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Is the fear of terrorism a red herring?

Is the threat of terrorism in Singapore new? Are we more in danger this year than last year or the year before? Somehow, I really doubt so. As a country that has ties with the United States and Europe, it is my belief that Singapore has always been a target. In fact, the government has successfully foiled several terrorist plots in Singapore. While I am grateful for the government’s success at keeping would be terrorists at bay thus far, I wonder why there seems to be an increased focus on terrorism this year.

I note that the National Day Parade this year (NDP 2018) has been declared an enhanced security special event by the police. Just last year, NDP2017 was gazetted as a “special event” under the Public Order Act. What is the difference between last year and this year?

Note also how Minister for Defense, Ng Eng Hen has repeatedly emphasised the heightened risks of terror attacks. This is also in conjunction with announcements that we will be replacing all our fighter jets to safe guard the country from terrorism although I don’t personally see how fighter jets can stop lone gunmen or stealth attacks. To top it off, there has been great publicity on how our very own Singapore Armed Forces have scored a resounding A for its security preparations for the Trump/Kim Summit.

While I am not privy to any national security information, I do follow international news vociferously and I can’t really see a difference between events last year and this year. If this is correct, why is the Singapore government so focused on fanning the fear of terrorism this year? Could it be construed as a way for the PAP government to show Singaporeans how indispensable they are? That only they are able to keep us safe?

In the wake of rising living costs and stagnant wages, what better way is there to distract a disgruntled population than a threat to safety?

Of course, this is all conjecture on my part. But it cannot be denied that governments throughout history have utilised the strategy of diversion to move public focus away from its shortcomings.

In 2001, PAP called for a snap election soon after the September 11 attacks in the United States, leaving less than 25 days for the oppositions to prepare and campaign for the election. In the end, only one-third of the seats were contested and Chiam See Tong and Low Thia Khiang managed to keep their seats but with a drop in winning margin compared to previous years.

Goh Chok Tong justified the calling of the snap election by saying, “The revelation of the extensive network of terrorist set-ups dramatically changed the global environment, Singapore has to adapt itself to this different and more unpredictable world. We called for an early general election to get the mandate to do this. ”

Is terrorism a red herring thrown by the current government to ensure that discontent does not build up over price hikes and the like? If it is, the PAP government will not be the first to utilise this strategy and nor will it be the last.

I reiterate that this is nothing but pure speculation on my part. That said, the timing is curious.