Yaacob: Stand together when terror attack happens

Programme manager Robert Ronald reckons many Singaporeans' first instinct would be to take a video if a terror attack happened at where they were.

"But they should not. They should run, hide and tell," said Mr Ronald, 48, who heads the community emergency and engagement grassroots committee in Kolam Ayer. Yesterday, at Kolam Ayer's Emergency Preparedness Day, residents learnt what to do in the event of an attack.

Officers from the police and civil defence force as well as actors simulated a "terror attack" outside Upper Boon Keng Market and Food Centre, where a gunman fired blanks at people having breakfast. Those who were not shot at fled or hid, and one woman used her phone to message the police while hiding.

These community events will happen across all 89 constituencies as part of the SGSecure movement to prepare Singaporeans for a terror attack.

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Said Mr Ronald: "It's a visual way of telling people what they should do. They can remember they saw someone hiding, for example."

Residents also visited various booths to learn first-aid skills, including cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and how to use automated external defibrillators and fire extinguishers.

Asked what she learnt, housewife Ong Sok Poh, 73, said: "Hide. It's hard to say if an attack will happen here, but it's best to be prepared."

Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim, the MP for the area, called on residents to do their part to counter terrorism.

"When an attack happens, we have to stand together and not spread rumours to cause distrust among our community," he said.

"This will be playing straight into the hands of the terrorists, whose goals are to sow hatred and fear," added Dr Yaacob, who is also Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs. He also encouraged people to tell the authorities if anyone around them behaves differently from usual and has radical views.

Dr Yaacob called on Singaporeans to stay united and rally together as a community.

He cited how people helped each other in the aftermath of the Manchester terrorist attack last month, with cabbies offering free rides amid the chaos following the bomb blast and residents offering their rooms to those who needed refuge. "These acts of kindness are crucial to help the community recover in the face of adversity," Dr Yaacob added.

Yesterday evening, 300 Muslim residents from rental flats in Henderson Road gathered to break their fast over a meal with their non-Muslim neighbours. Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing said such events build social cohesion.

"These activities might be small, but they're very significant because each activity allows us to better know each other, foster mutual understanding and minimise mutual distrust," Mr Chan told reporters.

But Singaporeans must not think they are fully prepared for a terror attack because such complacency is dangerous, he stressed.

Even though Singapore is physically far from terror attacks, extremism can still be spread over the Internet and social media, so "geographical distance is no longer an insulation or a defence against such radical ideas", said Mr Chan.

"We must make sure we stay together as a community to help deepen this sense of common space and unity," he said. "We do this not just through physical activity, but also by making sure we stand up and counter radical ideas that threaten to split us."

He warned that the terror threat is very real, adding that terrorists are not only trying to harm and kill innocent people, but also to disrupt normalcy and break up social cohesion. Mr Chan, who is also labour chief, echoed Dr Yaacob's call for people to be alert to and guard against self-radicalisation.

"It can happen to any of us and we must make a concerted effort to bring everyone together - families, communities - to alert each other if someone shows signs of being self-radicalised."

And if an attack takes place, the most important way to overcome terrorists is to restore normalcy quickly, he said. "We must make sure we continue to bond closer together, go about our daily life as normally as we can."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 12, 2017, with the headline 'Yaacob: Stand together when terror attack happens'. Print Edition | Subscribe