The term ‘terrorism’ originated from the word ‘terror’ in the late 18th century during the French Revolution. It instils fear and panic to the people of France under the ruling of ‘Maximilien Robespierre’ who came into power after the execution of Louis XVI. Many live in fear of retribution and uses the term ‘terror’ to describe the abuse of power and threat. Today, ‘terrorism’ was widely used and defined as intentional acts of violence by intimidating others through harm or extermination (Crime Museum, 2017). Terrorist attacks are diverse. Bombings are commonly used through the use of explosive devices which are easy to make and inexpensive. Other types of terrorist attacks include shooting, kidnappings, chemical biological and radiological devices and others such as cyberattack etc. (Schmid, 2013). In Britain, a car crash occurred outside British Parliament was deemed by British police as an act of terror (Hjelmgaard, 2018). While in Surabaya- Indonesia, a family of five travelling by motorbike detonated bombs which was strapped onto their body at the Indonesian Police Headquarters. The impact of the suicide bombing resulted in six civilians and four police officers injured (BBC News, 2018).
Terror attacks during the new terrorism era are better planned, well-organized and sees a high level of technical proficiency. Counter terrorism In Singapore, counter terrorism measures were emphasized through continuous education by educating the public on what to do, how to react and who to reach for. The ‘SG Secure’ platform was launched in 2016 as part of the Singapore government initiative to educate, train and prepare its people for surprise terror attacks. With various threats occurring globally from terrorist attacks to cyber security attacks, SG Secure has shifted its focus from increasing awareness to preparedness (Wong, 2017). To better prepare and complement the SG secure campaign response, joint anti-terror exercises between the SPF – Singapore Police Force, SAF – Singapore Armed Forces, ICA- Immigration and Checkpoints Authority and SCDF- Singapore Civil Defence Force were conducted (Lim, 2016). It does not confine only to government agencies but the outreach effort spreads across private sectors and onto every household (Zhaki, 2018). Hardening soft targets Soft target refers to a place or location that is vulnerable due to deficiency, lack in security or protection which is inhabited by different types of people (Miller, 2017). These are places where people commonly patronize such as libraries, malls, schools and places of worship like temples, churches or mosques etc. Security measures were enforced at these soft targets through frequent patrols, close partnership among stakeholders and frequent checks on persons by police as part of deterrence measures.
Softening hard targets Hard targets are places that are widely accessible to public such as airport and public transport terminals. Due to tight security measures, soft target became a hard target when an individual or travellers cleared security checks to perform acts of terrorism. An example is the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, UK resulting in 22 dead (McGregor, 2017). This was a classic example of how soft target are chosen and targeted by lone wolf terrorist. The event venue i.e, stadium where the concert was held became a hard target when security loosen during dispersal. In Singapore, security and safety of the people are of paramount importance. During major events such as National Day Parade, Singapore F1 race, Singapore Airshow or ASEAN summit etc., world leaders and ministers are usually present. Enhanced security measures were implemented, vehicle access and persons checks were also tightened and enforced throughout the event. During the 2016 ASEAN summit held in Singapore, a driver with two other passengers attempted to dash through security checks. Despite warnings, the vehicle continue to dash through and was shot by Gurkha security forces deployed leaving the driver dead and two passengers arrested (Chelvan, 2016). Rising costs of counter terrorism According to data from the Ministry of Finance, 27 per cent of Singapore government spending were channelled to enhancing the country’s security capabilities in counter terrorism efforts. This could be seen in comparison to 2011 in which S$14.8 billion were spend and increased to S$19.5 billion in 2016 as more funds are required to tackle counter terrorism in the region (Tang, 2018). The Ministry of Home Affairs – MHA expenditure to invest in counter terrorism effort increased from S$4.8 billion in 2015 to S$5.83 billion in 2017. It was projected to increase by 11 percent to S$6.48 billion this year as the threat level increases (Ng, 2018).
Terrorism counter measures not only involves equipping people with knowledge and training, it also encompass requirements on infrastructure to harden buildings, having adequate building security measures such as vehicle barriers, bollards, video surveillance and security personnel. For event organizers of certain crowd size, additional cost were incurred to include walk through metal detector, security personnel and hand held metal detectors as part of deterrence means (Channel News Asia, 2018). The SAF trains all military personnel with the opening of SAF Institute on homeland security and counter terrorism. Soldiers were equipped with knowledge in a realistic environment through the use of stimulation to prepare themselves when dealing with threatening situation. They are able to make their own judgement, decision and acting on which level of force to apply in order to de-escalate the situation (Lim, 2017). Such training were incorporated during the basic military training module and complements the SG Secure effort by the Singapore government (Mahmud, 2018). It illustrates the close partnership between the military forces and police in projecting presence and assurance to the people of Singapore.
The SPF leveraged on enhancing technology capabilities in crime fighting and counter terrorism efforts. Police cameras were fitted island wide and equipped with data analytics capability in preventing, deterring and detecting crime to ensure the safety and security of the people. It also boosts counter terrorism capabilities with the formation of Emergency Response Team – ERT and In-Situ Reaction Teams – IRT. Police personnel were also trained to respond immediately during terror attacks. Inevitably as first responders, it enhances counter terrorism effort as the main front line forces during peace time (Tang, 2018). Conclusion Singapore being strategically positioned in Southeast Asia is vulnerable to terrorist strikes. With the increasing number of travellers, foreign talents working in various industries, it is hard for the Singapore government to closely monitor every individual. The ongoing anti-terrorism exercises conducted serves to further enhance community resilience and emergency preparedness. Terror strikes in our neighbouring countries does not imply that it may not happen here. However the question is when the attack is going to happen. The increase budget in counter terrorism efforts assures continued political stability, economic success and a safe place to live and work for everyone. As the saying by J K Rowling goes, “we are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided” (Ng, 2018).