Singapore not immune from terror threat, says PM Lee

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With the pace of attacks around the world picking up, it is unrealistic to think that Singapore is immune from the threat of terrorism, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Already, there has been a "steady trickle of cases" in recent years of people who have been self-radicalised, he said.

Yesterday, news broke of two Singaporean auxiliary police officers being arrested under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for terrorism-related offences.

Terrorism is a serious problem confronting many countries, said Mr Lee, as he highlighted the recent spate of incidents - from vehicular attacks to slashings - that have unfolded around the world.

There have not been big incidents, but the world is seeing such incidents happening more often, he told reporters at a break fast, or iftar, session at the Tanglin Police Division Headquarters.

He cited some examples, from the attack at Paris' Champs-Elysees on Monday, to the ongoing siege of the southern Philippine city of Marawi, over which Islamic State in Iraq and Syria-linked militants and Filipino armed forces are locked in battle.

Mr Lee attended the iftar session to reassure the uniformed services they have his support, just hours after the Home Affairs Ministry announced that two Aetos officers had been dealt with under the ISA.

"I decided to come here today to show my support for the Home Team, and my confidence in them, and encourage the officers that, well, these things happen, but we continue to have confidence in you and to work with you," he said.

This message of reassurance must go out to the broader community as well, he added.

The arrests will cause anxiety among the Muslim community, who will worry about coming under the spotlight, as well as non-Muslims, who may have concerns about their safety.

Mr Lee said he plans to meet Malay/Muslim community leaders next month to update them on the terrorism front, find out their worries, and "make sure we are still completely on the same page".

After that, he plans to hold a session with community leaders of the other races.

Noting that Singapore works on the basis of "when, rather than whether" a terror attack will occur, he said: "We make sure we are as well prepared as we possibly can be for when it happens in Singapore."

In his remarks in Malay, Mr Lee sought to give the Malay/Muslim community assurance in the light of the recent detentions.

He acknowledged that the community may feel concerned and unsure about what to do.

"The answer is simple: Stand shoulder to shoulder with the Government. The Government does not want the Muslim community to be viewed with distrust. We know the Muslim community in Singapore condemns terrorist ideology. They value and contribute to the peace and harmony that we enjoy."

He urged Muslims to speak to the police, Islamic Religious Council of Singapore or the Religious Rehabilitation Group if they know of friends and families who have been led astray.

This, he said, is "not to sentence them, but to help them return to the right path". "Together, we can overcome these challenges."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 21, 2017, with the headline Singapore not immune from terror threat, says PM Lee. Subscribe