It is crucial that Singaporeans stick together in the face of terror attacks which seek to sow discord, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean yesterday, as he called on the nation to build strong community "resilience".
Rather than allowing an attack to divide society, he said Singaporeans "must continue to cherish and focus on what we have in common, rather than accentuate our differences".
"We must also carry on with our lives, and not allow fear to paralyse our society, or stop us from our daily activities," he said.
In delivering this message at the official opening of a new, $2.2 million Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) centre to familiarise residents on how to react in emergencies, he highlighted how the people of Sydney and Paris stayed together in the wake of recent terrorist incidents.
In November, a gunman took patrons at a Sydney cafe hostage, leaving two dead. Last month, two gunmen stormed the Paris office of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, killing 11 people and a policeman.
The affected communities refused to let the incidents disrupt their lives. Instead, they showed solidarity, said DPM Teo, noting how, in four hours, 150,000 Australians joined the spontaneous hashtag #Illridewithyou to support Muslims.
"In carrying out such acts of violence, the perpetrators seek to divide the community and to strike fear in innocent people," said Mr Teo, who is also Coordinating Minister for National Security and Minister for Home Affairs.
"On the contrary, we should stand united and condemn the actions of these particular individuals who hold extreme views; and recognise that their violent acts and attempts to justify them do not reflect the beliefs, and indeed are rejected by, the wider community."
He also spoke on the need to be better prepared for emergencies. "With appropriate training, you can be our first community responders - putting out a small fire with an extinguisher; helping your neighbours to evacuate safely if a fire or some other emergency breaks out in your HDB block."
SCDF's Emergency Preparedness Centre, on the second floor of the Civil Defence Heritage Gallery on the premises of the Central Fire Station in Hill Street, will offer tips on areas such as fire safety and life-saving skills.
It also features an "Icube" room which uses 3D immersive technology to offer a virtual experience of natural disasters such as typhoons. Two interactive touchscreen television sets in another gallery imparts knowledge on war and terrorist-related incidents. A third of the cost of the 280 sq m centre was footed by sponsors.
Yesterday, Mr Teo also revealed that the SCDF Public Warning System's Important Message Signal will be activated at 6.20pm on Total Defence Day starting this year, instead of at 12.05pm.
The time marks the British surrender to the Japanese on Feb 15, 1942, Mr Teo said, and "will give added meaning when we mark Total Defence Day, and also serve as a solemn reminder to Singaporeans to take emergency preparedness seriously."
Emergency Preparedness Centre opens
THE Singapore Civil Defence Force's Emergency Preparedness Centre is open to the public for free.
Prior booking is required for visits to the centre, located on the second floor of the Civil Defence Heritage Gallery, on the premises of the Central Fire Station in Hill Street. It is open from Tuesdays to Sundays, including public holidays, from 10am to 5pm.
Visits are recommended only for those above 10 years old. Children below 10 years of age should be accompanied by an adult.
Visits are based on guided tours, for groups of 10 people. Bookings can be made online at www.scdf.gov.sg
This article was first published on Feb 3, 2015.
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