At the Committee of Supply (COS) Debate in Parliament on 1 March 2021, Second Minister for Home Affairs Ms Josephine Teo shared about the Home Team’s efforts to address ongoing security challenges and threats. Here are five highlights from her speech.
1. Singapore Remains Safe
Singapore remains one of the safest places in the world. The 2020 Gallup Global Law and Order Report ranked Singapore first, for the seventh year running. Singapore was also ranked first in the 2020 World Justice Project Rule of Law Index in the area of “Order and Security”.
Public confidence in the Home Team also remains high, with nine in 10 Singapore residents agreeing that the Home Team has done well, and trust our officers to serve them with integrity.
2. Challenge #1: The Threat of Terrorism
Terrorism remains a serious threat, one that is trans-national in nature. We have strong working relationships with foreign security agencies, to share intelligence and disrupt plots.
Local threats are more difficult to detect, as individuals may be self-radicalised. Under the SGSecure movement, the Home Team and our partners make efforts to educate the community on preventing and responding to terror attacks, including spotting signs of radicalisation.
But the best way to neutralise the threat posed by terrorist detainees is to rehabilitate and reintegrate them into society. We have refined our approach based on our own experiences, learning from international best practices, and in response to the changing profile of detainees.
3. Challenge #2: Safeguarding Against Foreign Interference in Our
Singapore needs to be open to the world to make a living. But our diversity and openness also present opportunities for foreign actors.
In recent years, we have seen concerning developments overseas, with an increase in the number of cases of cyber-enabled foreign interference in elections. We have also seen reports from Australia and other countries that foreign powers and their agents attempted to influence their politics by buying off political parties and individual politicians.
Many countries have taken steps to mitigate this risk. Some have introduced legislation to address the threat of foreign interference. To address the threat of foreign interference in our domestic politics, we must first build up Singaporeans' ability to discern legitimate and artificial online discourse, and to respond appropriately.
However, as interference operations are increasingly sophisticated and well-disguised, it is not enough to have a discerning public. We are therefore studying other countries' approaches, and legislative levers may be needed to safeguard Singapore against foreign interference.
4. Challenge #3: Safeguarding Against Online
The Internet has made the dissemination of harmful content quick and easy. Such harmful content includes violent extremist propaganda, voyeuristic materials and intimate images disseminated without consent.
Many countries see the need for regulation. We have been working with the Ministry of Communications and Information to review our options, which may include new regulatory levers.
5. Maintaining Public Trust and Confidence in the Home
To effectively carry out our work, public trust in the Home Team is critical. We do not take this trust for granted and will continue to uphold the highest level of integrity and conduct.
Sadly, there have been efforts by some to de-legitimise our Police and other law enforcement agencies by circulating false allegations through social media. These seek to weaken public trust in the Home Team, and our ability to maintain law and order. We need the public’s help to be responsible, and refrain from spreading false allegations.
1 March 2021