Nothing can justify Paris killings: Shanmugam

The "barbaric" terrorist attacks in Paris last week were the acts of "sick and mad people" and had nothing to do with issues of religion, race or nationality, Foreign and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said yesterday.

"Nothing can justify the killings," he told reporters. "It's been done in the name of religion (but) no religion will have any truck with these actions."

Speaking at the French embassy in Singapore after signing a condolence book for the victims of the terrorist killings, Mr Shanmugam said the Republic stands in solidarity with France as it mourns the victims of the attacks.

"We have no doubt the resilience of the French people will come through once again," he added. "And this challenge will be faced with determination, like France has faced so many other challenges."

France's ambassador to Singapore Benjamin Dubertret thanked Mr Shanmugam for his gesture of support and "solidarity in the fight against terrorism".

"It's an exceptional gesture and we value it as such," he said.

Seventeen lives were lost last week in three terror incidents in the French capital, including 12 casualties during an assault on Paris-based magazine Charlie Hebdo.

On Sunday, nearly four million people marched in France to demonstrate unity in response to the attacks. Mr Shanmugam said he had instructed Singapore's ambassador in Paris, Mr Tan York Chor, to join the unity march there.

At home, the Paris incidents have led to a "growing realisation" among Singaporeans used to peace and security that terrorism is a serious threat, he added.

Asked about ramping up security in Singapore, Mr Shanmugam said a balance must be struck between a free society and security.

"You can't turn every place into a prison or a fortress," he said. Rather, Singapore should use intelligence networks and share information with foreign agencies to pick up leads.

As to whether the killings in Paris represented an attack on freedom of expression, Mr Shanmugam said that while freedom of expression is a universal value, each country practises it differently depending on its experiences.

"Given our own background in racial and religious sensitivities, we have taken a fairly tough line and we draw the line on freedom of expression which crosses over into insulting another religion," he said.

"But you know these are based on historical experiences, and the French historical experience has led to their structure of freedom of expression which now has to face up to this reality, and I'm sure the French people will identify a line that they can draw."