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 Singapore News »
Time is GMT + 8 hours
Posted: 27 December 2003 1531 hrs

Singapore beefs up anti-terrorism security measures in 2003
By Dominique Loh, Channel NewsAsia

SINGAPORE : With the arrest of two more Jemaah Islamiyah members in October, Singaporeans are learning the threat of terrorism is far from over.

In August, Dr Tony Tan was appointed Coordinating Minister for Defence and Security.

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His role was to concentrate on Homeland Defence and safeguard Singapore against terrorist threats.

Homeland security took on a different context as Singaporeans began seeing tighter security measures all across the island.

Hard targets and key installations like Jurong Island, with its many petrochemical companies, can be potential targets for terrorists.

The island is now like a fortress after S$30 million was spent beefing up the level of protection.

After the Jakarta Marriott Hotel bombing, local hotels took no chances.

It was none more evident when US President George W Bush visited Singapore in late October.

Checking into the Shangri-la Hotel was tougher than usual.

The undercarriages of cars entering the hotel were scanned for explosives.

Even Police cars were not spared the hassle.

Experts say terrorists do not hold reservations about attacking easy targets for maximum impact.

"They are indiscriminate in the attacks. They are in for more lethal means and we're on the verge of the non-convention era of terrorism. We're already seeing signs of it. Therefore there is an urgency in consolidating better international cooperation in confronting this threat," said terrorism analyst Yoran Schweitzer.

"They'll use suicide terrorism, which is a very cheap tool for them with a high probability of success," he said.

This was why the authorities took drastic steps to secure public areas with large crowds.

After the barricades went up at Holland Village and Newton Circus food centre, the same happened at Mohamed Sultan to keep roadside parking to a minimum.

Closed-circuit televisions were also installed at Boat Quay and Little India.

But analysts agree that as useful as the measures are, countries cannot fight the terrorists alone.

A joint maritime exercise between Singapore and Japan was one example of how countries could work together to strengthen their security arrangements.

Closer to land, security at Singapore's borders was also increased.

Armed guards now patrol land checkpoints and airport terminals, and soon air marshals will be on passenger flights.

Sophisticated X-ray machines were also employed, not just to check luggage, but vehicles as well.

Although some may breathe easy with the arrest of JI's top operative Hambali in Thailand and later Saddam Hussein near Tikrit, it doesn't mean the fight is over.

"If you have several queen ants and you take them out, it affects the organisation in the short term. You have to understand, fighting terror is not a knock out game. It's a game won by points and every major operational leader jailed is very significant in the short term at least," Mr Schweitzer said.

"It won't prevent terror operations but if you take all the leading forces you gain time."

He says that every step forward against terrorism is positive; the public should go about their daily lives normally, but remain alert and vigilant. - CNA


Copyright © 2003 MCN International Pte Ltd

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