21 November 2015
The spectre of terrorism — while never far away in this region — has reared its head again, after the Paris attacks that left scores dead and injured. As counter-terrorism forces in Europe and elsewhere continue to hunt down those responsible for the carnage, the reverberations are being felt thousands of kilometres away, including in Singapore where people are being jolted out of their comfort zone to confront uneasy questions: Will Singapore become a target eventually? How will Singaporeans, who have long enjoyed peace and security, and the society at large cope with a terrorist attack? Can our much-vaunted social cohesion withstand the impact? Or will distrust seep in and destroy what has been painstakingly built up?
Each time an incident happens, Singapore’s leaders have been quick to stress that it is not a matter of if, but when, the country — which is in a region where terrorists are active — will be hit.
… A street poll of 100 Singaporeans aged 18 and above, conducted by TODAY over the past week, found that almost four in 10 respondents think a terrorist attack will happen in Singapore within the next five years. A third said they do not think so, while the remainder were unsure.
… Commenting on the responses, Mr Joseph Franco, associate research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), noted that the Paris attacks have raised fears among some Singaporeans of the possibility of an attack at home but the sentiments may not last. “When such a visible event actually occurs… people (become) afraid. If they were (polled) six months before or six months after, I think the numbers would actually be different,” said Mr Franco, who specialises in radicalisation studies, counterterrorism, and counterinsurgency.
… Dr Alan Chong, associate professor at RSIS, said in the event of an attack, the Government has a key role in steering the country back on track while Dr Norman Vasu, deputy head of the Centre of Excellence for National Security (CENS), noted that responsible dissemination of information is crucial to ensure that the country recovers quickly.
Dr Vasu said: “In an information vacuum when an incident happens, it’s important for agencies to say what they know and what they don’t, rather than (allow the) vacuum (to be filled with) unreliable, uncertain information.”
To build up Singapore’s social resilience to a terrorist attack, Dr Rohan Gunaratna, head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, said more should be done to invest in online platforms to counter terrorism and promote friendship between different communities. He warned that terrorists are already “sprinting” in the online sphere, while governments worldwide are still “crawling” behind.
Ms Nur Diyanah Anwar, research analyst at CENS, said community leaders should continue to play their part in promoting multi-culturalism here. She cited the efforts by the Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circles, REACH and OnePeople.SG in helping to strengthen Singapore’s social fabric.
CENS / CMS / GPO / ICPVTR / Online / Print
Last updated on 23/11/2015