Published: 01 April 2019
Mr Ang Wei Neng: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs how can the Home Team draw lessons from the recent shooting incidents in Amsterdam and Christchurch to better prevent similar incidents in Singapore.
1. The recent attacks in Utrecht and Christchurch are sombre reminders of the threat which radicalism and terrorism continue to pose. We condemn the attacks, and share the sorrow of those who have lost family members and loved ones.
2. The two incidents provide several lessons of what countries should put in place, to minimise the chances and impact of similar attacks.
3. First is the need to unequivocally reject and counter extremist ideology and rhetoric. They can spread widely via social media, and breed hate and violence.The manifesto published by the Christchurch attacker reeked of the disdainful and derogatory language typically used in white supremacist materials. If allowed to propagate, such hateful discourse can build up a culture of hate and intolerance, and lead to violence.In Singapore, we take a firm and unforgiving stance against extremist expressions and speech, to make sure that the ideologies they represent never take root. This includes working with partners such as the Religious Rehabilitation Group to refute radical religious teachings.
4. Second is the importance of firearms controls. A week after the Christchurch attacks, New Zealand proposed new laws to ban military-style semi-automatic weapons. We learnt our own lessons many decades ago.Today, unlawful possession of firearms is punishable with imprisonment and caning, and unlawful use is a capital offence.
5. Third, the authorities must be well prepared to stage a swift and effective response when an attack hits. The New Zealand Police apprehended the attacker within half an hour of the first call they received. Our Police have deployed In-Situ Reaction Teams (IRTs) at areas with high human traffic such as Orchard Road and Marina Bay. These IRTs provide quick first response, and complement the Police’s Emergency Response Teams and Rapid Deployment Troops, who are specially trained and armed to deal with terrorist attacks. More IRTs will be deployed island-wide this year, to further shorten our response time.
6. The community has an equally important role. A key part entails being vigilant and reporting suspicious activity to the authorities early. This includes reporting self-radicalised individuals, of whom family members and friends are best placed to detect marked changes in behaviour, for example if they start promoting extreme and intolerant views.
7. It is equally important that the community knows how to respond should an attack occur. In both the Utrecht and Christchurch incidents, many public buildings were quickly locked down after the shootings began. The Home Team has worked with partner agencies to enhance the preparedness of our neighbourhoods, schools, workplaces, and community organisations. Exercises have been conducted, including lockdown drills in schools.
8. But above all, the ability of a people to stand united and together, will determine whether such attacks succeed in their ultimate objectives.
9. Within hours of the Christchurch attack, people of various faiths rallied around their fellow Muslims. Buddhist groups offered prayers. Churches opened their doors to the Muslims, whose mosques were closed. Despite it being the Sabbath, the holy day of the week for the Jews, synagogues were closed on the Saturday following the attack as a show of solidarity. The Sikh community transported family members of the victims to the burial grounds, and arranged langars, or free vegetarian meals, for those affected and attending the funerals.
10. Many individuals stepped forward with donations and helped out at the events. Students across New Zealand performed the Haka, a Maori ceremonial dance, as tributes to the victims and as a signal of communal unity. As a further display of solidarity, the Muslim call to prayer was broadcast across New Zealand on the Friday after the attack, and the entire country mourned together.
11. Should an attack happen here, we must likewise stand shoulder to shoulder, and show the attackers that we will not be cowed, that we will not let them divide us as a people, nor turn one Singaporean against the other.
12. The SGSecure movement launched in 2016 has greatly strengthened our preparedness as individuals and as a country, to deal with a terror attack and we have made good progress. For instance, three in four Singaporeans responded that they know what to do if they are caught at the scene of an attack. Almost all Singaporeans affirm that they will step up to help others who are affected in an attack, and see it as their responsibility to safeguard Singapore.
13. We will continue to press ahead with our SGSecure efforts to strengthen Singapore’s preparedness and resilience against those who would do us harm.