Countering terrorism

SG Secure to equip people for crises

There would be many more eyes and ears on the ground if people are more alert, said Mr Tay.
There would be many more eyes and ears on the ground if people are more alert, said Mr Tay.

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A new national programme will be rolled out later this year that is designed to rally more Singaporeans, foster resilience and prepare them to handle crises in the face of the looming terror threat.

SG Secure will revamp and expand on the 10-year-old Community Engagement Programme (CEP) launched after the 2005 London bombings.

The CEP involved building a network of people of all races and groups, including schools and businesses, that would hold the multiracial, multi-religious society together against the strains of a terror attack.

But with an evolving terrorist threat that is ever more complex and dangerous, Singaporeans have to play a more active role to keep the country safe. The new programme will help people understand the evolving security landscape and new threats, as well as equip them with skills to respond during an attack.

"There is a strong, urgent need for the community to be vigilant before and during an attack," said Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam yesterday at the Home Team Leaders' Forum. "A community that knows how to respond, a community that is prepared and equipped with the necessary skills to protect themselves, their families and the community."

The Home Team will work with the People's Association, labour movement, schools, businesses and other groups to develop or enhance programmes to engage and train Singaporeans in practical skills such as life-saving. Exercises on what to do in case of an actual attack will be "upgraded significantly" as well, he said.

"The ideal outcome (of the new programme) is everyone knows that he or she... is also responsible," he told reporters. "We look out for what's suspicious, we look out for telltale signs, we are able to offer emergency response, we know what to do if we are in the vicinity of a terror attack. We know how to help someone if they are victims."

He acknowledged that it would not be easy to galvanise the entire community, partly because of the secure environment in Singapore that makes it hard to imagine the threats. "We have to change that and it's going to take time. It's going to take a lot of effort," he said.

MP Patrick Tay, who sits on the Government Parliamentary Committee for Home Affairs and Law, said there would be many more eyes and ears on the ground if members of the public become more alert to threats.

"At all levels, it's about telling the people to stay resilient and not be complacent," Mr Tay said.

Associate Professor Kumar Ramakrishna, head of policy studies at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said the terror threat has become more complex, and it is important that security measures keep up. The new programme will help promote a greater level of security awareness, he said.

Terrorists aim to inflict maximum fear and casualties, as well as divide society, Mr Shanmugam noted.

After the Jakarta attacks in January, Indonesians started tweeting #KamiTidakTakut, which means "we are not afraid". That same spirit of bravery and the willingness to fight back are needed in Singapore, he said.

"If an attack occurs, we need to be able to recover well," Mr Shanmugam said. "We have to emerge stronger, more united, and more determined as Singaporeans."

Royston Sim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 19, 2016, with the headline 'SG Secure to equip people for crises'. Print Edition | Subscribe