Ng Eng Hen on terrorism: 'Singapore never let down its guard even during golden jubilee celebrations'  

Policemen patrolling Changi Airport’s Terminal 2 on Aug 8, during the long jubilee weekend.
Policemen patrolling Changi Airport’s Terminal 2 on Aug 8, during the long jubilee weekend.PHOTO: ST FILE

BANGKOK - Singapore may have been celebrating its 50th anniversary all year, but its security agencies have never let down their guard against terrorists like the one that attacked Paris over the weekend, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said on Monday (Nov 16).

Speaking to Singapore media in Bangkok while on the two-day visit to reaffirm and strengthen bilateral defence ties, he said: "We have constantly been on the lookout… despite this year being (our) golden jubilee, it has never been off our minds."

But preventing such attacks was "extremely difficult", he said.

"We have to be vigilant all the time and the terrorists need only to break through your defence just once to wreak extreme havoc as they have done in Paris.

"And really, if you talk to security agencies anywhere in the world, there is no foolproof defence against someone whose mission is take down as many lives and (is) willing to lose his life in that  process."

Singapore has "stepped up vigilance" in its military installations, especially air and naval bases, after the Paris attacks. But "we have to learn to live with" the threat posed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group, which has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

The reality is that individuals from the region have returned from overseas after being trained by ISIS, and "they come back with the motivation to harm".

But, "just as we overcame the Jemaah Islamiyah, if we come together if we continue to exercise vigilance, we continue to be alert, I'm confident that we can overcome this threat," he said, referring to the South-east Asian affiliate of the Al-Qaeda militant group, which engineered the Sept 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center in the United States.

tanhy@sph.com.sg