Crisis exercise for community leaders

Mr Baey (left) observing the discussion between religious and community leaders during the Inject-Based Exercise at Living Hope Methodist Church yesterday. Mr Steven Lim (third from left), chairman of Tampines Central IRCC, was also present.
Mr Baey (left) observing the discussion between religious and community leaders during the Inject-Based Exercise at Living Hope Methodist Church yesterday. Mr Steven Lim (third from left), chairman of Tampines Central IRCC, was also present.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

A bomb blast at Tampines MRT station and vandalism in places of worship were among the imaginary situations that community and religious leaders from Tampines had to deal with at a crisis preparedness exercise yesterday.

"It was emotionally disturbing to me as I realised the challenges in making a right response during a crisis. It was not easy," said Reverend Peter Koh, the pastor-in-charge of Living Hope Methodist Church.

Hosted by Rev Koh's church, the Inject-Based Exercise allowed participants to learn how to react to fictitious scenarios that were "injected" during the course of the two-hour-long exercise.

Some participants from the five Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circles (IRCCs) in Tampines GRC came together for yesterday's exercise, where they had to manage a mock crisis involving escalating communal and religious tensions in the aftermath of the "attack".

Participating organisations included Victory Family Centre, Darul Ghufran Mosque and Tampines Chinese Temple. Leaders had to come up with quick responses to address concerns on the ground, quash rumours and think of ways to preserve solidarity among their members during the exercise.

Such crisis preparedness exercises have been conducted since 2007, as part of ongoing efforts by government agencies to prepare religious and community leaders to deal with tensions that may affect inter-communal harmony in the wake of terrorist incidents.

All but two of the 89 IRCCs across the island have taken part in crisis preparedness exercises. The exceptions are Gambas and Limbang IRCCs, in new wards.

"Given the increase in threat around the region, the exercise is very relevant. Terrorism might happen at any time," said Mr Mohd Shariff Mohd Yatim from the Jamiyah Home for the Aged.

Mr Steven Lim, chairman of the Tampines Central IRCC, said: "Exercises of this nature keep all of us on our toes."

Mr Baey Yam Keng, Parliamentary Secretary for Culture, Community and Youth and an MP for Tampines GRC, also attended the session.

"Despite our best efforts, we cannot guarantee that a terrorist attack will never happen in Singapore. How we respond is vital. IRCCs play an important role in maintaining Singapore's racial and religious harmony," he said.

"In times of crisis, we must all step up to play our part in restoring calm and harmony in Singapore."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 19, 2016, with the headline 'Crisis exercise for community leaders'. Print Edition | Subscribe