The Government will protect its people against any threat of violence, regardless of their race, religion or sexual orientation, Minister for Home Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam said yesterday.
“Violence against any group, in any form, is not acceptable. Here, the Government will act decisively if there is threat of violence against anyone or any group,” Mr Shanmugam said before the iftar (breaking of fast) at the Khadijah Mosque in Geylang yesterday.
“The Government’s duty is to protect everyone – their race, their religion, their sexual orientation, that’s not relevant.”
His comments came in the wake of a massacre at a gay nightclub in Florida on Sunday, when gunman Omar Mateen mowed down 49 people and injured another 53, in the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history.
Investigators are examining whether Omar was driven to violence as a deeply disturbed individual who was himself gay or because of extremist ideology. “But it looks like the gay community has been targeted. This is unacceptable,” Mr Shanmugam told reporters.
The kind of threat posed by lone- wolf individuals who are inspired but not directed by known extremist groups is “a significant risk” for Singapore as well, he said, noting that the Government had arrested “people who have self-radicalised, had intended to go to the Istana open house and do violence” to the President and Prime Minister.
In another case of home-grown terrorism, six Bangladeshis were charged last month with financing terrorism after they were detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for planning attacks back home.
Mr Shanmugam said education is key in inoculating the population against radicalisation but it is not foolproof. Communities also have to come together and families have to be on the lookout for suggestions or evidence of radicalisation, while security agencies stay on high alert.
Under the ISA, the Government can move in and arrest an individual who has been identified before he can do harm, he said.
But these measures do not guarantee that Singapore will not be attacked, as terrorists often blend into the community. “There are threats in a variety of forms. Thankfully, our population is a cross of many races, and we are not infected by extremism to any substantial degree,” said Mr Shanmugam.
Yesterday, thousands of people in cities throughout the United States and Europe stood in solidarity to remember those who had died. In Singapore, some 700 people attended a candlelight vigil in Hong Lim Park.
Mr Shanmugam stressed the importance of the national SG Secure initiative in organising and training residents to guard against attacks, and maintain social harmony in the aftermath.The Muslim community has an important role in combating radical ideology as well, he said.
Said Dr Mohamed Ali, vice-chairman of the Religious Rehabilitation Group: “Religious and community leaders have a strong influence over the followers of their religion. They need to convey these messages to their communities, to reject extremism and ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria).”