Dealing with Threats to our Security

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) deals with threats to Singapore’s security via powers that are provided to our Home Team Departments (HTDs) such as the Internal Security Department (ISD) and the Singapore Police Force (SPF). 

Internal Security Act

The Internal Security Act (ISA) allows the Government to act pre-emptively to protect Singapore from threats to our internal security, including international terrorism, foreign subversion, espionage and acts of violence or hatred against persons on the basis of race or religion.

Internal Security Act

Here are the key things you should know about the ISA:

  1. The ISA was extended to Singapore on 16 Sep 1963 from the Malaysian Internal Security Act 1960 when Singapore became a part of Malaysia. The Act was retained in Singapore post-Independence from 1965.
  2. One of the key features of the ISA is that of “preventive detention”, which allows the Government to detain a person who poses an imminent threat to Singapore’s security for up to two years in the first instance.
  3. Since the 11 Sep 2001 terror attacks in the United States, the ISA has mainly been used to deal with the terrorism threat facing Singapore. The Government takes a serious view of anyone who supports, promotes, undertakes or makes preparations to undertake armed violence, regardless of how they rationalise such violence ideologically or where the violence takes place.
  4. Anyone who is aware of a person becoming involved in terrorism-related activities, including planning or taking steps to travel to conflict zones to take part in an armed conflict, or who observes suspicious activities or signs of radicalisation, should promptly call the ISD Counter-Terrorism Centre hotline 1800-2626-473 (1800-2626-ISD).

Public Order and Safety Act

The Public Order and Safety (Special Powers) Act [POSSPA] was passed in Parliament on 21 Mar 2018 and came into force on 16 May 2018. The Act provides the SPF with the necessary powers to deal with serious public order and safety incidents, including terrorist attacks.

Public Order and Safety Act

Here are the key things you should know about POSSPA:

  1. POSSPA replaces the Public Order (Preservation) Act [POPA].
  2. There is a two-step mechanism for unlocking powers under POSSPA.
    1. Only the Minister for Home Affairs can issue an activation order under POSSPA. To do so, the Minister must be of the opinion that:
      1. there is a serious incident occurring, or one has occurred, or there is a threat of a serious incident occurring, in Singapore; and
      2. the exercise of any power in POSSPA is necessary to substantially assist in preventing the incident or reducing the impact of the incident, or to control, restore and maintain public order.
    2. POSSPA will be applied to serious incidents, which is defined in the law as the carrying out of (a) a terrorist act; (b) an act of serious violence affecting the public; or (c) an act causing large scale public disorder. The serious incident may already be occurring, has occurred, or is being threatened to occur.
    3. Some of the special powers available to the Police under POSSPA are:
      1. The Police will be able to direct owners of buildings to take certain actions (such as closing, or restricting entry and exit, to their premises).
      2. The Police will have enhanced powers to stop and question individuals to obtain information without delay.
      3. The Police will be able to counter threats posed by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and autonomous vehicles in an incident area.
      4. The CP may issue a communications stop order to protect security operations or safety of lives when the situation calls for it. The public can still submit information via the SGSecure app, i-Witness or the ”999” hotline.
    4. While POSSPA is in force, the Police may ask civilians, like volunteers from the Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) and private security officers, to help the Police in certain tasks. This includes assisting the Police with manning a cordon away from the incident location. The Police will only rely on civilians who are able, and willing to assist.

    For more information on POSSPA, read:

    1. Press Release: Public Order and Safety (Special Powers) Bill
    2. Second Reading of the Public Order and Safety (Special Powers) Bill 2018 - Speech by Mrs Josephine Teo, Minister, Prime Minister’s Office, Second Minister for Manpower and Second Minister for Home Affairs
    3. Public Order and Safety (Special Powers) Bill 2018 Wrap Up Speech by Mrs Josephine Teo, Minister, Prime Minister’s Office, Second Minister for Manpower and Second Minister for Home Affairs
    4. Singapore’s Ongoing Efforts to Combat the Terror Threat
    5. Overseas Terror Attacks and the Public Order and Safety (Special Powers) Bill
    6. Five Questions You Might Have About the Public Order and Safety (Special Powers) Bill

Infrastructure Protection Act

The Infrastructure Protection Act was passed in Parliament on 2 Oct 2017, as part of the MHA’s counter-terrorism strategy to keep Singapore safe and secure. The Act ensures buildings which support essential services, are iconic, or experience high human traffic are protected. These buildings could be targeted by terrorists, with the intent of disrupting essential services or inflicting mass casualties.

Infrastructure Protection

Here are the key things you should know about the Infrastructure Protection Act:

  1. The Act ensures that adequate protective security measures are put in place for critical infrastructure, as well as buildings that have high public footfall or are iconic.
    1. Adequate building security measures are integrated as part of the building’s design, based on a security risk assessment. This process is called ‘security-by-design’. It allows security to be incorporated in a cost-efficient way that minimises impact on the building’s form and function.
    2. Only selected buildings (e.g. critical infrastructure that house essential services) will be required to undergo security-by-design. MHA will engage these building owners as early as possible, and work closely with them.
  2. The Act enhances existing security powers to protect sensitive installations.
    1. The security of sensitive installations [known as Protected Areas (PAs) or Protected Places (PPs)] will be enhanced, to provide authorised officers with powers to deal with potential security threats in the surrounding area of PAs and PPs. For example, when engaging a person in the surrounding area of PAs and PPs, an authorised officer may request for information such as personal identification and reason for being there. If the person fails to comply or does not provide a lawful reason to be there, the authorised officer may direct him to leave the area. An authorised officer may also inspect belongings and vehicles, if there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the person is carrying dangerous items.
    2. Photos of PAs and PPs can only be taken with the permission of the authority in charge of the PAs and PPs. Unauthorised photography of the PAs and PPs is an offence. This is to prevent terrorists from carrying out pre-attack surveillance of our sensitive installations. Images of PAs and PPs can threaten public safety, if used for unlawful purposes.
  3. The Act allows the authorities to issue directives and orders to protect buildings against terrorist attacks.
    1. MHA will first rely on engagement with building owners to voluntarily take practical steps, before considering whether directives or orders need to be issued.

For more information on the Infrastructure Protection Act, please see the press release and the Second Reading of the Infrastructure Protection Bill 2017 (2 Oct 2017). 

MHA is also part of the Inter-Ministry Committee on Terrorist Designation (IMC-TD) which acts as Singapore’s authority relating to the designation of terrorists.

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