counter Is Singapore a police state?

What characterizes Singapore's political system is the constant query, worry and anxiety among the majority of the citizens, foreigners and observers that individuals and groups will get into trouble with the police and the political authorities for challenging the political status quo. Such anxiety is based on repeated examples of political challengers consistently being found guilty of contravening the system of tight and restrictive laws that govern people in the city-state.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Singapore Enlists Taxi Drivers to Foil Terrorists

Oct 15, 2004 11:47 AM ET By Fayen Wong

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore has enlisted its 40,000 taxi drivers to foil terrorists, telling them to be on alert for nervous or restless passengers and distributing pamphlets describing what militants might do or ask.

As part of a campaign, drivers have been told watch out for people who wear "thick or loose clothing," carry heavy luggage but decline offers for help, who leave taxies "in a hurry without taking luggage" or talk and behave suspiciously.

"Taxi drivers can unknowingly become instruments for terrorists to threaten the security of Singapore," Police Superintendent Ng Guat Ting said. "Taxis are also a common means of transport for terrorists."

Tightly controlled Singapore, a staunch U.S. ally, already boasts Southeast Asia's most advance security apparatus but still sees itself as a prime target after foiling plots by militants to attack the wealthy Southeast Asian island in 2001 and 2002.

About 75,000 pamphlets have been distributed, arming taxis with a detailed list of who may be bent on an act of violence.

These include passengers who ask to be driven to important government buildings, who want to stop some distance before or after their destination or who ask drivers to keep driving around the area of their destination.

Singapore's government, known for micro-managing its 4.2 million people, said militants may also ask about where and how to buy cheap, second-hand vans or trucks.

Passengers asking about major events, celebrations, or conferences attended by foreign "VIPs" could also raise the alert, along with those inquiring about where police, military and security agencies are based, said the pamphlet.

"It's a bit absurd," said 22-year-old student Serene Chua.

"Terrorists have their network and will know where to source out things like fertilizers or cheap second-hand cars. They won't need to ask taxi drivers that."

The campaign, which began this week, also includes a training video for drivers that shows footage of a 2003 attack in India's financial center of Bombay where suicide bombers placed explosives in two buses, killing 52 people including the drivers.

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