Shanmugam calls for unity when terror strikes

Bank employee Irene Saw, 42, learning how to use a fire extinguisher at the Emergency Preparedness Day held in Chong Pang constituency yesterday. It is the first of six neighbourhoods to pilot the revamped event to help people prepare for possible te
Bank employee Irene Saw, 42, learning how to use a fire extinguisher at the Emergency Preparedness Day held in Chong Pang constituency yesterday. It is the first of six neighbourhoods to pilot the revamped event to help people prepare for possible terror scenarios.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

He says need to come together as a community just as important as ability to cope during actual attack

Coming together as a society after a terrorist attack is as important as learning how to cope during the actual incident, Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said yesterday.

Besides knowing how to respond from the outset, citizens need a sense of "community cohesiveness" to move on, he said, speaking at Chong Pang's revamped Emergency Preparedness Day, the first of a series of exercises to prepare people for possible terror scenarios.

There have been terror attacks around the region and security agencies arresting people in neighbouring countries, while the authorities here have seized plans to attack Singapore and arrested those wanting to attack the Republic and assassinate its leaders, he pointed out.

 

"If an attack takes place, how do we react the day after? Do we point fingers at each other in our multiracial, multi-religious society? Or are we able to come together as a society and move on?"

He added: "The aim of terrorists is to divide us... and it becomes more fertile ground for them to recruit people. We need to come together and say that this is an isolated incident by some radicalised elements."

Mr Shanmugan, who is also an MP for Nee Soon GRC, was speaking to residents after he watched a simulated terror attack yesterday morning, where two gunmen stormed a heartland coffee shop and took five people hostage.

More than 1,000 residents turned up for the event, where they learnt basic first-aid skills as well as some practical lessons on dealing with such situations: by first running away, then hiding and telling the police.

Mr Shanmugam's ward, Chong Pang, is the first of six neighbourhoods to pilot the revamped Emergency Preparedness Day.

The exercise is among new measures to increase vigilance and speed up security response under the national SG Secure programme. In the community, the hope is to have at least one trained person in every household.

This comes at a time when Mr Shanmugam reiterated that there is a "clear and present" terror threat.

Just two days ago, six Bangladeshi workers, aged between 26 and 31, were charged with financing terrorism under the Terrorism (Suppression of Financing) Act. They had been detained here last month under the Internal Security Act for planning attacks back home in hopes of toppling the Bangladeshi government.

At yesterday's event, residents toured various booths and exhibitions. About 200 of them were given a free home first-aid kit after going through the basic skills training successfully.

One of them, retiree Yee Ah Yat, 74, said in Mandarin: "Singapore is safe for now, but it is also about being prepared.

"Now, I know how to help my friends if there's an emergency."

Over the next two years, the People's Association hopes to reach out to 20,000 residents through Emergency Preparedness Days held across all 89 constituencies.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 29, 2016, with the headline 'Shanmugam calls for unity when terror strikes'. Print Edition | Subscribe