During my Army days, one of the unwritten rule we were told was that you could do what you want, but don't get caught. SMRT's response to the woman defecating publicly at their Holland Village station seems to support the unwritten rule above and this poses a danger to transport security.
SMRT wrote, in a reply to Temasek Review's query,
Please be assured that should any of our staff spot a member of the public committing such unlawful acts, they will most certainly approach the person and put a stop to it. He/ she is also likely to be issued with a Notice of Offence (NOO) and a summon from the National Environmental Agency (NEA).The reply was signed off by Ang Siew Tee, Customer Relations, SMRT Corporation Ltd
However, this incident had occurred away from our staff’s line of sight. Whilst our staff would endeavour to ensure that our stations are looked after properly, they would also need to attend to other duties and passengers as well. Hence, constantly focusing on CCTV would be counterproductive for them. On that note, we seek the public’s assistance to report any unlawful acts upon sight, immediately to our station staffs so action could be taken to address such problems.
The reply raises a few eyebrows.
First, the reply " incident had occurred away from our staff’s line of sight" can be perceived as SMRT's attempt to resolve all responsibility for the incident. This also can be perceived that if anything is done illegally at SMRT stations and as long as it out of their staff's line of sight, nothing can be done about it.
Alarm bells are already ringing in my head. What if something more sinister were to happen at the station and the incident occurred away from their "staff's line of sight'? Does this mean that SMRT will allow this even more sinister and illegal activity to happen?
SMRT has highlighted that it is "counterproductive" for them to be constantly focusing on CCTV. This can be seen that incidents on the CCTV are not taken seriously. What if, again, something more sinister were to happen? Will it be then considered "counterproductive" for SMRT?
Since 2010, security at SMRT depots have been breached three times. In 2010, two vandals managed to cut through the security fence at SMRT's Changi Depot and spray-painted graffiti on the outside of one of the train.
In August 2011, yet a similar incident occurred at the Bishan Depot and that resulted in graffiti also spray-painted on one of the trains.
In May 2014, another train was also found to be sprayed with graffiti but all signs pointed to an inside job.
In the earlier two cases, SMRT installed close-circuit television to enhanced security. However, from SMRT's reply to the Holland Village incident, who is watching these CCTV and is it "counterproductive" for them to do so?
Dr Kumar Ramakrishna, head of the Centre for Excellence for National Security at S Rajaratnam School of International Studies was quoted to say,
This is hypothetical, of course. If they find out who is responsible is indeed from within, then certainly that calls for more stringent background checks.The Holland Village incident might just be a case of public defecation, but what if in future, it may not be a case of public defecation, it might be worse. Would SMRT then also reply with the same line of thought?
One of the potential scenario one could think of from a homeland security point of view, for example, one of cases we’ve had in Singapore — in the past a few cases actually — of self-radicalised individuals, these cannot be entirely ruled out.
It always pays to be prudent. This is just a case of vandalism, but in future who knows, it may not be a case of vandalism, it might be worse.