Singapore's approach to security threats evolved after 9/11 attacks

Front-line police officers are being equipped with pistols, which will replace the revolver and offer them greater firepower.
Front-line police officers are being equipped with pistols, which will replace the revolver and offer them greater firepower.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Since Sept 11, 2001, Singapore has taken steps to respond to the threat of terrorism in largely two areas: enhancing its security capabilities and intensifying efforts to build a cohesive and united society that is involved in anti-terror efforts.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) told The Straits Times that protecting the country from such dangers meant strengthening Singapore's protection and response capabilities, and updating its legal framework.

The Singapore Terrorism Threat Assessment Report 2021 published in June by the Internal Security Department (ISD) describes how the Government enhanced the police's counter-terrorism capabilities by setting up Emergency Response Teams (ERTs) and Rapid Deployment Troops (RDTs), among other things.

"The ERTs patrol various locations, including iconic locations, locations with high footfall and transport nodes. They are also trained to respond swiftly to neutralise threats.

"RDTs are equipped with tactical response motorcycles to navigate through traffic gridlock," said the report.

The police's In-Situ Reaction Teams complement the ERTs and RDTs, and are deployed where there are crowds, such as in Orchard Road and Marina Bay, to deter threats and be able to respond to them when they occur.

Front-line police officers are also being equipped with pistols, which will replace the revolver and offer them greater firepower.

Beyond better-equipped police teams, new firearms and laws, ISD said that in Singapore's context, the best defence against the threat of terrorism and radicalisation is a cohesive and united society that rejects all forms of hate speech and extremist ideologies.

Said the department: "Singapore's strong historical emphasis on communal harmony and social cohesion had placed us in a good position to counter the ideologically driven terrorism threat heralded by the 9/11 attacks."

It pointed out that after the Jemaah Islamiah (JI) arrests in 2001 and 2002, community leaders, religious teachers and scholars proactively stepped forward to tackle JI's violent ideology.

Over the two decades since then, community-driven counter-ideology efforts led by organisations such as the Religious Rehabilitation Group and Inter-Agency Aftercare Group have grown.

"The work that they do constitutes a key plank in the whole-of-society effort to counter violent extremism," said ISD.

Partnerships between the Government and the community will continue to be strengthened, said the MHA spokesman, who highlighted how the SGSecure programmes that were rolled out raised awareness of terrorism and increased community vigilance and resilience.

SGSecure is Singapore's national anti-terrorism movement.

The spokesman also pointed to a new initiative by the Government - the Community Response Roundtable, comprising representatives from schools, businesses and grassroots, community and religious organisations in the neighbourhood.

During peacetime, this group will focus on building networks, strengthening crisis preparedness and social cohesion.

In a crisis, it can be mobilised to provide assurance and support for the community at the local level.

"More can and will also be done to strengthen networks and relationships that can coordinate crisis preparedness activities and be readily mobilised in times of crisis," said the spokesman.