is also the Coordinating Minister for National Security and Home Affairs Minister.

He said the authorities are in touch with their counterparts in Australia to get more details of the incident.

Defence Minister Ng said Singaporeans must not allow any person or group to "weaken or fracture the strong ties that we have painstakingly built to forge a harmonious multiracial and multi-religious nation".

Reiterating points made by the ministers, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman said the incident "highlights the danger posed to all societies by terrorism and extremist ideology, and underscores the need for continued vigilance in dealing with them".

Mr Masagos, in his message on Facebook, said it is sad that "madness" led to the death of young innocents.

"I can understand their children and loved ones growing up angry with Muslims. But I hope they will heal because only forgiveness will stop this madness from reaping its malicious intent," he said.

Additional reporting by Walter Sim

This article was first published on Dec 17, 2014.
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