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It is time for Malaysians to set aside their differences and be collectively vigilant against terrorists, says Adrian Lee.

The proximity of the Jakarta attacks taking place after the Bangkok bombings and terrorist threats in the Philippines has placed Malaysians on high alert.

Many Malaysians became WhatsApp and Facebook soothsayers sharing images, reports and warnings that “Malaysia would be next”, while other IT-savvy Malaysians rapidly circulated and resent such information on social media.

Most messages containing the words “Islamic State + Terrorists + Malaysia + PDRM warnings” were regrettably deemed as factual and shared without the validity of the source or information being verified or checked.

Malaysia’s online response to the imminent threats was however nothing like Indonesia’s #kamitidaktakut (we are not afraid).

#kamitidaktakut demonstrated a sense of fearlessness, courage and sense of unity. This somewhat united Indonesia and made them the first nation calling its citizens to defend their country against imminent terror attacks. Their message was simple: we are not afraid. Enough is enough.

While Malaysia remains protected from terrorist attacks (but continues being terrorised by violent road maniacs, kidnappers, robbers, gunslingers, rapists and murderers), it seems that Jakarta and the IS threats have become a distant memory.

Many are now preoccupied predicting about the ringgit, petrol prices, and who talking about whoshould have been Menteri Besar. We are into the Lunar New Year now, and it is back to household chores once again.

While such issues are undeniably important, the threat of a terrorist attack remains all too real and surpasses many other matters. The recruitment of Malaysians into terrorist cells also remains real.

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Without having to panic or raise any red flags, life has gone on for many. While it is important for us to carry on with our lives, we should not allow for lackadaisical feelings and complacency to overcome us. In short, we cannot have a tidak apa attitude about our nation’s security.

Lest we forget, Malaysia was previously invaded by foreign forces during the 1965 Indonesia Confrontation, the 1975 AIA hostage crisis and the 2013 Lahad Datu stand-off.

Indeed the Malaysian police, army and the forthcoming National Security Council (NSC), the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma), the Prevention of Crimes Act (Poca) and the Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota), which in principle were formulated to help counter or foil any attempted terrorist activities – and not be used against political dissidents.

We appreciate the efforts by the police and army in preventing threats. Their combined presence at airports and popular tourist spots has indeed increased; such efforts shouldn’t cease after only a week or two.

But there is only so much that can be done to ensure that there is a fine line drawn between a free society and security without turning Malaysia into a fortress Malaysia.

The public after all needs to be allowed to carry on with their lives without any disruption to the economy. At the same time, Malaysians need to remain vigilant and do their part to prevent any potential threats from occurring.

Besides counter terrorism measures, stay vigilant, alert and report any warning signs. To paraphrase Malala Yousafzai, terrorism will spill over if you don’t speak up. The public thus becomes the first line of defence and needs to understand how terrorists may attack.

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What need to be built are social resilience, awareness and vigilance towards terrorism. While the act of terrorism is often used to create panic – and their methods in striking fear are often extremely violent – we can do our part to combat terrorism and keep ourselves safe from extremists.

Undeniably, combating terrorism is in no way an easy task and cannot be done overnight; but the threat of terrorism can be overcome together. The Malaysian public therefore needs to be better prepared and protected by:

  • an increased and continued security presence at places identified as potential attack sites;
  • metal detectors installed at hotels and shopping malls and checkpoints placed at the entrances of train and bus stations;
  • constant public reminders to report any suspicious online or public activities or vehicles or unattended luggage;
  • public education about emergency procedures in the event of a terrorist attack;
  • tightened security at borders and entry points into the country;
  • the verification of information on social media before sharing.

While such measures might cause some forms of inconvenience, they could help prevent terrorists from creating destruction and panic and from harming innocent people.

Many would take for granted that things would always be calm and peaceful when everything seems to be safe and uneventful. But the attacks in Bangkok and Jakarta have proven how peace can be abruptly shattered.

Ultimately, when faced with a foreign threat, a nation can either fall apart or become united against it. It is therefore time for Malaysians to set aside their differences and be collectively vigilant against terrorists – for terrorists do not segregate based on race, religion or colour.

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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