Youth has role to play in maintaining social harmony: Lawrence Wong

SINGAPORE - The younger generation has a role to play in maintaining social harmony in the face of extremism and terror threats, said Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong at a closed-door dialogue on Saturday.

He singled out the worsening conflict in Middle East in his speech. "ISIS has descended on Iraq and Syria. It has very polished propaganda which has drawn in more than 10,000 foreign recruits. Some recruits come from Indonesia, some from Malaysia and, indeed, some from Singapore."

"All of these recruits who have joined the fight, support the terrorists who are there, they would be hardened by the violence they have seen and participated in. Their passions are likely to be worked up by extremist rhetoric. They would have exchanged contacts with other fighters and terrorists. And they may well return to region, to Indonesia, to Malaysia and to Singapore. You will never know what consequences may arise when they come back," the minister warned.

Mr Wong also highlighted the possibility of "lone wolf" threats.

"So it's very possible that a lone wolf not linked to any organised groups, an individual may emerged, self radicalised, and may come out from our society. This person could then have the motivation to start plotting his or her own violent acts."

To combat these threats, Mr Wong said that Singapore's social harmony is an asset. "Our most powerful asset is the reservoir of goodwill between races and religions which we have built up over the years. These good relations between different races and religions came about neither by accident nor by good fortune. It is the fruit of a lot of hard work by our parents' generation and the people who came before us, our grandparents' generation, the pioneers."

Mr Wong said that it is important to engaged youth in dialogue so that they understand the terror threats and know their role in maintaining social harmony.

"Just as we have regular platforms to talk to our religious leaders, we think it is important to have a platform to engage young people like yourselves, and continually engage you, have conversations with you, share candidly with each other so that we can confront the security threats we face in Singapore together," said Mr Wong.

He added: "The challenge is going forward, all of us will be the ones who have to take up this responsibility to deal with the threats of extremism and terrorism."

Some 350 youth from schools, self-help groups, the National Youth Council and People's Association attended the dialogue held at the ITE campus at Ang Mo Kio.