SINGAPORE — The terrorist threat has recently worsened due to the ongoing conflict in Syria and Iraq and while it might seem far away, it is naive to think that Singapore can keep its head low and let it pass over, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong today (Nov 29).
He added that the Government has to do what is necessary to protect Singapore, and this includes getting the support of the community, staying vigilant domestically, and taking swift actions to neutralise threats. This is also why Singapore needs to contribute to the international efforts against militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), through liason and planning officers, a KC-135R tanker aircraft and an imagery analysis team, he said.
Mr Lee was addressing 300 community and religious leaders from various faiths, prior to a closed-door dialogue with the group at what was the largest dialogue with the leaders since 2011. Five other Cabinet ministers were present, including Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Teo Chee Hean and Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen.
Mr Lee noted that counter-terrorism operations have neutralised some terrorist groups in the region. However, they are regrouping and have links with ISIS.
The ISIS currently control large parts of eastern Syria and western Iraq, fighting against the Iraqi government, Syrian government and Kurdish forces.
Pointing out that people from Southeast Asia have joined the ISIS, including a few from Singapore, Mr Lee said: “So although Syria and Iraq may seem faraway, the conflict there, especially ISIS, affects us.”
RELIGIOUS LEADERS BRIEFED
Thanking the community and religious leaders who have responded to the terrorist threat resolutely, Mr Lee said the threat can cause doubts and dissention, but the danger has been avoided because people are rational, and have forthrightly condemned the extremists.
“I am particularly grateful to the Malay-Muslim community who have maintained this position, and especially the leaders,” he added.
To counter ISIS propaganda, Mr Lee said that the Mufti and Religious Rehabilitation Group have released a brochure in English, Malay and Tamil, as well as two videos to point out the fallacies and brutal methods of the militant group.
Malay-Muslim organisations and other religious organisations have also contributed towards humanitarian efforts to help Syrian refugees.
Still, Mr Lee said eradicating terrorism will be a difficult and long-term fight.
During the closed door dialogue, security agencies briefed the community and religious leaders on information outside the public domain to help them “connect the dots”, in Mr Lee’s words. “So that you can understand what is happening, understand what our thinking is, and what we must do,” he said in his speech.
‘COMMUNITY UNDERSTANDS NEED TO SUPPORT COALITION’
On the Government’s decision to join the coalition against ISIS, Singapore Islamic Scholars and Religious Teachers Association (PERGAS) Secretary Mohd Zahid Zin — who attended the dialogue — told TODAY: “The community is mature enough to understand the need to support the coalition, because of the real threats posed to the country.”
However, there are concerns in the community over the security of Singaporeans, both in Singapore and overseas, and these worries should be comforted, he added.
Dr Wee Boon Hup, President of the National Council of Churches, said that from the dialogue, he learnt more about efforts to combat radicalisation, among other things.
Venerable Seck Kwang Ping, Singapore Buddhist Federation President, said he was glad that leaders from various faiths can discuss important issues such as religious harmony. Religious leaders are aware that Singapore is lucky to experience religious harmony and is mindful of the need to maintain it, he added.