Racial harmony will help us prevent, respond to and recover from attack: DPM Teo

In the wake of a spate of terror attacks in Europe, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean yesterday urged Singaporeans to strengthen their resolve to maintain peace and racial harmony here.

Speaking on the sidelines of a community sports event, he said: "By having good racial harmony, it helps us to prevent, it helps us to respond, and it helps us to recover if ever an attack were to take place."

He highlighted the recent arrests in neighbouring countries, including that of 14 Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants by the Malaysian authorities who were caught with a 1kg improvised explosive device.

These "reflect the level of activity that is going on in the countries around us", he said, adding that Singapore has also had to deal with people who encourage extremism and violence. "We should stop these people, we should take them in and make sure that we guide them along the right path, if we do find such people in Singapore."

Singaporeans who notice someone "who may be going down the wrong way", should bring the matter up to friends, religious figures or the authorities. "We can guide him on the right path, save him, save his family, save the community from harm," said Mr Teo, who is also Coordinating Minister for National Security.

"No country in the world today is immune from terrorism. That's why we have to prepare for all three phases: To prevent as much as possible, to respond if there's an attack, and most importantly, to maintain social harmony and unity should an attack happen."

Madam Margaret Lee, 71, (squatting) and Madam Kok Ee San, 78, try out floor curling at a Community Sports Day event held yesterday. The sports day aims to promote racial harmony.
Madam Margaret Lee, 71, (squatting) and Madam Kok Ee San, 78, try out floor curling at a Community Sports Day event held yesterday. The sports day aims to promote racial harmony. ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

Yesterday, more than 40,000 residents took part in Community Sports Day events across 76 locations in Singapore. The inaugural sports day, organised by the People's Association, is meant to promote racial harmony.

At Pasir Ris Elias Community Club yesterday, 500 people took part in a fun race and games with a kampong theme - such as sepak takraw and skipping - flavoured with an ethnic twist. For example, the sepak takraw teams of three had to be made up of different races. Similarly, participants had to skip 20 times while wearing a traditional Indian sarong called a lungi.

Games, Mr Teo said, are a "wonderful way to bring people together" since it is a common language everyone can enjoy.

Engineer Gopa Kumar, 48, taught his teammates to wear the lungi. "The games really help build bonds with your neighbours," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 24, 2016, with the headline 'Racial harmony will help us prevent, respond to and recover from attack: DPM Teo'. Print Edition | Subscribe