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Singapore’s Ongoing Efforts to Combat the Terror Threat

The Public Order and Safety (Special Powers) Bill was introduced for First Reading in Parliament on 27 February 2018. Here are five things you need to know about the new Bill.
In-situ Reaction Team (IRT) officers on patrol during the year-end festive period in 2017. PHOTO: Mabel Yap

1. Singapore remains committed to enhancing its counter-terrorism abilities

Attacks around the world show that terrorists continuously evolve their methods to inflict maximum casualties and sow chaos and fear. Singapore faces a clear and present threat posed by home-grown, self-radicalised individuals and foreign terrorists who view us as a prized target.

Last year, as part of ongoing efforts to improve our abilities to counter terrorism, the Public Order Act was amended and the Infrastructure Protection Act was enacted.

The Public Order Act was revised to strengthen protection for large-scale events to help protect these against terror attacks.

The Infrastructure Protection Act ensures that buildings that house essential services and/or have high footfall have adequate security measures in place. It also gives security personnel of these installations powers to deal with threats in surrounding areas.

The Police have also developed new capabilities to respond to terrorist incidents. With newly equipped video analytics capabilities, Police cameras are now better able to track down perpetrators. Specialist units such as the Rapid Deployment Troops, Emergency Response Teams and In-situ Reaction Teams can also be deployed to respond rapidly and effectively to terrorist incidents.

2. POPA will become POSSPA

The Public Order (Preservation) Act, or POPA, was passed in 1958 to give the Police powers to deal with large-scale communal riots. The proposed Public Order and Safety (Special Powers) Bill will incorporate and update the powers in POPA that are still relevant today. The new Bill is an update of POPA and better addresses the needs of our current security climate by granting the Police special powers to deal with serious incidents such as terrorist attacks. If passed, the Bill will become an Act – the Public Order and Security (Special Powers) Act, or POSSPA.

3. POSSPA introduces new provisions for today’s operational context

To help manage crowds in an incident area and facilitate enforcement operations, POSSPA will enable the Police to direct owners of buildings to take certain actions (such as closing, or restricting entry and exit, to their premises) or to provide the Police with information about their buildings (such as floor plans).

Additionally, to help the Police get information without delay, POSSPA will provide the Police with enhanced powers to stop and question individuals.


Police “subduing” an armed knife attacker during a counter-terrorism exercise at Clarke Quay in 2017. PHOTO: Amni Amran

4. POSSPA ensures that vital information doesn’t reach the wrong people


POSSPA enables the Police to respond effectively in serious incidents by protecting the secrecy of tactical operations.

Given the prevalence of smartphones, live-streaming and social media, members of the public may inadvertently provide operational or situational information to terrorists. This could compromise tactical operations by the Home Team.

Denying terrorists access to information on enforcement operations is absolutely critical, and not doing so can cost lives. For example, during the Mumbai attacks in November 2008, a live media broadcast of security forces preparing to storm the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel allowed the gunmen within to anticipate their actions. This compromised how the security forces could respond.

As these actions may endanger the safety of the public and our enforcement officers, a communications stop order may be issued when POSSPA is activated. This will require all persons in an incident area to stop making or sharing films or pictures of the incident area, and to stop communicating text or audio messages about enforcement operations.

Note that a communications stop order doesn’t automatically come into effect once the Minister authorises the use of POSSPA. Instead, a communications stop order has to be separately activated by the Commissioner of Police, and only if he is of the view that communicating information about an incident area or operation will compromise that operation or endanger lives. It’s a special power that will only be used when the security situation calls for it.

Once activated, the order will be communicated to the public via the Singapore Police Force FacebookTwitter and website, as well as through radio and television.

5. POSSPA lets us counter airborne threats

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) can be used to monitor enforcement operations, or even as weapons – terrorists are capable of modifying commercial drones to carry explosives and attack targets.

To counter such threats, POSSPA will allow the Police to take down UAVs in an incident area.

For more information on POSSPA, read the Press Release.

Written by

Muhamad Khair


28 February 2018

Law and order
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