The 11 September 2001 attack in the United States and other attacks after that have shown that terrorism is now largely linked to religious extremism. The terrorists use religion as a reason to commit violence against others. The arrests of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) members for plotting bombings in Singapore in 2001 showed that Singapore can be a target of these terrorists as well. It also showed us that there were Singaporeans who have been misled by these terrorists. The JI continues to pose a real threat to the region. This was clearly shown in October 2005 by the three suicide attacks in Bali. Terrorism is a long term threat to Singapore, so we have to prepare ourselves to prevent attacks and to manage the consequences should there be an attack.
We cannot take our harmony for granted
Although we had many years of peace and harmony among our many races and religions, we cannot assume that we will not be affected by racial and religious misunderstandings and tension after a crisis. Experience in the U.K. and the U.S. has shown that besides the casualties and the physical damage, the social stability, trust, confidence and harmony amongst the people will also be threatened when terrorists strike.
If terrorists successfully launch an attack in Singapore, they will not just want to kill people and destroy property. Their true intention is to create suspicion, tension and strife between the different racial and religious groups in Singapore.
We must not allow this to happen. A crisis such as a terrorist incident is a national problem, not one of any particular race or religion. We must face any such crisis united as one nation and one people.
This is why the Community Engagement Programme is NOT just another anti-terrorist emergency planning effort. It is a lot more. We want to find ways to ensure that our society stays strong and united during and after such a crisis, so that as a society we can recover quickly, and as Singaporeans we can continue to work, study and live together in peace and harmony.