MRT vandalism: Lack of security could lead to terror threat

Khen-Han-Ming-mrtPETALING JAYA: Reports of vandals striking at MRT stations have renewed the familiar debate about first class facilities and a third world mentality.

A security expert said they point to much more serious consequences in an age of global terrorism targeting public places.

Khen Han Ming said the root cause of vandalism and terrorism is the same – a lack of security.

He said that drills such as the recent Ex-Rimau security exercise to prepare for the upcoming SEA Games would mean nothing if the “bigger picture” is missed.

“What happens after the SEA Games when all officers deployed return to their daily jobs, go on leave, get transferred, resign or eventually retire?” asked Khen from JK Associates, a private firm specialising in security consultancy.

Khen said beyond the “first class mentality” debate, vandalism at MRT stations “speaks volumes about the lack of concern, vigilance and a preparedness” on the part of both MRT Corp and the public.

He said MRT stations, like all other public transport systems, are critical infrastructures which need to be protected by all parties and not just security forces alone.

Khen said the Ex-Rimau exercise at KLCC and KL Sentral – which were staged exercises – was a good measure of the authorities’ preparedness in responding to security threats, but the bigger picture of incident prevention must also be a priority.

This, he said, was why it was vital for private bodies, particularly the stakeholders of critical infrastructures, such as the MRT, to do their part in preventing security threats.

He said some quarters may argue that we have sufficient enforcement to counter potential militant or criminal attacks.

“But in reality, as a society, we are still far from prepared to face the risks of sophisticated targeted attacks which require better understanding and implementation of preventive security measures.

“This calls for increased participation and vigilance from all areas, especially public transport employees.

“They need to collaborate with law enforcement agencies instead of being overly dependent on the authorities during incident responses, particularly in crisis situations.”

‘Broken Window Theory’

Khen said that vandalism could only happen because of a lack of concern and attention towards the safeguarding of public amenities.

In security jargon, Khen said this is called the “Broken Window Theory”, where disorder and incivility subsequently lead to a greater risk of serious crime.

He said Malaysia needs to study how prevention measures are implemented in other countries which incorporate information sharing, detecting and predicting threat indicators such as reporting a suspicious individual or what to do when there is a militant attack.

“Do our commuters who take public transport every day know where to go in the event of an emergency or who they should inform when they see something suspicious?

“Are hotlines available for the purpose of reporting suspicious activities? Do they know what is considered suspicious, like the act of leaving a bag unattended?”

Khen said the attack at Resorts World Manila in the Philippines on June 2 is a good example of how security lapses can lead to a robbery going wrong and ending up leaving dozens dead in collateral damage.

The gunman entered the casino, firing shots from an assault rifle and setting fire to gambling tables. Most of the victims – 24 resort guests and 13 employees – are believed to have died due to smoke inhalation.

In comparison, Khen said the attack at Brussels’ central train station failed when a train driver saw people running across rail lines inside the station and alerted the authorities.

This led to quick military action as well as the diversion of trains and the evacuation of the station.

“If a newly-constructed MRT station can be vandalised within days after opening, what would be the perception of criminals and terrorists in their attack plans?

“What about existing infrastructures that predate the MRT lines?”

Acts of vandalism surfacing at MRT stations