More counter-terrorism forces to be deployed in coming months: Shanmugam

Minister for Home Affairs and Law K Shanmugam visiting the Emergency Response Team during their patrol along the Jubilee Bridge, on July 22, 2016.
Minister for Home Affairs and Law K Shanmugam visiting the Emergency Response Team during their patrol along the Jubilee Bridge, on July 22, 2016.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
The Emergency Response Team during their patrol along the Jubilee Bridge on July 22, 2016.
The Emergency Response Team during their patrol along the Jubilee Bridge on July 22, 2016.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - Fast response police officers have hit the ground to thwart potential terrorist attacks, and more forces will continue to be deployed in the coming months, Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam said on Friday (July 22).

Mr Shanmugam was speaking to reporters at the Esplanade after observing officers from the new Emergency Response Teams on a patrol.

The unit, comprising land division officers, was formed in June as part of Singapore's counter-terrorism efforts.

"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."

But Mr Shanmugam stressed that counter-terrorism is a "national project" that must also involve the public.

He said: "There are two types of responses. One is what I call the kinetic response - the response by our police force. There is also the social response - (the) response by our people."

He added that if and when an attack takes place, how Singapore responds as a community the day after is very important.

"We need to bring across the importance of this as a national project... It is a work in progress."

Since June, officers from the Emergency Response Teams patrol public areas such as shopping centres daily as a deterrence measure, and also engage with building stakeholders to come up with joint response plans.

The officers are specially trained in counter-assault skills and armed with HK-MP 5 submachine guns.

Mr Shanmugam added that Singapore does receive "credible reports" on threats from time to time, and that local forces draw lessons from countries that have experienced terrorist attacks.

Without going into detailed operational techniques, he said that "we try and learn the best practices".

When asked if there was a timeline for counter-terrorism efforts to be achieved, he said: "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."

Mr Shanmugam's comments come as Singapore steps up its fight against terrorism.

Earlier this week, MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC Melvin Yong called for increased vigilance in the wake of recent attacks in places such as Orlando, Dhaka, Nice and Selangor.

Speaking at a counter-terrorism seminar, Mr Yong had said: "We need our community to do its part in keeping Singapore safe, for it is not a matter of 'if' a terror attack will happen here, but a matter of 'when' it will happen."