SGSecure pledge urges citizens to stay alert, united

Home Team officers moving in on a coffee shop being attacked by armed “terrorists” as part of an exercise on Emergency Preparedness (EP) Day in Teck Ghee on March 18, 2017.
Home Team officers moving in on a coffee shop being attacked by armed “terrorists” as part of an exercise on Emergency Preparedness (EP) Day in Teck Ghee on March 18, 2017. PHOTO: ST FILE

Public has role to play in keeping social cohesion and ensuring people carry on with their lives: Chan Chun Sing

Security agencies can contain a terror attack if it happens, but residents too have a crucial role to play in ensuring society remains united and people carry on with their lives, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing said.

He noted that the threat of radicalisation and terrorism in the region has heightened, with several individuals arrested in Singapore in the last few months.

"But it's not just about arresting people, the most important thing that we must do now is to make sure our community does not get split up by people trying to do us harm," he said yesterday, when he launched the SGSecure Pledge.

It is the latest initiative under a national movement started last year to help prepare Singaporeans to respond to a crisis.

"If tomorrow something happens here and we start looking at each other suspiciously because we are from a different race, language, religion or background, then we would have failed and the terrorists would have succeeded."

Mr Chan, who is the People's Association deputy chairman, was at his Buona Vista constituency's emergency preparedness day in Holland Village, where residents took part in an exercise on reacting to a simulated terror attack.

The Government noted last month that the terror threat to Singapore remains the highest in years. Security experts have also noted that although the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has lost territory in recent months, returning fighters and people it has radicalised still pose a threat, as terror attacks globally have shown.

Last month, a 22-year-old infant care assistant planning to join ISIS was the first woman detained here under the Internal Security Act. Two auxiliary policemen were also arrested for terror activities.

Yesterday, Mr Chan said if an attack happens here, Singaporeans must commit to live life normally and take care of one another.

Residents can sign up to the SGSecure pledge to maintain racial and religious harmony, look out for suspicious activities, learn life-saving skills, and volunteer as a first-aider. They can make a pledge on the People's Association website or on forms at any community club.

Details will be kept in a constituency directory, so residents can be contacted when needed.

Since last month, more than 500 Tanjong Pagar GRC residents have signed the pledge in a pilot.

Mr Chan said the effort aims to get people thinking about what they can do after a terror attack, whether through spreading messages to maintain social cohesion or looking after a neighbour.

"Each and every one of us can do something the day after," he said. "The more we are able to do this, the more we demonstrate to the would-be terrorists the kind of commitment that we have to safeguard our society, and come out even stronger from all this."

Ms Sowmya Iyer, 19, who is waiting to enter university, has signed the pledge with her family. She volunteered to offer first aid, saying: "Younger people tend to be out more in public spaces, which are more prone to attacks. It's important for us to be able to respond."

Her mother Yamuna Iyer, 49, a businesswoman, said it is vital to get to know one's neighbours too, "so that as a community, we can come together in case of any incident".

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 16, 2017, with the headline 'SGSecure pledge urges citizens to stay alert, united'. Print Edition | Subscribe