SINGAPORE: A year after the launch of the SGSecure movement, there is still “some way to go” for Singaporeans when it comes to being prepared to deal with a terror attack, said Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam.
"Awareness is one thing, preparedness is another," he said at an awards ceremony at the Home Team Academy on Wednesday (Sep 27).
“In terms of awareness, we have achieved some success,” he said, noting that the SGSecure mobile app has been downloaded almost a million times. Still, he said “there is more work to be done". "Preparedness - I think a lot of people, I would say, are not mentally tuned to preparedness,” the minister said.
Authorities have often said that it is “not a matter of if, but when” there is a terror incident in Singapore, and have stressed the need for grassroots groups, religious organisations and the public to work closely together.
“You've got the situation in Marawi, you've got the situation in Rakhine State, and it's going to attract fighters, extremists, would-be terrorists to go to these places to fight,” Mr Shanmugam said. “And once they come to this region, then they will try to spread out to other targets too."
More Singaporeans are also getting involved, with 11 people arrested for terrorism-related activities since 2015 - an increase compared to the previous seven years.
On Tuesday, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said a Singaporean - Megat Shahdan Abdul Samad - has been fighting on frontlines in Iraq and Syria.
"We know that radicalisation takes place overseas. We know that radicalisation takes place within Singapore," said Mr Shanmugam. "It is growing. It is not as bad as many other places," he added.
But he said the overall relationship between communities is good in Singapore. "There is trust. We've done a lot to build that trust, the community has done a lot."
THE SGSECURE MOVEMENT
Since its launch in September 2016, the SGSecure movement has seen the organisation of 36 Emergency Preparedness Days, which involve simulated terror attacks in the heartlands, among others. More than 600 volunteers have been trained in psychological first aid. Police and civil defence officers have reached more than 220,000 households as part of an outreach exercise, according to MHA.
But the work has just begun. For example, part of the target is to reach a million households, and to bring Emergency Preparedness days to 89 constituencies within the next year and a half.
At the ceremony, Mr Shanmugam also stressed the need for various organisations to play their part.
For example, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean on Tuesday launched the SGSecure Guide for Workplaces, which will go out to over 150,000 companies by early next year.
"We want it in the workplaces, we want it in schools, we want it in the community - a variety of places,” Mr Shanmugam said.
"So it's going to be a big push in workplaces this year. We try to get people to really take it in. And when you talk about community, you need to get the religious leaders, community leader to come forward because when an attack takes place, the day after, you want people to react as one people, one Singapore."
Officers from the Home Team have also stepped up their guard. At the awards ceremony, about 400 officers were recognised for their roles in major operations and counter-terror exercises.
"We have to always work and think through what the next MO (modus operandi) is that the perpetrators will use,” said Supt Alan Wong, whose team won the highest award for leading an islandwide exercise in October 2016. It involved 3,200 officers and community volunteers and multiple attack scenarios.
“We cannot be stagnant and constant and wait for something to happen,” he added.