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Public security ‘more important than privacy’

SINGAPORE — Noting that national security and public safety comes above individual privacy, ordinary Singaporeans and terrorism experts TODAY spoke to backed the Government’s plans for more pervasive CCTV coverage across the island, saying it is a necessary and timely step in the current security climate.

TODAY file photo

TODAY file photo

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SINGAPORE — Noting that national security and public safety comes above individual privacy, ordinary Singaporeans and terrorism experts TODAY spoke to backed the Government’s plans for more pervasive CCTV coverage across the island, saying it is a necessary and timely step in the current security climate.

Members of Parliament (MPs) added that beyond enhancing the infrastructure, instilling a security consciousness in individuals and private stakeholders, such as building owners, is crucial in the overall counter-terrorism strategy.

Ms Reshma Ailmchandani, 24, an associate producer, said that the authorities’ plan to have more CCTVs in the heartlands — especially in areas with high human traffic, such as hawker centres and near major transportation nodes — could scare radicalised individuals off carrying out attacks.

Noting that some countries already conduct bag checks at shopping malls, MP Zaqy Mohamad said it is one way that Singapore can strengthen its domestic security. “I hope we’ve not been lulled into this false sense of security, and that we’re immune to terror threats and we can just leave it to the police ... It’s a community partnership and (it’s important for everyone) to be alert,” he said.

Agreeing, MP Rahayu Mahzam added: “The reality is that those radicalised can come from amongst us, so this is a welcome reminder to stay vigilant and this is a joint effort.”

Terrorism experts said it would take a concerted effort to drill home the need for constant community vigilance. Associate Professor Kumar Ramakrishna of the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) said: “In other countries, their people have the first-hand experience of going through terrorists attacks and they have that sense of vulnerability. Singapore has not experienced terrorist attacks in decades, so paradoxically, it is going to be harder for the authorities (to shift mindsets).”

Research analyst Nur Diyanah Anwar of RSIS added: “These (community) efforts to counter terrorism have to be ground-up and organic so that people will be able to identify with them and see the need to be involved.”

She suggested tapping existing social networks so that the message to stay vigilant can be passed on more effectively in the community.

Ms Susan Sim, vice-president for Asia at New-York based security intelligence firm The Soufan Group, said simulation exercises can be organised for the public to raise awareness of how to react in times of crisis. She noted the deterrence effect of wider CCTV coverage, but said a balance has to be struck to prevent vigilance from becoming excessive paranoia.

Ms Nur Diyanah said the cameras should be installed only at vulnerable spots so as to strike a balance between surveillance and privacy.

Marketing executive Meryl Ang, 24, said: “The increased number of cameras do make me feel a little uncomfortable — it seems like there are cameras at almost every corner. I don’t want to feel like I’m being monitored all the time.”

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