Singapore steps up checks at entry points

Security has been beefed up at Changi Airport and other Singapore checkpoints, following Tuesday's (March 22) blasts at Brussels Airport and a city metro station.
Security has been beefed up at Changi Airport and other Singapore checkpoints, following Tuesday's (March 22) blasts at Brussels Airport and a city metro station. ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Security has been beefed up at Changi Airport and other Singapore checkpoints, following Tuesday's blasts at Brussels Airport and a city metro station that killed 31 people and wounded 270.

The authorities here have also stepped up checks and patrols at key transport nodes, a Ministry of Home Affairs spokesman told The Straits Times yesterday. "We will calibrate security measures according to the threat environment," he said. No further details about the improved security were provided.

Mr Christopher de Souza, Government Parliamentary Committee chairman for Home Affairs and Law, said: "Heightened security at land, sea and air checkpoints must be expected. We must mentally prepare ourselves with a 'when' mindset and discard the comfortable 'if' mindset." He was echoing a point made last Friday by Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam, who announced a major ramp-up of counter-terrorism measures.

Speaking at an event in Yishun yesterday, Mr Shanmugam said the threat of a terror attack has evolved significantly into "a serious monster". "Brussels was in a heightened state of alert and yet the attack took place," he said. "We have to prepare ourselves, and I think every major city has got to prepare itself. There are measures in place, but I again emphasise that unless you turn the entire city into a prison, it's not going to be possible to counter every possible attack."

Singapore will strengthen its security, such as by installing more closed-circuit television cameras in public places and training emergency response teams to react swiftly to attacks. There is also a need for building owners and event organisers to impose stringent security measures.

IMPOSSIBLE TO STOP EVERY ATTACK

Brussels was in a heightened state of alert and yet the attack took place... We have to prepare ourselves, and I think every major city has got to prepare itself.

HOME AFFAIRS AND LAW MINISTER K. SHANMUGAM, on how the threat of a terror attack has evolved significantly.

One measure suggested in the wake of Tuesday's attacks is screening all passengers and visitors before they enter airports. However, experts say this is unnecessary and would cause congestion.

They also ruled out measures used in other countries. At major Indian airports, for example, only travellers are allowed to enter terminals, while in Israel, checks are carried out as early as along approach roads to the airport.

Mr H.R. Mohandas, head of the diploma in aviation management programme at Republic Polytechnic, said: "Adequate steps are in place at Changi Airport with security patrols in the public areas, as well as checks on passengers before they enter the restricted areas."

Singapore Management University Assistant Professor Terence Fan, who specialises in transport, said keeping people away goes against efforts to market the airport as a shopping and dining haven.

Professor Rohan Gunaratna, who heads the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, said youth and other vulnerable people should be encouraged to take up roles in youth or community groups, to give them a stake in the country's security.

•Additional reporting by Ng Huiwen

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 24, 2016, with the headline 'Singapore steps up checks at entry points'. Print Edition | Subscribe