SINGAPORE - Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said that the recent attack by Al-Shabaab on the Westgate Mall in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi indicates a continuing trend that terror groups are attacking soft targets including hotels, malls and schools.
Mr Alex Yam Ziming asked the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs: (a) what measures are in place to prevent terrorist attacks on shopping malls in Singapore; (b) whether building owners are adequately prepared for such threats; and (c) what is the Ministry's current assessment of threats to buildings in Singapore by global terrorism.
In a written response, Mr Teo Chee Hean said: "The recent surprise attack by Al-Shabaab on the Westgate Mall in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi is yet another strong reminder that the terrorism threat continues to be a global and persistent security problem.
"The Westgate Mall attack indicates a continuing trend of terror groups attacking soft targets including hotels, malls and schools. Soft targets are by definition assets that are either not protected or not protected to a high level. They are usually open to the public with little access control. As there are numerous potential soft targets in a country, it is neither feasible nor possible for a nation's security forces to directly protect them all. Singapore is not immune to such threats and we have to guard against the possibility of similar attacks in Singapore.
"Our approach is to invest resources in effective and proactive security solutions involving multi-layer security deployment, community engagement aimed at early detection of potential threats, and public vigilance and preparedness programmes. Our borders provide the first critical line of defence against terrorists. To prevent the entry of terrorists and the smuggling of weapons and explosives into Singapore, we conduct stringent checks on travellers, vehicles, baggage and cargo at our sea, air and land checkpoints, and round-the-clock patrols along the coastlines.
"MHA works closely with the business community to enhance the security of their buildings and the surrounding areas. Through the Safety and Security Watch Groups (SSWGs), our Police collaborates with the commercial sector to help them fight crime and terrorist threats. Response protocols are implemented to deal with any crisis situation, and table top exercises are conducted to validate and refine the contingency plans. To date, 1,054 buildings are covered under the SSWGs.
"Building owners can also refer to MHA Guidelines for Enhancing Building Security in Singapore (GEBSS) which is available online. The guidelines provide information on how they can enhance the security of their buildings, such as perimeter security, access control for vehicles and persons, security systems, security lighting, and emergency procedures.
"Commercial, industrial and government buildings deploy trained private security personnel to detect potential threats and deal with terror scenarios. Under "Project Guardian", the Police provides training for the private security personnel in evacuation, cordon support, crowd control, traffic diversion and emergency communications. Such training enables the private security personnel at these buildings to handle an emergency situation confidently and effectively. More than 5,500 private security personnel and employees have been trained.
"In addition, through our Security Outreach Programme, we educate the general public on good security practices and encourage them to take ownership of Singapore's security. In this way, we induct non-security personnel such as shop workers, maintenance and cleaning contractors and even customers themselves into the security effort, adding eyes on the ground and serving as a valuable deterrent to potential attackers.
"To conclude, the threat against soft targets requires the combined commitment and efforts of the police, private security agencies, the private sector, and members of the public. MHA will continue to strengthen our capabilities and work closely with our key partners and community to deal with potential terrorist threats. There is no room for complacency as terrorists continue to seek out every possible opportunity to inflict severe damage and consequences on us. We must remain vigilant and do our part to deter and prevent any terrorist attack at all times."