As I previously wrote, Singapore is a very safe city and its citizens are proud of it. But nothing is as simple as it may appear to be. Security requires tighter controls and surveillance which clash with some of our basic rights. Why am I saying this? It’s fairly simple. Whenever you take the MRT (which refers to the underground), especially for long distances as I do, you keep hearing “If you see any suspicious looking person or article, please inform our staff. Or press the emergency communication button located at the side of the door”. I found this announcement rather amusing, but I was shocked when the first Sunday I was here I was waiting for the Train and I watched a video which clearly illustrated what a “suspicious looking person” was and what action the good and diligent citizen had to take.
We are usually told what to do and what not to do, but never really see an actual video or demonstration about it…. Not in Singapore. Videos have been made for the benefit of the public and to instruct it to the real dangers of life. I saw an extended version of this particular video on the red line (which has the advantage of using the latest trains seeing as it is mainly a tourist line) with smalls screens in each carriage. The extended version featured images from September 11th and the Madrid and London attacks. This was to remind people how devastating terrorism is and that action needs to be taken to prevent it. Therefore the usual video of the suspicious looking person who travelled with a bulky bad and left it behind was broadcast followed by diligent citizens who tried to call the man, but he didn’t stop. So they pressed “the emergency communication button” and alerted the guard which in turn called the bomb-disposal experts. And everybody lived happily ever after.
So, is terrorism a real threat in Singapore? Well, even though I can’t recall any major event in the city, Singapore is close to Indonesia and we all know about the Bali bombings. Terrorism isn’t underestimated and some arrests linked to al-Quaeda were made in the past (see more here. Check this link for more information on the terrorism threat to Singapore. Beware, it’s a long reading!). On the other hand the government wants to defend the reputation Singapore has and terrorism attacks would ruin the Business climate and hub the city has managed to create. Still, for a European all these pre-emptive measures may seem absurd and in violation of civil liberties. What do you think?