Acting Commissioner of Police, Mr Goh Liang Kwang
Officers of the Singapore Police Force
Ladies and Gentlemen
An eventful Year 2006
2 2006 has been an eventful year for the Singapore Police Force (SPF). Overall crime fell 10 per cent in 2006 compared to 2005. For eight consecutive years, our crime rate has kept below 1,000 per 100,000 population. Singapore also successfully hosted the International Monetary Fund-World Bank Meetings in September 2006.
3 Looking ahead, the security threat posed by terrorism remains. We will have our hands full in keeping Singapore safe and secure. At the same time, the public also expects the Police to review policies and update procedures, as Singapore moves towards a more open society. It is a daunting task to effectively balance these expectations.
Staying focused on fundamentals: Commitment to law and order
4 The operational successes of the Police were not achieved through chance. At your Workplan Seminar last year, I emphasised the need to go back to the basics and to focus on the leadership strengths of all our officers. At the Home Team Workshop three months ago, I urged Home Team Departments not to lose sight of key fundamentals in an increasingly complex and demanding environment. Only then can our officers have the confidence of making judgment and decisions to effectively perform their duties.
5 The first fundamental principle is that we will stand firm on our commitment to law and order. No one is above the law, regardless of political, ideological or religious persuasion.
6 We did not waver even though there were tremendous external pressures to allow outdoor demonstrations and protests during the IMF-World Bank Meetings last year. We should be careful not be seduced by the naïve argument that peaceful protests and demonstrations should be permitted. The violent anti-World Trade Organisation (WTO) protests in Seattle in 1999 and Hong Kong in 2005 clearly demonstrated how easily things can go wrong. Shortly after the IMF-World Bank Meetings in Singapore in September last year, the G20 Meeting was held in Melbourne in November and violence erupted from seemingly peaceful protests. Protestors assaulted police and destroyed public properties. Our firm action in disallowing protests during S2006 had prevented similar violence from erupting.
7 The threat posed by outdoor assemblies and processions are not limited to the immediate violence and destruction. More importantly, there is a security dimension for a multi-ethnic society like ours where religious and racial sensitivities can be provoked by the overzealous demonstrating their cause. We have been developing the Community Engagement Programme (CEP) precisely because we recognise this inherent vulnerability, which is all the more critical in the current security environment of extremist terrorism.
Inclusive approach: Engaging the community in building resilience
8 In maintaining public safety and security, it is acutely important to engage and involve the community in building resilience. This is another key fundamental principle. A resilient community can bounce back quickly in the aftermath of an incident. However, the Police and Home Team cannot build community resilience on our own. Our stakeholders and partners play crucial roles.
9 To strengthen community resilience, our community partners and stakeholders must adapt to our security environment and understand the context of the measures we have taken. It is thus timely for the Police to review and enhance its community partnership at this Workplan Seminar. The theme “SPF and the Community: Building Resilience Together” is apt. The Police have planned an evening session so more community representatives can participate in the Workplan Seminar this year. More than 400 community members will be joining the session. This inclusive approach underscores Police’s commitment to partnership with the community.
10 Our inclusive approach does not stop at the exchange of ideas at seminars. We are prepared to move forward to take concrete and purposeful action. Hence, I am happy to announce that the Police, together with the Home Team, will be embarking on three new initiatives to further strengthen ties with community partners in building community resilience.
11 Firstly, the Home Team Academy is organising a Community Engagement Executive Development Programme to train community leaders and equip them with knowledge and skills so that they can respond effectively to minimise the likelihood of inter-communal conflicts arising from crises. This is a new initiative under the CEP launched by Prime Minister last year. The pilot programme will commence in the middle of this month. We will continue to fine-tune the programme to maximise the value to the community partners.
12 Secondly, the Police have done good work in the Home Team Sectors. The officers have been able to identify vulnerable stress points as they study and map the local environment. As the four Home Team Sectors broadly overlap with the five districts in Singapore headed by the Mayors, this provides potential for new areas of cooperation. I have thus asked the Police to actively engage the Mayors and district councillors by sharing their assessment of the local environment. In the long run, we hope to see the four Home Team sectors work in closer partnerships with the five CDC districts in building community resilience.
13 Thirdly, the Police will tap on its NSmen to further expand its community outreach. We celebrate 40 years of National Service (NS) this year. Over the years, many NSmen have passed through our doors. They provide a valuable resource that we can tap on. Some have continued to be involved with the Police even after completing their NS cycles, such as conducting law training for Police trainees. Other than deploying Police NSmen for law enforcement and protection duties, we will explore how we can tap on them in building community resilience, especially when many of them play leadership roles in the community and commercial sectors.
Conclusion: Finding the Balance
14 As the Singapore society matures, the Police are expected to review and adjust its policies in tandem with public aspirations and needs. Public expectations on the Police will continue to remain high. In particular, the Police are expected to do well in its core functions of safeguarding order and protecting the people. They are expected to go the extra mile to render assistance to the vulnerable, especially crime victims, the elderly, children or women.
15 On the one hand, Singaporeans accustomed to social harmony and order expects the Police to ensure this at all times. On the other hand, segments of our society also want the Police to ease up and loosen that very same order in keeping with the society’s growing maturity.
16 The Police must stay focussed regardless of the prevailing fashion of political norms or ideas, on its mission to keep Singapore safe and secure, to uphold the rule of law and to preserve our multi-ethnic harmony. The Police clearly will have to steer by a fine balance of competing pressures and interests. And in managing this balance, the Police will find that the strong partnership and mutual trust achieved between the Police and the community over the years, will prove a critical resource of support as well as a touchstone that helps it determine that balance optimally and responsively.
17 I hope that in this year’s Workplan Seminar, you will re-affirm your community partnership even as you discover or anticipate new directions of engagement and participation. Ultimately, the partnership between the Police and the people that it serves underscores how we are all fellow stakeholders in Singapore’s safety and security.
18 We live in such a safe and secure environment everyday that we may not totally appreciate it. And indeed, safety and security are intangible qualities that cannot be fully appreciated until we witness or experience the problems brought about by serious crime, drugs, and terrorist bombings. The Home Team plays an indispensable role in preserving Singapore’s safety and security, and maintaining our international competitive edge. Security and law enforcement work is demanding. Thus the Home Team salary adjustments we have announced reflect our desire to offer a competitive remuneration package commensurate with the demands of the job, so that we can attract and retain officers in the Home Team. It is a clear affirmation of the importance of your contributions in keeping Singapore safe and secure.
19 I wish you a fruitful seminar and discussion. It is now my pleasure to declare the 2007 Police Workplan Seminar open.