Political will and a legal regime are required to tackle terrorism while social issues need to be dealt with so that no group becomes marginalised, Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said today (Jan 12) as he condemned the shootings in Paris last week which “can happen anywhere”.

Speaking to reporters after signing a condolence book at the French Embassy, Mr Shanmugam said Singapore stands in solidarity with the French people. “Nothing can justify these barbaric acts and the loss of so many innocent lives and we wish speedy recovery for those who are injured and our thoughts and prayers are with families of the victims.”

He added: “Let’s get this straight – it’s not got to do with religion … any particular race… any particular nation. It’s got to do with mad people, sick people who have been brainwashed.”

Last Wednesday, gunmen killed journalists at the offices of French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo, which has a history of drawing outrage in the Muslim world with crude cartoons of Islam’s holiest figure.

On the issue of freedom of expression, Mr Shanmugam said these are “universal values but practised slightly differently in each country”. Singapore draws a “fairly tough line”, given its history which has been coloured by communist threats and racial riots. “We draw the line on freedom of expression which crosses over to insulting another religion or another race,” he said.

While security has been beefed up in the Republic after the Paris shootings, a balance has to be struck, Mr Shanmugam added. “You can’t turn every place into a fortress or a prison… The economy is dependent on (the) free flow of people within Singapore, as well as the population that comes into Singapore. Likewise for France… it has the largest number of foreign visitors in the world. You can’t turn French attractions into fortresses with very detailed security checks,” he said.

The key is in intelligence, he added. “It also means empowering our intelligence agencies… and having a robust framework that tries to ensure that intelligence is not abused.”

Over 40 world leaders, including British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor took part in a march in Paris yesterday to honour the victims of the shootings. Mr Shanmugam said he had instructed Mr Tan York Chor, Singapore’s ambassador in Paris, to join the rally.

“The march of unity was an eloquent testimony to the solidarity that the rest of the free world shows France and we have no doubt the resilience of the French people will come through once again,” he said.

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