Speech by President Halimah Yacob at the MHA Appreciation Lunch for Community Volunteers

Mr K Shanmugam,

Minister for Home Affairs and Law

Distinguished guests

Ladies and gentlemen

I am happy to be here this afternoon to express my appreciation to volunteers who have helped the Ministry of Home Affairs in combatting terrorism and extremism over the past decade.

The war against terrorism and extremism is not just a fight against violence.  It is also a common pledge towards humanity and social cohesion.  I am therefore glad that many volunteers have stepped up over the years to join the Government in this effort.  With your support, more than 70 terrorism-related detainees, including those who were part of organised terrorist groups like the Jemaah Islamiyah or self-radicalised individuals, have been released and have re-integrated into our society. You have also helped steer others in the early stages of radicalisation from spiralling down that dangerous path, and saved them from future harm. Your outreach efforts have helped educate the community and strengthen our collective resilience to terrorist and extremist ideologies. Thank you for your commitment and hard work. 

We have managed to gain some ground in the fight against terrorism.  In recent months, ISIS has lost most of its territory in Syria and Iraq.  But we must not let our guard down simply because the ground war appears to be won. ISIS is far from being defeated and still pose a security threat in how they continue to push out their violent message over social media. Some of the surviving foreign fighters may also return and regroup in our region, battle hardened and better connected. Both Malaysia and Indonesia have already witnessed terrorist attacks and plots by such returnee fighters.  It is just a matter of time before Singapore becomes a prime target again. We should take this valuable time to build up our social resilience and better prepare ourselves for any eventuality.

On this note, I would like to commend the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) for initiating the Awareness Youth Programme (AYP) on radicalisation. In March 2018, RRG launched the AYP to engage Muslim youths and give them proper guidance in religious knowledge through contextualising Islamic thoughts and practices in a multi-racial and multi-religious society. These include a series of lectures, which covered topics such as Islamic values, appreciating diversity in Islam, Muslims living in a plural society, and how to resist the influence of radical and extremist ideologies. I believe the participants will benefit immensely from the AYP. 

I am also pleased that the Inter-Agency Aftercare Group (ACG) has organised a youth forum last month (Aug) on building resilience among our youths against the dangers of extremism in the cyber world. Getting youths involved in our work will drive home the message that they too have a part to play in keeping Singapore safe and secure.

The ACG embodies the collaborative spirit between Mendaki, AMP, Taman Bacaan and other individuals to provide social support for the detainees and help them re-gain their footing after their release from detention. I am heartened that community groups are working together in developing and implementing initiatives to educate Singaporeans on terrorism-related issues. Our agencies are also constantly working with foreign counterparts to share information on returnee fighters. There are numerous regional and international conferences and workshops organised for security agencies to come together to share best practices on dealing with the threat of terrorism. Even on the community front, we can all do our part to report to the authorities immediately if you know of anyone who is radicalised, I urge all of us to continue finding more new ways to work in partnership with one another as we push ahead in combatting terrorism and extremism. 

 It takes someone special to be a volunteer. It is a real sacrifice, not just by the volunteer, but also by their families. I am proud that all of you here today have responded to the nation’s call to help fight against the scourge of terrorism and extremism. The journey has not been easy one and will continue to be a challenging one for some time to come. Let us all walk this journey together to make our home strong and secure. I also encourage you to nurture and pass on the spirit of volunteerism to our youths. Not only are they our future but they also have a part to play in ensuring Singapore’s security. Finally, I commend you for your perseverance, your sense of determination, and your unwavering dedication to give your best to the community and the nation.   

Thank you.