SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has cautioned that the country must never let its guard down when dealing with the threat of terrorism.
Speaking at the International Conference on Terrorist Rehabilitation and Community Resilience, Mr Lee explained that self—radicalisation is a growing phenomenon and Singaporeans are not immune to this danger.
Several have been radicalised by terrorist ideology through the internet, according to the co—chairman of the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG), Ustaz Ali Mohamed.
He said: "They provide space for exchanging messages and fostering online communities with common interests and agendas. RRG believes that this is one of our greatest challenges today —— to deal and counter the pervasive spread of terrorist ideologies and extremist views online.
"We are fortunate that the Singapore government is willing to empower the community to become partners in handling the problem, and not take the issue of terrorism a security threat to be resolved by the use of law and security action alone. This willingness has allowed the RRG to take ownership of the problem, tackle it from the religious perspective and most importantly contribute towards maintaining national security."
Mr Lee said that several Singaporeans have been radicalised by terrorist ideology through the internet.
He said: "Jihadist sites and sermons by charismatic radical ideologues are just a mouse click away. A person can become radicalised after repeated exposure. This is true of all sorts of radical and fringe groups and not only radical jihadists.
"What can we do about the terrorist threat? First, we must strengthen trust between our ethnic groups. Trust is the foundation for any society, especially a multi—religious, multi—racial one like ours."
He added that it is fortunate that Singapore has not suffered a terrorist attack in recent years, and credit must go to the Home Team for keeping Singapore safe.
Mr Lee also commended the Religious Rehabilitation Group for countering the wrong—headed ideologies that motivate the terrorists. He said every terrorism—related detainee who has been released from detention has gone through counselling with the group as part of the rehabilitation programme.
Mr Lee said: "Ulamas took a leap of faith and took the risk of being seen as lackeys of the government. They were convinced this was the right thing to do and necessary to arrest the spread of religious extremism. The RRG set to work to counsel and rehabilitate the JI detainees."
Mr Lee said they were convinced that it was the right thing to do and was necessary to arrest the spread of religious extremism. However, he cautioned that the threat has not disappeared and Singapore remains a target.
Moving forward, Mr Lee spoke of the importance of deepening communal trust to battle the threat. He said operational capabilities must be enhanced by picking up intelligence leads, pursuing them thoroughly, and nipping emerging threats in the bud.
There is also the need for close international security cooperation through the timely sharing of intelligence.
"From time to time, we hear reports of terrorists in our region wanting to attack Singapore or Singapore assets in our neighbourhood. We must never let our guard down," added Mr Lee.
"Terrorism is an international scourge. While great progress has been made in combating terrorism, the threat has by no means disappeared."
Mr Lee said Singapore must remain vigilant and strengthen defences against terrorism and work together to keep the country and Singaporeans safe.
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