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Bishan SMRT depot vandalism may have wider security implications, say observers

Commenting on the recent case of vandalism at the Bishan SMRT depot, observers said the incident may have wider security implications.

SINGAPORE: More must be done to strengthen security at Singapore's key installations, said observers.

Commenting on the recent case of vandalism at the Bishan SMRT depot, they said the incident may have wider security implications.

On May 5, a train at the depot was apparently spray-painted with graffiti. This is the third time vandals have struck a key transport facility in four years.

It is believed a red scrawl with traces of white -- measuring three metres long and one metre high -- was found on a train's middle carriage.

Ang Hin Kee, a member of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport, said: "People still think they can get away with such acts. Whether you call it an act of mischief, or a freedom of expression… I think it's downright a very simple act of vandalism.

“There is no excuse for not knowing the severe penalties that cover, or that carry with it. And more importantly the fact that you have breached a security installation, and brought about a lot of societal concerns."

In May 2010, vandals cut through a fence before leaving their mark on a train at the Changi Depot.

A year later, a similar incident occurred at the Bishan Depot.

In the latest case, reports said the depot's perimeter fence was intact, and SMRT has yet to confirm any security breach, leading to suggestions of an inside job.

Dr Kumar Ramakrishna, head of the Centre for Excellence for National Security at S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said: "This is hypothetical, of course. If they find out who is responsible is indeed from within, then certainly that calls for more stringent background checks.

“One of the potential scenario one could think of from a homeland security point of view, for example, one of cases we've had in Singapore -- in the past a few cases actually -- of self-radicalised individuals, these cannot be entirely ruled out.

“It always pays to be prudent. This is just a case of vandalism, but in future who knows, it may not be a case of vandalism, it might be worse."

The fact that this is the third time an act of vandalism has happened in a transport facility over just a few years has serious security implications.

It might unintentionally send out the wrong message that security matters are not being taken seriously enough.

Mr Ang said: "We don't want to be a soft target. I'm sure all measures and efforts will be put in place after investigating as to what caused this breach, to further strengthen where… the potential gaps (are)."

For the breaches in 2010 and 2011, SMRT was fined a total of S$250,000.

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