Efforts to fight terrorism 'must involve every Singaporean'

Officers of the new Emergency Response Teams on patrol at the Esplanade area yesterday. Since last month, these ERT officers, who are specially trained in counter-assault skills and armed with HK-MP 5 submachine guns, have been patrolling public area
Officers of the new Emergency Response Teams on patrol at the Esplanade area yesterday. Since last month, these ERT officers, who are specially trained in counter-assault skills and armed with HK-MP 5 submachine guns, have been patrolling public areas and engaging building owners and managers to come up with joint response plans.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Fast-response police officers trained to tackle terrorism have started their patrols, and more will continue to be deployed in the coming months. But Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam also stressed that counter-terrorism is a "national project" that must involve every Singaporean.

He was speaking to reporters at the Esplanade yesterday after observing officers from the new Emergency Response Teams (ERTs) on a patrol.

The unit, made up of land division officers, was commissioned in June, two months after it was first announced at the annual Police Workplan Seminar and Exhibition in April.

"The police have done very well in doing this in a very short space of time. Over the next few months, the deployment will continue, and the number of forces would be increased," Mr Shanmugam said, adding that morale is high among the officers.

"They know they are doing something extremely important for their country."

Since last month, ERT officers, who are specially trained in counter- assault skills and armed with HK-MP 5 submachine guns, have been patrolling public areas such as shopping centres and theatres.

They have also been engaging building owners and managers to come up with joint response plans, including how to work together during emergencies.

Asked whether Singapore had received threats recently, Mr Shanmugam said he did not want to get into specifics.

But he added that "from time to time, we receive credible reports on threats and, depending on the nature, some are more serious than others".

He also talked about the important role the public plays in countering terrorism.

Besides the police response, said the minister, "there is also the social response", especially how the community responds the day after any attack.

Mr Shanmugam added that he believes most people are aware that the threat of terrorism has increased in the wake of recent attacks around the globe.

And if something does happen, "we have to respond as a community, together, reaching across racial and religious lines... How (the public) would respond, what is their role - that is something that is, I would say, a work in progress, and that is part of the Ministry of Home Affair's strategy to bring that knowledge across to the entire country.

"These are not things that are done in a day. I'm optimistic that with the efforts that we are putting in... through intense ground effort and public education effort and targeting schools and businesses, we will create a much greater level of awareness and consciousness."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 23, 2016, with the headline 'Efforts to fight terrorism 'must involve every Singaporean''. Print Edition | Subscribe