Why It Matters

Necessary cost in terror fight

Singapore is going to amend its laws to boost security at events that draw thousands of people.

The move is reassuring as it will further protect Singaporeans against the threat of a terrorist attack, which is at its highest level in years. This is especially so at open-air celebrations like the New Year countdown. Such events have become prime targets of terrorists, as seen all around the world.

The Bill on changes to the Public Order Act, introduced in Parliament last Thursday, will require organisers of public events that draw crowds of more than 5,000 to consult the police on security measures that may have to be enacted.

This could take the form of deploying more security officers, conducting bag checks or installing anti-vehicle barricades.

Event organisers that fail to notify the police can be fined up to $20,000, jailed for up to a year, or given both punishments.

Potentially, the added security steps could drive up the cost of organising large-scale events, causing ticket prices to rise.

It would inevitably inconvenience people too, as they would have to turn up earlier than usual for bag checks and possibly body checks, as well as to navigate barricades put up to block motor vehicles.

But what is the alternative?

Consider terror attacks in recent years: the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, the 2015 shootings in Paris' Bataclan theatre and the Nice truck attack during French national day celebrations last July.

While Singapore has been spared, the immutable fact is that it exists in a volatile region with neighbours that are highly impacted by terrorism. The Philippines ranks 12th in the world among nations affected by terror, Thailand is 15th, Indonesia is 38th and Malaysia is 61st, going by the Global Terrorism Index. In contrast, Singapore ranks 130th.

The impending security measures are, therefore, costs that terrorists have imposed on all of society.

But it is a necessary cost that Singaporeans have to bear in the never-ending battle against this modern-day scourge.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 15, 2017, with the headline 'Necessary cost in terror fight'. Print Edition | Subscribe