Speech by PM Lee Hsien Loong at Official Launch of SGSecure on 24 September 2016.
Cabinet colleagues, community leaders, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. A very good morning to all of you.
I am very happy to join you today for the launch of SGSecure and glad to see all of you who are here today. People of different races and religions, from different walks of life. Members of the Home Team, religious leaders, businessmen, teachers, students. Some of you are young, others are young at heart. But despite your diversity, something important brings us all together. We have all decided to take part in the SGSecure movement, to join the national effort to combat the threat of terrorism.
SGSecure is our response to the terrorist threat. Terrorism has become a constant presence in modern life and in our own lives. We have lived with it for 15 years, since 9/11, and since we discovered the JI in Singapore. We see terrorism in the news every week. New attacks, casualties, and the horrifying human tragedies. These incidents threaten religious harmony, undermine trust, and polarise societies.
Now when we travel, we plan carefully, find out where the Singapore embassy is, what numbers to call in times of emergency, think carefully where to go and when to be extra careful. People have got used to it, life has to go on. And yet we must know the threat has become more virulent and serious, including the threat to us here in Singapore, in Southeast Asia. It is not only just the frequency of attacks has gone up, the nature of the attacks has also changed.
Previously, many of their attacks were carried out by trained terrorists who belonged to a larger organisation. They targeted prominent venues or significant dates. There were some perverse meanings to the attack and organisation. Now, many attacks are the work of self-radicalised lone wolves and they go for everyday venues, using ordinary objects such as knives, parangs and trucks.
In Singapore, this could be the MRT station near your home, it could be your favourite hawker centres or shopping malls. It could happen anywhere. I spoke about this last month at the National Day Rally. And even since then, more things have happened. We have seen attacks in Thailand and the Philippines. And last week, there was an attack in New York, a bomb blast injured 29 people, it could easily have been much worse. It was intended to cause much more harm.
So the question is for us is: What do we do about this threat? What can we do about this threat? It is one thing to know that this is a serious problem, but it is another thing to know what we can do about it, and then get down to it and actually do it.
Usually when people are told of the problem, the first question they asked is, “What is the government going to do about it?” And in this case, the government is very much doing our part, stepping up measures against terrorism. We study closely the attacks and the developments around the world, the modus operandi, the groups, their trends, and where it is happening. We continually update our strategies to detect and to counter extremists, their influences and what it leads to, violence and terrorism. We are committing resources to strengthen our security forces.
For example, this year, we introduced the new Emergency Response Teams, to beef up our quick response if an incident happens. But as you have heard me tell you many times, the Government’s efforts alone are not enough because terrorism threatens not just our physical safety, but also our social harmony and way of life. To protect ourselves, every Singaporean has to play his part.
That is what SGSecure is about. It is about what each of us can do as an individual, it is about how each of us can play our part, to protect ourselves, and to protect those around us.
Lim Swee Say shared with me an anecdote from one of his dialogues. His anecdotes are always better than mine. He asked his residents, “If there is an emergency, what can you do?” So they looked blankly at him. “Is there anyone in your family who can help you?” They still looked blank because there probably isn’t. So he asked them again, “If there is nobody in your family who can help you, then which one of your neighbours can help you?” Think. “And if someone needs first aid, what do you need to have?”, “Do you know where the AED (Automated External Defibrillator) is downstairs of your block. Some blocks already have them. Do you know how to use it?”
These are very practical and real questions, but Swee Say did not receive any satisfactory answers. And frankly, if you ask any of us, off the cuff, to answer these questions. I doubt many of us can give very good answers either. And that is precisely what SGSecure aims to do, to help each of us answer these questions, not just with words but to know what to do. SGSecure gives everybody a role protecting ourselves, our families, and our country. We will teach you the skills that you need to do so.
To protect ourselves, every Singaporean has to play his part. PM Lee Hsien Loong
To protect ourselves, every Singaporean has to play his part.
PM Lee Hsien Loong
Let me describe the three main roles that we expect people to play and that people can be trained to fulfil. First of all, we would like everyone to be a Prepared Citizen. Learn how to protect ourselves, and protect our family. Learn to recognise signs of suspicious behaviour, identify suspicious items, and report it to the authorities. This is the most basic of roles, and we would like at least one person to be trained in this in every household.
To achieve this, we will be visiting every home in Singapore to raise awareness, to explain what to do in a crisis, and to encourage the families to participate in SGSecure programmes.
We did this with the Pioneer Generation package, house-to-house engaging old folks, talking to them, chatting with them, getting them to know how they can benefit and what they can do. It is a very positive experience because the people are receptive to our efforts, they ask the right questions, and they took away the important messages that we wanted to leave with them.
So, we are going to do the same with SGSecure. We started the SGSecure engagements this year in May. We have deployed some of our NSMen and Full-time NSF from Police and SCDF to lead this effort. It will take several years because we have nearly a million homes in Singapore but we will go all across Singapore and eventually, we will reach everybody. Iin the long term, this will make a significant difference to our security.
Firstly, we must have active citizens, prepared and knowing what they are going to do. Secondly, we must have active Responders. Responders who will be trained to react, to help others in the times of emergency. So, for example, we have a Save-A-Life initiative and you will learn how to administer CPR, how to use an AED in case somebody has a cardiac arrest.
We have already introduced this initiative in six constituencies. SCDF and their partners have trained 1,800 residents and we plan to train at least 300 residents in every constituency. SCDF has already installed nearly 400 AEDs in lift lobbies of HDB blocks in these six constituencies. Basically, every two blocks will have one AED. And we are going to extend this, phase by phase, starting from the middle of next year to all the constituencies in Singapore. So in four years’ time, we will have an AED downstairs of every other HBD block. Every neighbourhood will have residents who will know how to use them.
Lastly, we need effective Mobilisers. Mobilisers who are the leaders of the SGSecure movement. You may be a religious leader, you may be a grassroots activist, you may be a unionist, you may be a Home Team officer or Home Team volunteer. But you will have your networks, people who know you well, people who look up to you and we hope you will champion these SGSecure initiatives with your networks. Resolve frictions that could undermine racial or religious harmony, and mobilise the community both in peacetime and during crises. You will work closely with Prepared Citizens, with the Responders, with other Mobilisers to develop crisis contingency plans for your communities.
So, I think we all have a part, either to be a Prepared Citizen, you know what to do for yourself, for your family. Or an Active Responder, you know how to help others if there’s a crisis. Or to be a Mobiliser, to spread the message, to get people to understand that this is important, to work with people to bring them together at a time when there will be a lot of stress and people will be pulled apart.
No role is too small in this nation effort, whichever part you play, you will be helping to protect Singapore and our way of life. If we get this going well, together all of you will be the touch points for your community. I hope you will put in the time and effort to participate in the SGSecure programmes.
One key programme which we are going to run, will be the neighbourhood Emergency Preparedness Days, or EP Days. We have had them but we are going to revamp andre-launch them. The EP Days will simulate terrorist attacks in our heartlands, train residents in emergency skills, so that you know what to do if you are caught in an attack. So far, we have done this in Chong Pang, Jurong Spring and Toa Payoh West-Balestier, and we have trained 2,700 residents and volunteers. We are going to do this with all the constituencies over the next two years. I hope you will encourage your family, neighbours and friends to participate in them.
We will also conduct Crisis Response Exercises for community leaders and community emergency response teams. To plan how we can provide medical, social and psychological support after an attack, and to review how we can manage our communal relations. These exercise will help us to bounce back quickly and resiliently after an incident, and to come back as one people.
There will be other programmes for everyone, such as the Community Vigilance Workshops which the PA will organise. You can pick and choose the ones which interest you, but I hope you will attend a few, if not most of these programmes, to equip yourself with relevant skills and knowledge.
But while these programmes are important, remember they are structured events, they are exercises, and they are planned. You come, you know that it is going to happen, when something takes place, and you are set for it. But emergencies don’t happen only when we are teed up for them. They happen when you least expect them. And therefore, we must be alert all the time and alertness must become a part of our daily lives.
I think we are getting there. If you have been reading the newspapers recently, you may have read about the chap who have spent several days in the Changi departure lounge. I think more than two weeks. He went from lounge to lounge, each time he produced a pass which he managed to do it on Photoshop from his phone and got in. But eventually, we got him. How did we get him? The staff in one of the lounges were alert. They saw him, they saw him again, and they saw him a third time. They checked and they told the police. We arrested him and he has gone to jail. It shows that it is possible for us to train people. People can be alert and you can make a difference. You don’t have to be a commando. You can be just an ordinary person.You don’t even have to be a big fellow. A young lady doing her job, keeping her eyes open, and she made the difference. So if we can do it in the airport, I think we can do it in every constituency in Singapore.
One of the things we are going to do to help you to keep alert, will be to launch a new SGSecure app. The app can do several things, send you alerts and advisories when things happens. If you see something suspicious, you can use the app to report this, to send information and pictures so that somebody can get it and investigate it. I am going to download this app once it is launched and I hope all of you will do so too.
At the heart of all these efforts is our determination to protect our way of life. So far, we have been very fortunate, we have enjoyed racial and religious harmony. We celebrate religious harmony day, we read about riots only in the newspapers, only in the history books, only in scratchy old RTS videos. This is quite unlike many other countries. In our housing estates, in our schools, in our workplaces, we live together, mix together, integrate together, we are not segregated, and we do not ostracise one another. Our places of worship co-exist peacefully, side by side. On one street, you can have a temple, a mosque, a church, all next to one another.
We count among our friends and neighbours, people of different races and religions. It is a harmony that all of us can be proud of but never forget how hard we have had to work to achieve this. And we have got to continue to work at it, and never to take racial harmony for granted.
In fact, racial harmony, this is one of the major motivations for us to make changes to the Elected Presidency. To ensure that a minority race Singaporean becomes the President of Singapore, from time to time. The President is our Head of State, he is a unifying symbol of the nation, and he embodies our multiracial society. He must be someone that Singaporeans of all races and religions can identify with. Every citizen must feel that one of his community can become President, and regularly does become the President because that’s the symbol representing all of us.
It will help to strengthen our sense of identity and the belonging of all ethnic groups, not just the minority ethnic groups but also the majority Chinese because we all have to be conscious that we are living in the multiracial society. As Mr Lee said in 9th of August 1965, this is not a Malay Singapore, not an Indian Singapore, not a Chinese Singapore. This is for everyone.
But the President is at one level. The President symbolism is important but to make that really work, the symbolism must ring true in our own lives, in our day to day experiences, in what it feels like to live in this multi-racial society. You can see other multi-racial society where on National Day, they also have multi-racial performances. Different groups, different dance, and some in traditional dress. But it is not the reality and people know that what is on the stage is one thing, but what is in real life is different. But in Singapore, what is in real life has to match and does match what we celebrate on National Day, what we build in the icons and symbols of the stage.
So we should continue to uphold multiracial values, to build and maintain a respectful common space for all. When people incite division and misunderstanding between different races or religions, we have to act firmly against them, whether it is online, whether it is in person, whether it is in print. This is one of the areas where we are hypersensitive and it is a no-go.
When people do the right thing, we must encourage them and praise them. That’s why we have the IRCCs, Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circles. Your work to strengthen understanding and trust between the different groups in Singapore and all of you in the IRCCs will play an important role in SGSecure. Not all Singaporeans may join IRCCs, but each Singaporean can and should do more.
Here are three things which we can do in our daily lives. First, we can be willing to give and take. We are all free to practise our different customs and religions but we must also recognise we share common spaces. Be considerate of others, conscious of how our own practices may affect others, particularly those of a different faith. So whether it is prayers from mosque, whether it is burning joss paper during 7th moon, whether it is celebration processions. We all have to be conscious of that and make adjustments, be tolerant and at the same time, have restraint and understanding.
Secondly, we have to reach out to one another, build friendships across different races and religions, and take time and effort to learn about each other’s cultures and beliefs.
And thirdly, we have to speak out against racial and religious intolerance wherever it happens. And take a firm stand against discrimination, harassment or violence. Speak out, make clear that such intolerance has no place in our society. And if each of us do this and imbued this in our children, in schools and in home, then I think we can build a strong multi-racial society.
Our problem will continue. Terrorism threats is not going to disappear for quite a long time and we must expect the terrorists to continue to attack and to plan to attack Singapore. They are targeting not just our physical safety, but the fabric of our society. When we are confronted with something like this, we can respond in two ways. Either with fear, cowed, hankered down, pretend nothing is happening, pretend that the threats do not exist, and hope that the troubles will pass us by. Or we can stand up, look the problem straight in the face, understand the dangers we face, know what we can do, do what we can, now and continuing into the future, and make sure that if something does happen, we are ready.
And I think that if you ask Singaporeans which of the two we should do, it is quite clear what the answer will be. Stand up, do the right thing, get prepared, geared ourselves. It will happen, but we will be ready when it happens.
So, I urge each of us to set up to do our part. As the slogan says, stay alert, stay united, stay strong. This is Singapore, this is special. We can do it. If something happens, when it happens, we will stand together and we will endure and ensure SG Secure has counted for something.
Thank you very much.
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