PM Goh proposes resolution to guide practice of religion

Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong has proposed a code that will guide Singaporeans on how they should practise their religion, and accomodate the beliefs of others.

He plans to discuss a resolution on this code with religious and grassroots leaders on October 14.

PM Goh revealed this to Channel NewsAsia during a news conference with Singapore reporters in Copenhagen, at the end of the Asia Europe Meeting there.

PM Goh said the resolution will act as a code of interaction amongst Singaporeans on how they conduct themselves as they practise their religion.

"One will practise his religion but one should not impose his religion and his own practice on other people and we understand each other. And of course people from other faiths also practice this resolution and we abide by this spirit of the resolution to prevent misunderstanding between the different communities," said PM Goh.

He added if the religious and grassroots leaders supported his suggestion, he could take the resolution further by tabling the matter for debate in Parliament.

When asked about the second wave of Jemaah Islamiyah arrests last month, PM Goh explained that although the JI network is not totally eliminated, it has been severely disrupted.

"We choose our words carefully. The network has been severely disrupted. There are people on the run outside Singapore. They may regroup but numbers could be small as far as we know and even if they were to sneak into S'pore, it's not possible for them to plan a massive act the way they were doing before we arrested the first thirteen. In other words, 4 tonnes of ammonia nitrate into a truck being driven into a building is very unlikely," PM Goh said.

"There can be small damage here and there. So the key work has been severely disrupted. It's not totally eliminated. Cos we can never know. I've put this question several times to the minister of home affairs and also to ISD. Are you sure because I don't want them to tell me to tell S'poreans it has been severely disrupted and something happens. So they are confident," PM Goh added.

However, his concern is that in the longer term, there could be a divide between the Muslims and non-Muslims.

"The worry that we may see this thrust coming in between Muslims and non-Muslims. People may not say it but they may begin to wonder if there are more Muslims like that. Which is an unhealthy thought because the more we suspect the Muslims who are innocent, the more you achieve the objectives of the terrorists."

PM Goh added that Singaporeans must not fall into their trap, and reassured them that Muslims in Singapore are all right and it is only a few who happened to be Muslims who want to use Islam for their own evil goals.

Turning to the situation on Iraq, PM Goh said there was no point speculating now what impact it may have on Singapore.

He says the focus should be on restructuring the Singapore economy.

"There's no point speculating at the moment to what will happen to our growth. It's a free situation, we are all concerned. It's beyond us. We are mere spectators.

"Use the present period. Use the present period to restructure the economy, rally Singaporeans behind what you want to do, prepare the economy to compete against others in the world to carve out a niche for ourselves.

"New attitude, new spirit on moving forward and the emphasis is on entrepreneurship. Got to change people's thinking, 'bo chap' workers and employers.

"So let's get working on this and not worry about the impact on Iraq. That's beyond us. But what's within our control, let's get cracking, let's get things done," PM Goh added.