At the Committee of Supply (COS) Debate in Parliament on 27 February, Second Minister for Home Affairs Mrs Josephine Teo spoke about two key efforts undertaken by the Home Team to deal with emerging threats. She also addressed questions about the selection criteria for new citizens.
Here are the main points from her speech.
New Laws to Counter Online Crimes
The Government has a duty to protect citizens from online harms, just as they do with threats in the physical domain. Measures taken must be reasonable and calibrated. Individuals also have a part to play by being alert and vigilant, and by looking out for the vulnerable amongst us who may be more susceptible to crimes carried out online.
Online harms are constantly evolving, and various jurisdictions have introduced or proposed new laws to regulate the online space. MHA will introduce the Online Criminal Harms Act later this year. It builds on current laws in three ways.
i) Expand the scope of regulatory levers for online criminal activities:
This includes powers to stop or remove online communications that facilitate crimes in the physical world, such as inciting violence.
ii) Increase the scope of entities that can be acted against:
It will cover all mediums of online communication through which criminal activities could be conducted.
iii) New levers that deal more effectively with the nature of the online criminal harms:
The new legislation will introduce upstream measures to detect and reduce scams, such as safeguards against inauthentic accounts. This legislation will also apply to other malicious cyber activities like phishing.
For online gambling, MHA will monitor the effectiveness of the gambling legislation, which was updated last year to address emerging trends, and update the regulatory approach where needed.
Home Team Transformation Efforts
Beyond legislation, the Home Team must constantly enhance its capabilities to respond to evolving threats. Over the past five years, an average of about 30 per cent of the Home Team’s expenditure has been on capability development, including investing in new technological solutions. MHA will continue such investments to improve our operations, and reduce our reliance on manpower. The transformation efforts have been in four areas.
Over the years, automation and biometrics were applied to make the immigration clearance more efficient. Since January 2017, we have implemented 100% automated clearance for all motorcyclists at the land checkpoints. ICA and HTX are now working to introduce automated in-car clearance for car travellers. This will result in overall faster and more secure clearance for car travellers and reduces the manpower demand, which can be deployed to meet other needs.
MHA has invested in new technology platforms, such as those that improve incident response. In this regard, using Unmanned Aerial Systems has been a game changer for the Home Team, as it supplements ground officers and ground-based cameras. A trial of a system that can be operated remotely from a centralised command and control centre will be done. This will allow SPF and SCDF commanders to receive visuals of the scene even before officers arrive, allowing them to better plan their responses.
Given the challenging manpower situation, we have redesigned our training. For example, to reflect the more complex built environment, new infrastructure and simulators that expand firefighting and rescue operations training scenarios will be ready in the redeveloped Field Training Area at the Civil Defence Academy by end-2023. HTX will ramp up recruitment and training of fresh STEM graduates and experienced professionals from the science, engineering and digital tech sectors to ensure that we have sufficient specialised talent to enable our use of advanced technology.
Stakeholders and the public are at the heart of what MHA does. Technology has enabled closer partnership between MHA and them. For example, SCDF’s myResponder app has been key in helping to activate Community First Responders (CFRs) who are members of the public to provide immediate assistance before our officers arrive. To better equip CFRs to respond to minor fires, SCDF will start a new trial to place one fire extinguisher at the ground floor of every two HDB blocks. When fully implemented over five years, this will benefit 1.1 million HDB households.
Realistic exercises are one way that the Home Team prepares itself to respond effectively to a wide range of threats. In March this year, the Home Team will be conducting Exercise Northstar XI, a major ground exercise which will test multi-agency responses to a terrorist attack on Jurong Island.
Selection Criteria for New Citizens
MHA considers various markers of social integration such as family ties to Singaporeans, length of residency, whether the applicant studied in our national schools or completed National Service. These are assessed together with their economic contributions, qualifications and age.
All applicants must also complete the Singapore Citizenship Journey before being granted citizenship. This programme helps participants better appreciate our history and culture. It was recently refreshed and enhanced, with content co-created with ordinary Singaporeans.
Detailed criteria for assessing citizenship applications will not be publicised because:
-detailed criteria can be abused to inflate an undeserving applicant’s chances of -success; and
-detailed criteria or country-specific figures on our Permanent Residents and Singapore Citizens population could be misinterpreted or misused by others to stir up bilateral and domestic sensitivities.
MHA Committee of Supply (COS) Debate 2023
Read the COS 2023 speech delivered by Second Minister for Home Affairs Mrs Josephine Teo. For more information on MHA COS 2023, visit the MHA COS 2023 webpage.