||Singapore needs to remain open: DPM Teo
SINGAPORE: Singapore needs to remain open and to welcome diversity, even as it grapples with the challenges brought about by globalisation, technology and extremism, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said.
Speaking at the Community Engagement Programme (CEP) dialogue on Saturday morning, he said these three driving forces can have a double-edged impact on Singapore's social cohesion.
The CEP is a national crisis response network of community, business and youth leaders coordinated by the Home Affairs Ministry.
Into its seventh year, the annual CEP dialogue saw the participation of some 600 community leaders and several ministers including Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Mr Chan Chun Sing, Mr Tan Chuan-Jin and Mr Lim Swee Say.
On globalisation, Mr Teo said more Singaporeans are now living overseas, and Singapore is also becoming more cosmopolitan with people from many different countries calling it home.
With many different races and religions living close together in a small, dense city like Singapore, he said differences between the various groups can develop easily into fissures and weaken the country's unity.
Hence, Mr Teo said Singapore needs to pay extra attention to facilitating the new immigrants who are ready to sink roots here, so that they integrate into society more quickly.
He also urged Singaporeans to do their part to make newcomers feel welcome, and to help them imbibe the values that have made Singapore strong as a society.
On technology, Mr Teo highlighted how the Internet and social media can help bring people together, but it can also disrupt social order and harmony when used maliciously.
He said while social media can mobilise active citizens for positive change, the Internet and the anonymity it affords can also embolden people and encourage extreme views.
"Anonymity on the Internet emboldens people, encouraging them to take on more extreme views than they might otherwise," Mr Teo said.
"The Internet also amplifies the extreme views, even though they might be in the minority, and virtual mobs form to cheer or jeer, which only help to accentuate the differences, polarise and inflame emotions further."
Mr Teo said international terrorism and violent extremism continue to be threats to the world, including Singapore, which remains a target for terrorists.
But the threat of extremism can also help to rally people together in the fight against terror.
He added that strong community partnerships can help Singapore reduce the opportunities for extremism to take hold of groups or individuals, and to deal with and withstand the divisive effects that violent extremism can wreak on a multi-racial and multi-religious society.
In view of these driving forces that can have a profound impact on Singapore's national solidarity and social cohesion, Mr Teo said the country's community engagement efforts are even more important today, and in the future.