It was reported recently that dengue fever cases are at an all-time high here. “Why?” I asked myself…

…”Can’t the National Environment Agency (NEA) do anything to keep the deadly disease in check?”

Evidently, it can’t. Otherwise, the number of cases would not have risen. So, is the agency at fault?

Perhaps. It’s possible that the NEA could do more. But how much more? How about you? Do you really care enough to take responsibility for protecting yourself and your family from the dreaded disease?

Never mind, the mosquitoes pick their victims wisely. It will never be you or your loved one, right?

I wish that was the case but the reality is that dengue fever does not discriminate. It can strike anyone. Even you.

Therefore, I think it is everyone’s responsibility to be on the lookout for mosquito-breeding sites in order to help prevent dengue mosquito attacks.

On its own, the NEA will be fighting a losing battle. If the NEA loses, everyone will suffer. By then, it might be too late.

Substitute terrorist for mosquito, what do we get? The same situation.

Should we just leave it to the Government to ensure that we are protected from terrorist attacks? Should we assume that such things will never happen to us?

I believe that our attitudes will determine if devastation, chaos and mass mayhem will remain in Schwarzenegger’s action movies or become a reality in our home country.

Albert Einstein hit the nail on the head when he said: “The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.”

Therefore, I support the Government’s effort to take steps to beef up security in schools. Doing nothing is as good as helping the terrorists to repeat the Beslan school siege here if they choose to do so.

To me, security at schools is not only about closed circuit TVs, alarm systems and security guards. It is also about changing the attitudes of students, teachers and parents. They must first believe that terrorists will not hesitate to use children to serve their ends.

They must take responsibility for their own safety and security. Otherwise, they will not be motivated to do their bit and the security system will fail.

It will be an uphill task for the Government to protect the country from terrorists if people think that Singapore is safe and secure and will never be hit.

How can the Government galvanise the people to act when they think there is no genuine threat?

It was a cinch to get people to co-operate during the Sars outbreak because everybody was kiasee (afraid to die). They were aware that if they did not play their part they were in imminent danger of contracting the disease. That could spell death for them.

Terrorism is different. Most people believe it is safe here in Singapore. How to get them to be more vigilant?

Create greater awareness? Some would say: “Hmm … sounds interesting but I don’t think we are that vulnerable.” Others would say: “Ah, don’t be paranoid. Singaporeis different from other countries.” The result: They won’t care and the Government’s effort will be less effective than it needs to be.

Set off a bomb in front of a school? Wow! That would have an impact and change everyone’s attitude very quickly. People would say: “Better do something about it. What’s wrong with the Government anyway?”

The result: There would be panic and an urgency to be alert. As the cost far outweighs the benefit, it is a stupid idea.

Changing people’s attitudes is a challenge. It is as tough as getting a person to relax while pointing a loaded gun at his head.

Anyway, I must admit that this issue is too complicated for my young mind. Let us all just play our part to make Singapore secure by taking all threats – big (terrorists) and small (mosquitoes) – seriously. It is definitely better to be safe than sorry.

(This journal entry was published in TODAY on 27 October 2004)