Temasek Foundation Cares’ Launch of Stay-Prepared: Business Psychological Resilience Programme (B-PREP) – Speech by Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law

Published: 07 September 2016

Mr Lim Boon Heng, Chairman of Temasek Holdings


Mr Dhanabalan, Chairman of Temasek Trust


Mr Richard Magnus, Chairman of Temasek Foundation Cares


Ladies and gentlemen


1. Thank you for having me here today at this launch, which comes in the context of what we see happening around the world and the region.


2. In the last two years, you've seen what ISIS has done around the world. Hundreds of horrific attacks across the Middle East, claiming the lives of thousands of victims, and this is besides the ongoing conflict in Syria. ISIS is not like any other terrorist organisation because it controls territory and a large population. It has substantial resources, revenues through oil and it is attracting thousands of people to its fold from across the world to come and fight. It is spreading its ideology through social media savviness and attracting recruits from around the world. Because of its highly localised and disorganised approach, it is not easy to deal with. If you look at the ISIS propaganda, it calls on people to either go to the Middle East to fight, or do their duty to God by staying in their countries and do harm to others. In fact, one ISIS propagandist said "Don't show yourself, try not to stand out, blend within the framework of your country, and kill people with a knife, or throw them over the parapet. If you have a car, use it to run somebody down". You saw what happened in Nice, a truck driver ploughing through the crowds. How do you prevent people from doing harm with their cars, or carrying knives in their pockets, or with the number of HDB blocks that we have, getting someone and throwing them over? So these are real threats.


3. ISIS has also started to focus on Southeast Asia. There was a horrific attack in Philippines just a few days ago. There were attacks in Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta and other parts of Indonesia. There were plans to attack Singapore from Batam with rockets. Even if they didn't manage to get the rockets, nevertheless the intent was there and they will find some other way. Just look at the land crossings between Singapore and Malaysia. We have nearly 400,000 crossings every day, both ways. So what do we do?  


4. That's why we have been saying it's not a question of if, but when. We will try and prevent attacks, but we cannot completely rule attacks out, particularly homegrown attacks by people who are self-radicalised. The internet is powerful, and when people get influenced ideologically, things can happen.   


5. Our counter-terrorism strategy has evolved as we see how ISIS carries out its attacks. Last year in Paris, it was quite clear that it was no longer like the usual terrorist attacks where they come in, take hostages and negotiate. They no longer negotiate, but they go for the softest of targets, malls, cinemas, concert theatres, where large numbers of people congregate and where it is not possible to completely protect the area on a day to day basis. They want to inflict the maximum number of casualties because it is not a question oftaking hostages or negotiating, it is killing as many people as possible, and they die in the process.  


6. For us, we looked at it, and we evolved our strategy. First is of course the response by the security forces. To be ready and be on the spot within a few minutes of an attack anywhere in Singapore requires troops, training and a different type of thinking, such as an acceptance that there is going to be a substantial number of casualties on all sides. Second, to harden potential targets and increase vigilance, one of the ways is to put in cameras, in places where people come together, so that we have immediate intelligence on what is going on. We call this part of our vigilance strategy. So CCTV coverage will be substantially increased. All our HDB blocks already have CCTVs in the void decks, but beyond that, in places where people congregate. In addition, we have to look at technology, as part of the Smart Nation drive, to use technology to help us do predictive analysis and move in fast. This includes working with our telco operators to put in apps to allow people to very quickly tell us what is going on, through very simple to use modes, by taking photographs and sending them to us. These are physical responses. We also need to counter the extremist ideology as well as cooperate with our international partners. Finally, the community has to come on board, because this threat cannot be dealt with simply by the Government, or the Government working with a few groups. It has to be the community.


7. This is why we are launching SGSecure, a new national movement where everyone has got to be involved. Under SGSecure, we have identified six domains:


a) neighbourhoods,


b) schools,


c) workplaces,


d) community groups and groups that identity themselves along certain interests or communities,


e) the media, and


f) our NSmen and volunteer community. 


8. For residents in our neighbourhoods, we want every resident to at least know about these threats. At the next level, we want enough of them to come forward to be trained in emergency preparedness. We have put emergency first-aid equipment under every two to three HDB blocks so that it is easily available. If something happens in the neighbourhood, it's available and we hope people are trained to save someone's lives. It could be your family, neighbour, anyone. Already, in non-terrorist situations, we have had people saving other people's lives using these equipment. We want people to be trained. It can happen anywhere, you could be in a mall and there could be an attack, somebody is bleeding and you know what to do. So we want to train people. This is why constituency by constituency, we are going around having revamped Emergency Preparedness Days, encouraging people to come forward, take part and be trained. We are going to knock on every single door in Singapore, tell and show people the potential of what might happen so that they understand and then invite them to take part and be prepared.  


9. Beyond the neighbourhoods, we need to spread the SGSecure messages to our businesses and workplaces. For most of us, outside our homes, our offices and workplaces are the places where we spend most of our time. We need our workplaces to be places where people are alert, they are able to be trained and they understand. It's not just preventing, being alert or responding. We may not always be able to prevent an attack, but what we certainly can do is how we respond the day after the attack. If we respond with divisions in our society, or respond in a chaotic way, or if we respond by pointing fingers at a particular religious or racial group, then that is a weakness. But if we can rebound with confidence, with a sense of togetherness, with a Singaporean identity, clearly accepting that the attackers are a minority within a minority, and that the mainstream is moderate and we are all Singaporeans together, then we would have defeated the terrorists psychologically. That doesn't come automatically, which requires us to go out there, talk to people, train them, get them to think through the exercises and imagine how they would respond if an attack takes place. If the attacker is a Muslim, how do we treat our Muslim colleagues the day after? Do we bring them together and say we are in this together, or do we divide ourselves. This is critical for our psychological resilience.   


10. The messages that we want to put across in SGSecure, to be launched by PM Lee this month, is to "Stay Alert, Stay United, Stay Strong". We stay alert by having strong and good security measures in our workplaces. It's not a popular message when there is economic uncertainty, when we need to tell people to put in more CCTV cameras, harden their infrastructure and other things. Unfortunately, this is a cost that terrorists are imposing on us. Either we pay the cost now, or we pay the cost in some other way later. The terrorists only have to succeed once, but we have to spend a lot of money protecting everywhere, and bringing in a lot more security forces. We see it all around the world. For every major event in France today, you look at the number of security forces that are being mobilised, it costs millions of dollars. Unfortunately, that is a cost of terrorism that has to be paid.   


11. We stay united by embracing diversity and harmony, by building close bonds. And we stay strong by making sure that our offices, our staff, are trained and that we have business continuity plans. This message has to go to everyone, at every level, and percolate down. It can only happen by having workshops, table-top exercises, and walking through the scenarios. People have to take ownership of this. That is why this initiative is extremely important, that Temasek Foundation Cares is taking the lead to start this with partner organisations, including the Singapore Business Federation. I'm thankful that this important initiative is being done, at a crucial time. If you look at it from an organisational business point of view, this is not something that makes profits, or something that a line manager is responsible for. It is not easy to bring across to the average person, but it has to be done, so I'm glad that the Singapore Business Federation is also on board. At the same time, we are also reviewing the legislation to allow the Minister to direct businesses to take certain measures. 


12. Thank you for taking this first step, and I congratulate Temasek Holdings and Temasek Foundation Cares for your excellent initiative. 



Managing Security Threats