SINGAPORE - Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean thanked "long-time partners" in Singapore's fight against terrorism on Saturday (Sept 30), saying that their contributions have helped ensure that Singapore and Singaporeans are safe from harm.
Speaking at the 13th Ministry of Home Affairs appreciation lunch for community volunteers, he said: "The terrorism threat is not going away any time soon. Our security agencies are working hard to detect, prevent and deal with potential attacks. At the same time, strong community support is essential to keep Singapore and Singaporeans safe."
The current security landscape puts the terrorism threat at its highest level here since Jemaah Islamiah was dismantled in 2001.
Since 2015, 11 Singaporeans have been detained and six were issued Restriction Orders. Foreigners working here who were found to be radicalised have also been deported.
DPM Teo, who is also Coordinating Minister for National Security, outlined three areas community volunteers can focus on.
A priority would be to report individuals showing signs of being radicalised early, he said at the event held at Pan Pacific Hotel in recognition of the efforts made by groups such as the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) and Inter-Agency Aftercare Group
"If a person is uncovered early, he or she can receive religious and psychological counselling by RRG and its counsellors. The RRG has managed to 'save' several of these individuals."
Next, it is crucial to adopt inclusive practices and social norms that would allow all Singaporeans to interact freely to enlarge Singaporeans' common space, he added.
He noted that the Muslim community has supported making the Asatizah Recognition Scheme mandatory for religious leaders.
As a result, Muslim religious teachers "are well-positioned to impart religious knowledge from credible sources that is contextualised to our multi-religious society", he said.
Using social media is also an important tool in engaging the Muslim community, he added.
DPM Teo said: "The RRG Facebook community has 8,000 'followers' and this is a good start. I encourage all of you to continue to find new ways to reach out more widely to counter radical ideas."
At the lunch, he also said the authorities were working with the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) to turn the concept of an Islamic College into reality.
This was first mooted by Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim last year, with the aim of providing tertiary education for religious leaders that is grounded in Singapore's unique multi-racial and multi-religious society.
Finally, said DPM Teo, the community needs to support at-risk individuals and families so they can be well integrated with society and will distance themselves from radical ideas.
DPM Teo added: "When we(Singapore) became independent, all our communities in Singapore resolved to live together and build a multiracial society. With so much racial and religious conflict even in our own region, it takes special efforts and measures to keep Singapore peaceful and harmonious."
He noted that Singapore has introduced important institutions, laws and regulations to help prevent conflict and keep all communities together, such as the Housing Board's ethnic integration policy and the group representation constituencies system.
The changes to the elected presidency to ensure that members of the major racial communities in Singapore can hold the highest office of president from time to time was also in this vein, he added.
Noting that President Madam Halimah Yacob is Singapore's first president from the Malay community in 47 years, he said: "Let us give her our full support."
"We enjoy harmony because we have these guide-ropes and guard-rails to help us progress on our journey towards our aspiration to be one united people regardless of race, language or religion. This requires the commitment and continued support of all communities and Singaporeans," he said.