S’pore still a target for terrorism: PM Lee

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong speaks with leaders and invited guests at the International Conference on Terrorism Rehabilitation and Community Resilience on Tuesday, 26 March 2013. (Yahoo! photo)

Although Singapore has not suffered threats or attacks in recent years, it remains a target for terrorism, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Speaking on Tuesday morning at global conference on terrorism at Raffles City Convention Centre, Lee said in his keynote address that extremist terrorism “remains a real and potent challenge”.

“The threat has not disappeared, and we remain a target,” he said. “From time to time, we hear reports of terrorists in our region wanting to attack Singapore or Singaporean assets that are in our neighbourhood. We must never let our guard down.”

At the  conference organised by the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies and the Religious Rehabilitation Group, PM Lee underlined how important it was to strengthen the trust between Singapore’s ethnic groups.

“We regard terrorism as a national threat that endangers all Singaporeans, not just specific communities,” he said. “Terrorist attacks not only damage the physical infrastructure, they can also destroy the social fabric that binds societies together.”

Lee explained that when the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) network was first discovered in 2001, the government explained the facts of the case to community leaders and to the public in order to dispel any misapprehensions or fears that might have been held.

“We have therefore worked hard to build communal trust by enshrining racial harmony as one of our key values and ensuring all races progress with the nation,” he said.

The Prime Minister also called for closer international security cooperation to better counter the terrorist threat.

Sharing about how the pooling of knowledge about JI members across Southeast Asian governments contributed to the arrest of hundreds of the network’s associates and counterparts across the region, he noted that terrorism is a global threat, meaning that counter-terrorist efforts must be done on the international level as well.

“Our individual circumstances may vary, but we share a common responsibility to keep our people safe from terrorists,” he concluded.

The conference, organised by the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies and the Religious Rehabilitation Group, was held in conjunction with the RRG’s 10th anniversary, at which PM Lee launched a commemorative publication. About 500 delegates were in attendance, including cabinet ministers, religious leaders from Singapore and other countries, community representatives and students.