SINGAPORE - The focus of the SGSecure movement will move from raising public awareness on the possibility of terror attacks in Singapore to raising preparedness levels among Singaporeans towards such events.
Reflecting the change in focus, the campaign now sports a new tagline: "Be Prepared. Our Response Matters". The old tagline was "Not If, But When. Our Response Matters".
Announcing the new tagline on the sidelines of the Ministry of Home Affair's Minister's Award Presentation Ceremony on Wednesday (Sept 27), Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said the campaign has achieved some success but more work needs to be done as "a lot of people are not mentally tuned to preparedness".
He cited how the SGSecure app has been downloaded about one million times since its launch in September last year (2016) with the aim to sensitise, train and mobilise the community to security threats.
But he also pointed to the series of attacks this year in London and Barcelona, and also the recent emergence of extremist groups in South-east Asia, particularly in the Philippines' Marawi region and Myanmar's Rakhine state.
"It is going to attract fighters, extremists and would-be fighters to go to these places to fight. And once they come to this region, they are going to try and spread out to other targets too. It is not a pretty picture, and we're going to keep pushing on.
"We still have some ways to go, awareness is one thing, preparedness is another," said the minister, adding that the Government is making a big push this year to raise preparedness at workplaces and in schools.
In his speech, Mr Shanmugam also revealed the latest statistics of abuse against officers in Singapore. Since 2014, there has been a more than 65 per cent increase in attacks on MHA officers, with 484 cases in 2016 alone, which amounts to more than one case of physical or verbal abuse a day.
Mr Shanmugam said such behaviour would not be condoned and harsher punishments would be meted out. He cited the incident where a 44-year-old Australian man, Jason Peter Darragh, attacked police officers at Changi Airport while drunk. His original sentence was increased from six months and two weeks to eight months.
Mr Shanmugam said the MHA is working with the Attorney-General's Chambers to press for deterrent, harsher sentences for those who obstruct officers from carrying out their duties, particularly if they are violent.
"And if that approach does not work, we will relook the legal framework," he said.
At the awards ceremony, more than 400 Home Team officers - including those involved in some of Singapore's largest and most complex operations - were recognised for their work in ensuring Singapore's safety and security.
One recipient of the Home Team Achievement Award was Superintendent Alan Wong, 45, of the Singapore Police Force (SPF).
Supt Wong, assistant director of the Operations Exercise and Readiness Division, was part of the team that led an islandwide counter-terrorism exercise held in October last year. It was the largest SPF-led, multi-agency exercise ever held in Singapore.
The exercise involved more than 3,200 personnel from the various Home Team agencies and over 50 community volunteers. The exercise, which aimed to prepare Singapore for possible terror attacks, was held in two phases on Oct 17 and Oct 18 last year.
The first phase educated participants on the necessary deterrence measures. The second phase involved training officers and volunteers on how to respond should an attack occur.
The participants role-played various scenarios and were tested on their response to different attacks. The course trains participants in responding to the varied forms of attack, including knives, vehicular attacks, guns and suicide bombers.
Supt Wong said such exercises are crucial to enhancing operational awareness.
"It is all about muscle memory; it is better to make mistakes now and learn from them than to be unable to react properly in the event of an attack," he said.