Published: 16 February 2021
1. Mr Speaker, please allow me to take together, the eight questions on the recent
arrest of the 16-year-old self-radicalised Singaporean, and measures against extremism and radicalisation, from
Mr Christopher De Souza, Mr Desmond Choo, Mr Murali Pillai, and Mr Lim Biow Chuan.
2. Mr Murali asked for the facts and circumstances of the case, and Mr Choo asked if
investigations were conclusive that he had operated as a “lone wolf”.
3. The 16-year-old Singaporean was arrested in December 2020. He had made detailed
plans and preparations to attack Muslims at two mosques using a machete. He is the first detainee to be inspired
by far-right ideology and is the youngest individual dealt with to-date under the ISA for terrorism-related
activities. He was self-radicalised, motivated by a strong antipathy towards Islam and a fascination with
violence. He was inspired by Brenton Tarrant, who attacked two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand in Mar 2019.
The 16-year-old Singaporean watched the video of Tarrant’s attack against the two mosques, and read
Tarrant’s manifesto. He also watched propaganda videos produced by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or
ISIS, and came to the erroneous conclusion that ISIS represented Islam, and that Islam called on its followers
to kill non-Muslims.
4. He had planned to carry out attacks on 15 March 2021, the second anniversary of the
Christchurch attacks, at Assyafaah Mosque and Yusof Ishak Mosque, near his home. To prepare for this, he
conducted online reconnaissance and research on both mosques; devised a plan to procure a vehicle to use during
the attack; bought a tactical vest from an online platform which he intended to adorn with right-wing extremist
symbols and strap on his mobile device to livestream the attack; watched videos to learn how to wield a machete
to inflict fatal wounds; and intended to purchase one from an online marketplace. He also wrote two documents
which he intended to disseminate prior to his attacks. Both documents expressed his misguided hatred towards
Islam, as well as support for the Christchurch attacks and far-right ideology.
5. ISD’s investigations found that he was operating alone. There was no
indication that he had tried to involve others in his plans.
6. The case shows clearly that violent impulses are not restricted to any particular
racial or religious group. People who have been exposed to hate speech can become influenced by it. The
16-year-old youth will undergo psychological and religious counselling to correct his radical ideology and
address his propensity for violence. We hope that he will respond positively, and will be successfully
rehabilitated, so that he can carry on with his life.
7. Mr De Souza, Mr Choo, Mr Lim and Mr Murali asked about our counter-terrorism and
8. Singapore has been strengthening our laws and building resilience against
9. For example, the updated Terrorism (Suppression of Financing) Act came into force
in Apr 2019. Key changes included expanding the prohibition on financing terrorism activities to include
terrorism training, and increasing penalties for failing to disclose information relating to terrorism financing
to the authorities.
10. The detection and arrest of the 16-year-old Singaporean underscores the continued
importance of the Internal Security Act, to enable the authorities to act pre-emptively before attacks happen,
thus preventing injury, loss of life and damage to our communal harmony.
11. With regard to offensive weapons and firearms, we exercise tight controls under our
laws, and these apply regardless of the modality of sales, be it through physical retail stores or online
e-commerce platforms. The Guns, Explosives and Weapons Control Act was passed by Parliament in January this
year. And it replaced the Arms and Explosives Act and strengthened our regulatory and enforcement regime.
12. We agree with Mr De Souza that it is important for Singapore to denounce terror
attacks whenever they happen, to send a clear message about where we stand as a people on this.
a. The Government has publicly condemned overseas terrorist attacks.
b. We are also fortunate to have support of our religious leaders, who have been proactive in publicly condemning terror attacks, and reminding their followers to stay calm and not react to expressions of extreme sentiments and acts of violence in the name of religion.
13. For example, in the wake of Christchurch shootings in March 2019, various faith
groups issued statements to denounce the shooter’s actions and call for Singaporeans to remain united and
reject extremist ideas. Various ground-up interfaith initiatives were also organised, including a youth forum
and a remembrance ceremony.
14. More recently, following the arrest of the 16-year-old youth, our local Christian
and Muslim religious leaders met to reaffirm the mutual trust between both communities and condemn the
teenager’s plot to attack the two mosques. The leaders of other religious communities echoed the call for
Singaporeans to rally together in the fight against terrorism and extremism.
15. Mr Lim asked how we can improve relations between different religious groups. By
showing their solidarity against violence, and engaging in regular interactions, activities and communal
projects, our religious groups have maintained and strengthened harmonious relations, even in the wake of
incidents that threaten to undermine our social cohesion.
16. Such efforts are also important in sending a clear signal that our local religious
communities stand firmly against radical ideologies and any copycat attacks will not find traction or support
17. Mr Lim, Mr Choo and Mr Murali asked about our efforts on educating religious
groups, youths and general public on countering radicalization, and deepening students’ understanding of
racial and religious issues.
18. The SGSecure movement is a call to action to Singaporeans to unite and prepare for
the threat of a terrorist attack. We have been reaching out to different groups in the community, including
religious organisations, to raise awareness of overseas and local threats of terrorism and radicalisation. We
conduct programmes such as interfaith dialogues and activities, and visits to the Harmony in Diversity Gallery,
to sensitise the public to cultural and religious nuances and sensitivities, as well as to deepen mutual respect
and understanding among our different races and religions.
19. We have been sharing with the public how to detect early signs of radicalisation,
such as displaying a keen interest in people with extremist views, supporting the use of violence as a solution
to achieve one’s agenda, and expressing low tolerance and resentment towards multi-racial and
multi-religious living. We urge the community to stay alert and to inform the authorities of suspected cases of
radicalisation, so that we can intervene early and prevent such persons from harming themselves and others.
20. Mr Choo asked us what more we can do in schools. We have been working closely with
MOE to engage younger Singaporeans on SGSecure. All schools have a framework to drive SGSecure initiatives,
which is overseen by school leaders. Age-appropriate SGSecure content is incorporated into story books and card
games for students, as well as assembly talks and mobile exhibitions by Home Team agencies.
21. ISD has been working with schools, institutes of higher learning, and community
organisations to conduct counter-terrorism and counter-radicalisation outreach activities for students, youths,
and educators since 2007. These include workshops, talks and seminars. With COVID-19 pandemic, ISD
has leveraged online platforms for its outreach efforts. For example, ISD conducted webinars for educators
in institutes of higher learning last year.
22. Workshops for school counsellors have been conducted since 2016, to sensitise them
to the terror and radicalisation threat. As of 2019, over 260 School Counsellors in secondary schools, as
well as a number of Student Welfare Officers, have attended the workshops. Each workshop includes a visit
to the ISD Heritage Centre to sensitise them to security threats, as well as a one-day training session which
provides them with a better understanding of the radicalisation process and factors, especially among youths;
the behavioural indicators to look out for; and the intervention measures they can take. Teachers are
encouraged to watch out for early signs of possible radicalisation, such as the avid consumption of radical
materials, or expressions of support for terror entities and causes.
23. Community partners such as the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) and the
Inter-Agency Aftercare Group also conduct counter-ideology outreach activities targeted at students and youths.
For example, the RRG has been working with schools to organise assembly talks, workshops, as well as learning
journeys to the RRG Resource and Counselling Centre. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the RRG has intensified its
digital outreach efforts. It produced over 60 online lectures, ‘live’ postings, online engagements
and videos for the community, including for youths.
24. The RRG has also reached out to various inter-faith and religious groups. For
example, in February 2020, the RRG, together with the Geylang Serai Inter-Racial Religious Confidence Circle
(IRCC), organised a forum entitled “Harmony Amidst Crisis” to show the solidarity of Singaporeans.
Leaders from the various faiths came together to observe a minute of silence for those affected by the Covid-19
pandemic, and also to start the campaign #outbreak_never_break_us. The forum featured speakers who touched on
the Covid-19 pandemic, in particular, the threat of radicalisation and how extremists have been leveraging the
pandemic in their recruitment efforts.
25. Within the classroom, topics on multi-racialism and the importance of racial
harmony are taught in subjects like Character and Citizenship Education (CCE), History and Social Studies. In
secondary-school Social Studies, students examine the impact of racial and religious prejudice and
misconceptions on people and society; explore the roles played by individuals and groups in strengthening
interactions between different races; and consider how they can play their part to promote social
cohesion. As part of the refreshed CCE curriculum, secondary school teachers will receive specialised
training to facilitate discussions on contemporary issues, such as race and religion, to hone students’
perspective-taking skills as well as engender a sense of empathy and respect. All schools will also establish a
peer support structure by 2022, where students will learn to support each other and be taught upstanding
behaviour, speaking up for their peers where necessary, including in instances of racism and hate speech. These
social bonds are the strongest counter possible against the spread of exclusivist and extremist
26. Outside of the classroom, there have also been efforts to encourage inter-racial
and inter-religious dialogue. For example, the Regardless of Race dialogue series organised by OnePeople.sg, and
supported by MCCY, provides a platform for conversations on sentiments, issues, and norms pertaining to race.
Since 2019, five sessions have been organised, involving a total of more than 500 participants. Another
community-driven initiative to provide more safe spaces for open conversations on religious issues is the
“Ask Me Anything” series facilitated by a non-governmental organisation, the WhiteHatters Ltd.
27. MCCY organised a Hackathon for Social Cohesion in November and December 2020, where
more than 200 youths were invited to pitch innovative ideas on strengthening social cohesion and implement
projects that promote social, racial and religious harmony.
28. Mr Speaker, a cohesive and united society is the best defence against terrorism and radicalisation. We will continue to strengthen our efforts to build a resilient community that is prepared for a terrorist attack in Singapore, and plays an active part to safeguard Singapore’s unity in the face of this threat.