Unity key in face of growing terror threat: Chan Chun Sing

Singaporeans cannot let others sow discord among different communities, says minister

 Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing.
Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing. PHOTO: ST FILE

Singaporeans can overcome the damage a terror attack will inflict on this island by staying united, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing said yesterday.

"Terrorists may try to detonate a bomb in Singapore. The bomb might break our bones, tear our skin and shed our blood," he said.

"But the bomb cannot destroy our unity and it must not rob us of our normalcy."

Speaking to 1,500 residents of Tanjong Pagar GRC and Radin Mas SMC at a National Day dinner at the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station, Mr Chan said there is no "foolproof way" to prevent or avoid an attack.

Attacks might involve people trying to harm Singaporeans overseas, those who try to slip into Singapore and self-radicalised citizens who turn wayward, he noted.

Hence it is critical that Singaporeans are prepared to cope with an attack before - and after - it happens.

In his speech in Malay, Mandarin and English, Mr Chan emphasised the importance of social cohesion in the light of the growing terror threat in the region and globally.

The possibility of an attack hit home this month, when Indonesian police arrested members of a terror cell in Batam, whose leader had planned to fire a rocket at Marina Bay in Singapore.

Mr Chan, who is also labour chief and deputy chairman of the People's Association, said Singaporeans must not let anyone sow seeds of discord among those of different races, languages and faiths.

"If we succeed in letting them divide us, then even without a bomb going off, we are finished," he said.

And should an attack take place? To be paralysed by fear is to be defeated by the terrorists, he added.

"We must return to normalcy in the shortest time possible, to show terrorists that even if you break our bones and shed our blood, they'll never break our spirit or unity."

Mr Chan assured residents that agencies including the Singapore Armed Forces and the Home Team would stay vigilant against emerging threats, but reminded them that the responsibility for what happens the "day before" and the "day after" lies with them.

"The spirit of Singapore is not defined by how we fight for our community, but how we accommodate those of us of different race, language or religion, to create the maximum common space for all of us," he added.

The need for unity was also stressed by Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen at a dinner in Toa Payoh last night. "We are a target. So if you see something suspicious, report it. If something happens, we must make sure we stay united," he said.

Mr Chan also spoke about the slowing economy, and how new technology and business models are displacing old jobs even as new ones are being created.

"Our challenge in Singapore is not that we do not have enough jobs, but whether our people can fit into those new ones," he said.

The Government also wants the best jobs for people, so they can fulfil their potential.

And unlike previous economic slowdowns, this year's is likely to affect certain areas more than others.

Mr Chan called on residents to understand that assistance schemes have to be implemented based on need, and in a sustainable manner.

He also encouraged them to help take care of and look out for one another.

The Government is keeping close watch, he added, so that "when the need arises, it can take surgical and targeted measures" to put Singapore in the best position for the next phase of growth.

The Committee on the Future Economy, of which Mr Chan is deputy chairman, is looking at how Singaporeans can generate new competitive advantages over the next 50 years, he added.

Land and manpower remain constraints, but areas like data are a new resource to tap and push the frontier of what is possible.

"We started with much less in 1965 and we have gotten to where we are. There's no such thing as 'It cannot be done', only 'It cannot be imagined by us'," he said.

He also outlined major plans in place for the next few decades.

In 10 years, Jurong will be a new central business district; in 20 years, the port will move to Tuas; and in 30 years, Paya Lebar will move to Changi to free up space in the east for development.

The Government is also "future-proofing" Singapore against rising sea levels, he said, adding: "We are here for the long haul."

Also at the dinner were fellow Tanjong Pagar GRC MPs Indranee Rajah, Chia Shi-Lu, Melvin Yong and Joan Pereira, and Radin Mas MP Sam Tan.

•Additional reporting by Ng Huiwen

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 14, 2016, with the headline 'Unity key in face of growing terror threat: Chun Sing'. Print Edition | Subscribe