Rope in retirees to keep an eye out for suspicious activity

The recent bombing in Jakarta was a wake-up call for all of us ("ISIS behind deadly Jakarta attack"; Jan 15). No country in South-east Asia is isolated and no person is immune, as far as terrorist attacks are concerned.

In Singapore, this is where our total defence comes in.

While the police and military are on high alert, we cannot expect uniformed personnel to be everywhere at every moment. Civilians must play their part.

Every day, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of men gather in small groups all over the island. They sit at coffee shops, hawker centres or void decks chatting and sipping coffee. Most are retirees but, notably, there are younger men as well.

Many of them would have done national service. This is the time when we can count on them for total defence.

Mobilise these men and give them the basic training - and duty - to look out for suspicious characters or objects. Put them in small groups, appoint a leader and issue them communication equipment.

Where and when they can be involved, as well as how they coordinate with the authorities, can be finalised.

Of course, they can be given an allowance for transport and meals.

Perhaps a retired top army officer could be put in charge of the entire operation.

An urgent message must be conveyed to these men, who are capable of doing something useful for their country.

I am sure these elderly folk will be happy to lend their ears, eyes and hands to ensure a safe place for their family, their neighbours and our nation as a whole.

Daniel Chan Wai Piew