On Friday (July 22) Mr Shanmugam, Home Affairs and Law Minister spoke to reporters at the Esplanade, after observing officers from the new Emergency Response Teams on a patrol.
“I came down today to talk to the officers to get their understanding…. and the response is, moral is high, they know they are doing something extremely important for their country.”
“The police have done very well in doing this in a very short space of time. Over the next few months, the deployment will continue, and the number of forces would be increased,” Mr Shanmugam said.
The unit, comprising land division officers, was formed in June as part of Singapore’s counter-terrorism efforts.
The officers are specially trained in counter-assault skills and armed with HK-MP 5 submachine guns.
However, Mr Shanmugam stressed that counter-terrorism is a “national project” that must also involve the public.
He said: “There are two types of responses. One is what I call the kinetic response – the response by our police force. There is also the social response, response by our people.”
He added that if and when an attack takes place, how Singapore responds as a community the day after is very important.
“We need to bring across the importance of this as a national project… It is a work in progress.”
As a deterrence measure beginning in June, officers from the Emergency Response Teams have started to patrol daily, covering public areas such as shopping centres, and also has engaged building stakeholders to come up with joint response plans.
Mr Shanmugam added that Singapore does receive “credible reports” on threats from time to time, and that local forces draw lessons from countries that have experienced terrorist attacks. He said that “we try and learn the best practices”.
When asked if there was a timeline for counter-terrorism efforts to be achieved, he said: “These are not things that are done in a day.
He added, “I’m optimistic that with the efforts that we are putting in…through intense ground effort and public education effort and targeting schools and businesses, we will create a much greater level of awareness and consciousness.”
Mr Shanmugam’s comments come as Singapore steps up its fight against terrorism. Earlier on March 18, Mr. Shanmugam announced that the threat of an attack in Singapore has reached its highest level in recent times.
“Every day, we have more than 400,000 people crossing both ways at our land checkpoints in Woodlands and Tuas. In Woodlands alone, we have about 90,000 travellers via motorcycles; 80,000 by cars, every single day. You can work out for yourself the nature of the threat to us from a would-be terrorist in Malaysia,” said Mr. Shanmugam to Channel News Asia
He also has pointed out that there were at least 74 terror-related arrests in Indonesia last year, and Malaysia foiled seven terrorist plots last year, including one to kidnap Prime Minister Najib Razak, and there were more than 100 arrests.
He said, “ISIS wants to establish a caliphate in this region, encompassing Singapore … We are in the epicenter of the caliphate that ISIS wants to establish.”