MHA IN PARLIAMENT
Our Home Team Guardians worked hard to review, design and implement laws and policies that keep Singapore safe and secure. Here’s a recap of the Home Team’s legislative highlights for 2021.
Guns, Explosives and Weapons Control Bill (January 2021)
This Bill strengthened the regulatory regime to minimise the safety and security risks posed by guns, weapons and explosives while ensuring a calibrated regulatory and enforcement framework for these items under a new Act.
Review of the Sentencing Framework for Sexual and Hurt Offences (March 2021)
In his Ministerial Statement, MIN K Shanmugam affirmed the Government’s tough approach against those who commit sexual and hurt offences. He also explained the outcomes of the review, including increases in the penalties for three sexual offences and other measures. Read ‘A Guide to Sentencing in Singapore’
Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill (May 2021)
This Bill introduced amendments to the Road Traffic Act to improve road safety, regulate the use of Power Assisted Bicycles and enhance the Traffic Police’s operational efficiency.
Registration of Births and Deaths Bill (July 2021)
This Bill streamlined the birth and death reporting and registration, and enabled digitalisation, to make these processes more convenient for Singaporeans.
Police Force (Amendment) Bill (August 2021)
This Bill enhanced SPF’s operational capabilities and readiness; improved SPF’s disciplinary, administrative and human resources processes; and strengthened controls over Auxiliary Police Forces.
Criminal Law (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill (September 2021)
This Bill amended the Penal Code, which is a key part of Singapore’s criminal law framework. It increased the penalties for three sexual offences, including outrage of modesty; expanded and clarified the scope of certain offences and defences; and modernised the language of certain terms.
Foreign Interference (Countermeasures) Bill (October 2021)
This Bill strengthened our ability to prevent, detect and disrupt foreign interference in our domestic politics conducted through hostile information campaigns and the use of local proxies.
Sedition (Repeal) Bill (October 2021)
This Bill repealed the Sedition Act and made related amendments to other Acts.
Private Security Industry (Amendment) Bill (October 2021)
This Bill enhanced the protection of security officers and removed persons who only provide security consultancy services from regulation under the Act.
Prisons (Amendment) Bill (First Reading, November 2021)
This Bill enhanced community corrections and facilitated SPS’ operations and administration so as to improve rehabilitation and reintegration outcomes for inmates and enable SPS to carry out its functions more effectively.
IMMIGRATION & CHECKPOINTS AUTHORITY
As the COVID-19 situation evolves, ICA continues to stay on top of the challenge of implementing Singapore’s border control policies while taking on the expanded role of safeguarding public health. With the progressive reopening of our borders for air and land travel, ICA has also worked hard to ensure that its systems and processes are robust.
Vaccinated Travel Lanes (Land)
Woodlands Checkpoint was reopened on 29 November for vaccinated residents and Long-Term Pass Holders of Singapore and Malaysia to travel via designated buses. ICA worked round the clock to coordinate with other public agencies, such as MTI, LTA and MOH, as well as with transport operators, to implement ground measures and clearance procedures for a smooth immigration clearance experience. The Vaccinated Travel Lane at Woodlands checkpoint has further restored the connectivity between Singapore and Malaysia, making cross-border travel possible again for Singaporeans and Malaysians who’ve been separated from their loved ones.
Redesigned Manual Immigration Counters
In 2021, ICA implemented a number of initiatives at its checkpoints to provide a safe, more secure and seamless immigration process for travellers. For instance, ICA has been progressively introducing redesigned manual immigration counters at the checkpoints, beginning with Changi Airport Terminal 4 and subsequently to all other Changi Airport terminals and checkpoints from December. The redesigned counters enable the self-scanning of passports, further reducing the need for physical contact between officers and travellers.
Digital Authentication of Vaccination Certificates
Proof of vaccination is key to a visitor’s eligibility to enter Singapore. ICA has been progressively integrating the verification of digital vaccination certificates issued by other countries and regions into its processes, allowing travellers to upload their digital vaccination certificate when they apply for approval to enter Singapore under the Vaccinated Travel Lane, or when they submit their electronic SG Arrival Card. This also allows travellers to use automated lanes upon arrival, for faster immigration clearance.
Soon, all foreign visitors will no longer have their passports stamped with inked endorsements. Instead, they will be issued with an electronic Visit Pass (e-Pass) via an email notification to the email address declared in their electronic SG Arrival Card submission. This provides for a safer immigration clearance approach, with reduced contact between officers and travellers. The e-Pass is also one of the building blocks of ICA’s New Clearance Concept, which aims to make automated clearance the norm from 2023. ICA’s Airport Command implemented the e-Pass on 10 October, and it will gradually be rolled out at other checkpoints.
10-Year Passport Validity and Free Offsite Collection
Great news for frequent travellers! In October, the validity period of the Singapore passport issued to applicants aged 16 and above was increased from five to 10 years. This reduces the frequency of passport renewals. As an added convenience, ICA also launched the free collection of Singapore passports and identity cards at various post offices islandwide.
SINGAPORE PRISON SERVICE
SPS celebrated its 75th anniversary with the tagline “Transforming Lives with You.” To commemorate SPS75, SPS staff rallied as one to raise funds for SPS Cares. Over $81,000 was raised for the President’s Challenge 2021, with the cheque presented to President Halimah Yacob at the SPS75 Virtual Commemorative Event on 1 December. A limited-edition, commemorative stamp series was also launched to pay tribute to SPS staff and partners who have been an integral part of SPS’ transformation.
Lowest Recidivism Rate in Decades
In 2021, SPS reported a recidivism rate of 22.1% for the 2018 release cohort, the lowest rate in decades. This was achieved by providing rehabilitation programmes that mitigate the risks of re-offending; address the rehabilitation and reintegration needs of inmates; and prepare them to become individuals who can contribute to society. Together with its community partners, SPS also supports and supervises inmates when they are released from prison or emplaced on Community-based Programmes.
High Emplacement in Community-Based Programmes
In 2021, about 3,500 inmates served the tail-end of their sentences in the community, a 42% increase compared to 2020. Supervised community corrections and step-down aftercare support help to smoothen the reintegration of inmates into society after their release. This approach further reduces their risk of re-offending.
Selarang Park Complex: Towards a “Prison without Guards” Strategy
In April, MIN K Shanmugam launched Selarang Park Complex (SPC), an integrated correctional facility that leverages technology for rehabilitation and reintegration programmes. SPC comprises a Drug Rehabilitation Centre at Institution S1, a Work Release Centre at Institution S2, the Selarang Park Community Supervision Centre, a Prison Link Centre, a Quarantine Centre and the Selarang Halfway House. SPS will also be able to provide vocational training opportunities for over 3,000 inmates and supervisees.
SPC is the first SPS facility that leverages facial recognition technology to allow inmates and supervisees to have unescorted access within specific and secured zones. The smart cameras are equipped with video analytics to aid in detecting irregular behaviour such as fights, to facilitate a swift response. The cameras can also verify the identities of inmates, allowing headcount checks to be conducted remotely as a complement to physical headcount checks.
INTERNAL SECURITY DEPARTMENT
ISD marked the 20th anniversary of its operations against the JI network in Singapore in December 2021. Twenty years after 9/11, JI and its well-developed attack plots remain Singapore’s closest shave with transnational Islamist terrorism. Had JI succeeded in its plans, there would have been catastrophic consequences in terms of the loss of lives and damage to Singapore’s communal harmony and social fabric.
ISD’s operations didn’t cease with the two phases of local arrests in 2001 and 2002. Over the decade, ISD officers strove tirelessly to track down Singaporean JI fugitives who had fled overseas. At the same time, ISD worked with its community partners on a holistic rehabilitation approach for JI detainees and their families (comprising religious, psychological and social rehabilitation), to ease their reintegration into society.
While the Singapore JI network has been effectively dismantled by ISD, the regional JI network is still active, and will continue to present a serious, long-term security threat to Singapore. ISD continues to keep a close watch on developments that could heighten the threat posed by JI and other terrorist groups.
CENTRAL NARCOTICS BUREAU
2021 marks the 50th anniversary of CNB. As part of the Bureau’s celebrations, CNB Headquarters was illuminated with a celebratory banner as part of the DrugFreeSG Light-Up event in June. At the CNB50 Anniversary Event in December, PM Lee Hsien Loong launched a commemorative CNB50 coffee-table book and CNB50 stamp set. Thanking both past and present CNB officers for their dedication over the years, PM Lee called for the public to support Singapore’s zero-tolerance approach towards drugs.
Strengthening Regulation of NPS
CNB listed 13 New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) as Class A controlled drugs in the First Schedule to the Misuse of Drugs Act, with effect from 1 May. This empowers CNB to take decisive action against the abuse and trafficking of NPS.
CNB on the Move
In April, CNB officers seized more than 40kg of illicit drugs and arrested one Malaysian male for suspected drug trafficking offences. Over 24kg of cannabis and more than 15kg of heroin were seized. This was the largest cannabis seizure since 1996 and the largest heroin seizure since 2001. The drugs are estimated to be worth over $2.3 million.
SENDING A DETERRENT MESSAGE TO DRUG OFFENDERS
Drug offenders have always been trying to evade enforcement efforts. Syndicates will use novel concealment methods to smuggle drugs into Singapore; traffickers will employ evasive tactics to avoid CNB’s surveillance efforts; abusers will leverage secured messaging applications to look for drugs. CNB monitors such developments and is on a constant lookout for emerging trends and platforms.
As early as 2019, CNB has arrested over 200 drug offenders who use Telegram for their illegal activities. In November, 50 suspected drug offenders were arrested in an islandwide operation that targeted drug transactions conducted on Telegram.
Rallying the Community
In June, 71 mosques across Singapore displayed Dadah Itu Haram banners and standees in conjunction with the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. To reinforce the anti-drug message, MUIS also prepared a sermon that emphasised the importance of staying away from drugs. Such collaborations have further strengthened CNB’s engagement with the Malay-Muslim community.
In 2021, four new partner organisations also came onboard the United Against Drugs Coalition (UADC). They include the Singapore Turf Club and the Singapore After-Care Association. A total of 28 UADC partners, including seven community partners participating for the first time, illuminated their buildings in either green or white during the DrugFreeSG Light-Up on 26 June.
This year, CNB also collaborated with various Institutes of Higher Learning on six anti-drug advocacy projects. They include the Virtual Reality mobile game app “Man in the Mirror” with Nanyang Polytechnic and the Monomania art installation with Singapore Polytechnic. Monomania is CNB’s first student collaboration that employs projection mapping technology to offer an immersive, audio-visual experience showing the effects of drug abuse on the body.
YELLOW RIBBON SINGAPORE
Following YRSG’s rebranding last year, YRSG reviewed its Vision, Mission and Values in early 2021 to align with the agency’s new aspirations and plans:
An inclusive society, a nation beyond second chances.
We galvanise society to uplift ex-offenders through skills and career development, co-creating opportunities for their successful reintegration and contribution back to society.
Honour, Oneness, People-Oriented, Enterprising
The Vision, Mission and Value statements articulate YRSG’s long-term objective to uplift ex-offenders and bring the Yellow Ribbon cause to the next level.
Deepening Partnerships, Uplifting Lives
In August, YRSG and the Singapore Logistics Association (SLA) signed a MOU to enhance the career prospects of inmates and ex-offenders in the logistics industry. Under the MOU, YRSG and SLA will set up a logistics training centre, implement industry-accredited logistics training courses and facilitate employment opportunities with SLA’s member companies.
A YEAR OF FIRSTS FOR YRSG…
Inaugural Media Graduation Ceremony: In October, a graduation ceremony was held at Changi Prison Complex to mark the completion of media training for 28 inmates. The graduation was made possible through a collaboration with Mediacorp. Under the partnership, a media training academy was set up within prison to enhance the skills and career prospects of inmates and ex-offenders in the media industry.
Yellow Ribbon Virtual Run:
The well-loved Run returned this year in virtual form. It offered an opportunity for the public to run, walk or hike at their preferred location and time, throughout the month of September.
Yellow Ribbon Awards 2021:
A new award ceremony consolidating various Yellow-Ribbon-related events was held in December. A total of 577 individuals and organisations were recognised for their dedication to the Yellow Ribbon cause and for helping to shape a more compassionate society.
Read Part 2 of Our Year in Review