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, November 07, 2004

Police State arrives in Singapore : Singapore installs CCTVs in schools and on street corners

Saturday November 6, 6:17 PM

All Singapore schools to have CCTVs and security guards

SINGAPORE : Education Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said all schools would get 10 to 12 closed circuit TVs on site and two security guards each.
The move to boost security in schools and junior colleges will cost the Ministry $15 million to $20 million a year.
Mr Tharman said this at a dialogue on National Security with Young Singaporeans at the National Junior College on Friday.
He said this was the outcome of a security review by the Education Ministry and the National Security Coordination Centre, following the Beslan hostage taking incident in Russia in September this year.
Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Security and Defence, Dr Tony Tan, who was also at the dialogue, said that there is no current security threat and there is no need to be paranoid but Singapore just wants to continue being vigilant.
It is part of the overall move to harden Singapore against terror.
The CCTVs will be installed in all schools within six months, and security guards deployed within six to eight months.
Institutes of higher learning like the ITEs, polytechnics and universities - already have their own security measures in place. - CNA

Schools to tighten security through CCTVs, alarms and guards

By Ca-Mie De Souza, Channel NewsAsia

SINGAPORE : Closed circuit TVs, alarm systems and security guards now form part of schools' network of resources to ensure that the premises are safe. This follows Sunday's announcement that the Education Ministry and the National Security Coordination Secretariat are reviewing school security.

The move is aimed at preventing any incidents such as the recent Beslan school tragedy in Russia. Opera Estate Primary School has two main gates, but one is always closed. The other is under the watchful eyes of a security guard employed by the school. Idris Mattar, Principal of Opera Estate Primary School, said: "Even the cars that come in will be directed to certain places where the security guard can have a look. If you were to look at the cones there, the cones there are blockades so to speak, not allowing people to park anywhere in the school other than the designated areas."

The school's Operation Manager Mr Ong, who has retired from the Police Force, patrols the school regularly to ensure that no outsiders are wandering around. All visitors have to sign in and exchange for passes at the office. Even maintenance personnel have their own passes and will be accompanied on their work.

A security guard is not mandatory for every school, but Opera Estate Primary School chose to employ one out of their own manpower grant. They are also tapping on parent volunteers to be their eyes for the school. Idris Mattar said: "They have also offered their services to help the school in anyway they can. So we are looking into parent volunteers being our eyes on security."

A check with schools showed that some have CCTVs and alarm systems, while most schools leave their lights on at night so that any intruders can be spotted. As for Tanjong Katong Secondary School, it has added help in the form of their neighbours who will alert the school when they spot anything amiss.

Staff are also rostered to patrol the school premises, as well as limiting the hours where the side gate is opened. - CNA

Sunday November 7, 12:52 PM
Report: Singapore to install more street cameras to fight terror

Singapore will install more closed-circuit security cameras throughout the tightly controlled city-state to guard against possible terror attacks, a newspaper reported Sunday.
Dubbing the cameras "eyes and ears on the ground," Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng declined to specify where they would be located, but said they would be in various public places and in areas with a higher incidence of crime, the Straits Times said.
Authorities installed 30 security cameras around the wealthy island republic last year. Wong did not say how many would be added, and stressed there was no specific threat to Singapore, the newspaper said.
"We're making Singapore a difficult target ... so that people are aware that we're always watchful, always vigilant," it quoted Wong as saying.
Singapore, a close ally of Washington, has arrested nearly 40 al-Qaida-linked terrorists who were allegedly plotting attacks on the U.S. Embassy, a U.S. naval facility and other Western targets.
A week ago the government announced it was placing more elite police personnel in areas frequented by foreigners. Authorities have also asked Singapore's 40,000 taxi drivers to be on the lookout for potential terrorists among their passengers.

Sunday November 7, 4:17 PM

More CCTVs around Singapore's street corners soon: Home Affairs Minister

SINGAPORE : Singapore plans to increase the use of closed circuit TVs around street corners islandwide soon.
Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng said the move was not a result of a specific threat against Singapore, but is part of an on-going security review in a bid to fight crime and terrorism.
Elite police officers have started patrolling Singapore's streets. This was an idea from Mr Wong after seeing a similar deployment in New York.
And school security will be stepped up over the next few months with CCTVs and security guards in every school.
Mr Wong, who was at a community event in Bishan on Saturday, explained why these measures had to be taken.
Mr Wong said: "The threat is real but there is no specific threat that we are being a target. There is no particular plan that we know of at this time that they are going to hit Singapore. We know we are a target, we don't know when it may happen. If it happens, we do not know, but we cannot take chances, we cannot afford to be complacent and wait for it to happen before taking measures."
One new measure includes expanding the use of CCTVs.
More than 30 of them are already in place at Boat Quay, Little India and Newton Circus over the past year, and have helped lower the crime rate there.
But what about privacy?
Mr Wong said: "It's of course of concern to many people. We are too, we are not there to pry into people's private affairs. When there is a crime, it is of public interest. Between the two where there may be an incident involving lives, public interest has to come first."
Overall, most Singaporeans and tourists welcome the move. They say they will feel safer and that the surveillance cameras would not infringe upon their privacy at such public areas.
"You feel a bit safer that you are being watched and people are being kept an eye on so they don't do anything wrong."
"In public places like this, it's quite alright."
"It's very good so that Singaporeans more safety on the roads - can walk happily and safely."
"It's good as long as it's not instrusive - not going over the limits - where there's mass people, that's a good thing."
But for now, the Home Affairs Ministry is not saying where these new CCTVs will be placed. - CNA

Time is GMT + 8 hoursPosted: 01 November 2004 1243 hrs

Random armed patrols islandwide as Singapore steps up security

By Farah Abdul Rahim, Channel NewsAsia

SINGAPORE: Armed officers from the Police Special Operations Command will now patrol commercial, entertainment and residential areas on a random basis. The patrols will be conducted 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The officers will be armed with machine guns, similar to the ones used by troops patrolling Changi Airport. Areas will be picked at random and these could include Orchard Road and the HDB heartland. So, do not be taken aback when you see the men in blue, armed with a service revolver and a MP5 sub-machine gun, walking down Singapore's famous shopping area along Orchard Road.

Police say this is an expansion of the patrols that are now carried out at the airport and other areas like Boat Quay and Newton Circus. Police told Channel NewsAsia that the expansion of the armed patrols is not due to any specific security threat to Singapore. The aim is to project an even stronger police presence on the ground and to reassure the public and deter any potential terrorist attacks.

Police say they have been thinking of implementing the stepped up armed patrols over the past few weeks. Feedback from members of the public is that they are happy and feel safer when they see armed patrols.

Aubeck Kam, Singapore Police Force's director of operations, said: "There is no particular threat information that is impelling us to do this operation at this point in time. We have had a relook on how to enhance the level of safety and security.

Singaporeans feel such a deployment of SOC troops in other parts of Singapore would be beneficial. Firstly, we want to deter any potential terrorist attack. Secondly, we hope it will provide greater assurance to the public and remind them to be constantly vigilant against any terorist threat."

Some members of the public took a double take when they saw the armed officers and expressed concern. "For tourists or people like me, it's a bit scary to see the army using big guns," said a foreigner. "We must educate the public on why we are having the patrols as we can't put them everywhere.

People will think what's wrong with Singapore," said a member of the public. But, most interviewed generally welcomed the move. "It will be a good move. People feel more secure and safer when they walk around prominent buildings here," said a member of the public. "I've lived in London, New York and now Singapore. They have the same procedure and it's fine with me. It gives a sense of security and safety," said another.

Police say 32 extra officers will be deployed in this islandwide operation. - CNA


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