Singaporeans must unite against terror: DPM Teo Chee Hean

Policemen patrolling the area outside People's Park Complex, Singapore.
Policemen patrolling the area outside People's Park Complex, Singapore. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Teo Chee Hean urges all to continue to strengthen nation's racial, religious harmony

All religious groups in Singapore reject extremism, radicalism and violence, and will condemn those who carry out a terror attack here, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean yesterday.

"Rather than allowing an attack to strike fear and splinter our society, we must unite against any such attack, stand together as one people, and emerge stronger," he added as he spoke about racial and religious harmony at a fund-raising dinner for the new Church of Transfiguration, located in his constituency.

His remarks came hours after it was reported that Malaysian police had arrested four terror suspects, one of whom had allegedly planned a suicide attack in Kuala Lumpur, and three days after deadly blasts in Jakarta killed eight people. Both incidents have been linked to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Several ministers have warned of possible terror attacks here in recent days, and President Tony Tan Keng Yam reiterated this last Friday at the opening of Parliament.

Yesterday, Mr Teo said the longstanding racial and religious harmony in Singapore, one of the most religiously diverse countries in the world, did not happen by chance.

Pioneer Singaporeans, who lived through racial and religious strife, had decided that each community would not "insist on the primacy of its race, language or practices".

Religious groups, he said, have also rejected foreign teachings and practices that do not suit the multiracial and multi-religious context here - in particular, those that are disrespectful to other religions or encourage communities to live apart.

As a result, said Mr Teo, people can practise their religion and carry on their traditions freely, even as the common spaces where people come together are expanded.

But each generation will have to choose anew the type of society they want to live in.

Urging Singaporeans to heed the "precious" lessons from 50 years of independence, he said: "For the next 50 years, it is up to us and our children to decide what kind of society we want to be... This can be by the choices of leaders, or by the individual choices we make every day, whether to live in harmony, try and integrate with others or whether we choose to live separately. So, we can make those choices ourselves. We can succumb to exclusivity, sectarianism and drift apart, or we can reinforce the choice that our forefathers made to live together, and continue to celebrate and strengthen our racial and religious harmony."

Mr Teo praised religious institutions here for working with Singaporeans and the Government in nation-building, especially in the areas of character formation, education, healthcare and charity.

Later, Catholic Archbishop William Goh told the 1,700 people at the dinner that the Catholic Church would continue to partner the Government in promoting harmony.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 18, 2016, with the headline 'S'poreans must unite against terror: DPM'. Print Edition | Subscribe