1. Education and raising awareness of public responsibility:
Fighting terrorism is a tricky issue in a multicultural society as Singapore. The IS uses their interpretation of the Muslim faith to win converts to their cause, and as Malays form an inherent part of Singapore's makeup, the Singapore government may be treading a tightrope on how not to make Muslims to form the wrong impression of being "targeted", or create too much scare in the public, which may develop into tension and mistrust between races. But at the same time, the government should also realize there needs to be public education to be vigilance and spot any suspicious person or activity. (The "public" also includes the Muslim community.) So far, I feel that the government has not been educating the public enough in the specifics but only generally by raising awareness of terror threats.
However general information without specific guidance is not enough for the public to know what to do. There should be more education in this respect. Does the public, including those in the Malay community, have knowledge on who to contact in the case of some suspicion of terrorist threat? What about putting hotlines and educational messages in public spaces, such as bus stop billboards, on MRT trains.
While we do not want the public to panic, the public has to accept the new normal of being vigilant and socially responsible. After sometime, the public will get adjusted to being vigilant against terrorism, and would not feel threatened, but may even feel grateful for a safer Singapore.
Schools, whether MOE run or Madrasahs, need to play an active role to prevent radicalization. There should be special units over seeing this, and Madrasahs should also be open to the idea and work with the Singapore government to implement policies for social integration and prevent radicalization. Without intervention from the government and the religious leaders, such things are unlikely to happen naturally.
Having island-wide community policing is a way to build strong community bonds across religions and races, and at the same time help the police force to keep Singapore safe. Each estate and area in Singapore should have such a program.
2. Beware of tactics of infiltration of borders, government units, religious units, etc.:
A terrorist trying to infiltrate Singapore, may not only choose the airport, nor the causeway, but may use the ferry from the outer islands to do that. Remember that we are as secure only as the most vulnerable place in our boundary. Some terrorists from Syria entered Europe as refugees. So just thinking of a hypothetical situation: something like the recent Batam first accident could be used by terrorists to enter Singapore as victims of an emergency. These could have been picked up by fishing sampans and gotten into Singapore unnoticed, particularly when the attention is on the rescue effort, security procedures may be side stepped. Stepping up border control does not end at the causeway or airport. The place of least resistance is the most likely route to be taken by infiltrators.
Prevent infiltration of sensitive departments or departments that can affect safety of the population in the civil service and statutory boards. At the same time, many government projects are tendered out to private companies. Strict monitoring has to be done to ensure security is not breached in the process. We need to prevent a case similar to a LTA officer acting like a rouge.
Existing religious units, such as Muslim schools or teaching units in Mosques would be the preferred route for propaganda by external influence. With utmost respect for the Malay community in Singapore, we still have to admit that some foreign groups are using religion as a way to get followers elsewhere in the world.
The government need to find out what percentage of Singapore Muslims wish for the implementation for the Islamic law in Singapore. This is an indication how susceptible to the IS caliphate our population is. There should also be a follow study on the reason behind this and any possible local sources that may plant such desires in the Muslim community here. This indicator should be seen as an important signal to how things are or may develop. This also helps the government to develop suitable measures.
3. Encourage feeling of the participation of Malays in public life of multicultural Singapore:
Have more Halal food within the hawker centres or food courts. Sharing food together in a public space is a kind of bonding or getting to know each other. Having not enough Halal food stalls could be taken as a sign that the needs of a group of the community is being ignored. Malays also need to work as do Chinese, and family units are getting smaller. In the past, there can be someone taking time to cook meals at home. It is conceivable to think that Malay families are increasingly having the need to eat out. We do not want one whole food court dedicated for the Muslims, but we want Malays to eat together and mingle with other races and religions.
This starts from having Malay children attend schools of mixed races. Madrasah students should have part of their curriculum taught in mainstream schools. The government and Muslim community should sort out the rationale of having a special route of schooling for the Malay community, and whether it promotes integration into the society.
4. Preventing self-radicalization:
Control the information accessible in Singapore. Block sites and social networks that propagate extremist views. This is the first line of defense against self-radicalization. Have undercovers to enter radical networks and track sources of propaganda, but there is a need to preempt the double agents from being converted.
5. Having SOPs for security at public events involving a big crowd:
This suggestion comes from the lesson of the lengthy shooting that happened in a theatre in Paris. These events may make attending crowded events troublesome and time consuming. But having SOPs in place to ensure safety, such as having security officers, running people or belongings through scanners, setting a limit to the type or size of items allowed at crowded events, have people use transparent bags, etc. Some step up in security maybe tolerated or even welcomed by the public especially if the population understands the need for safety. In Manila, shoppers need to be scanned with hand held devices before being allowed into the shopping centres. This quick check at the entrances to do not take away any festive spirit of the shoppers. If security SOPs are not finely stipulated, organizers or events could be asked to have in place security measures that suit them.
Any crowded place like our MRT stations and trains, especially during peak hours, is a priority for security measures to be in place. We need not only to prepare of planting of bombs, we also need to prevent the possibility of chemical attack.
It is better to be safe than sorry, and so erring on the conservative side is better than to suffer any attack. Any trouble could be seen in a good light as long as it keeps the population safe.
It may also be good to devise new safety measures, detection and surveillance devices, and new methods to ensure a safer but more efficient movement of crowds at check points.
The country also needs to plan the protocols and action plans for different levels of emergency alerts. And a comprehensive countrywide plan for different forms of attacks.
6. Making helpful anti-terror laws:
Finally, modifications in laws maybe needed, such as making it mandatory for the public to report any suspicious activity, or having a reward for information that helped to foil any attacks. This can make the public feel safer. The government should not be afraid to implement strict laws. The key is in the explanation for the need of the law to keep the population safe. It is better to have laws in place before attacks happen. In this way, people are forewarned, and prepared for their enactment.