Published: 01 March 2019
1. Mr Chairman, I will focus on three areas: road safety, fire safety, and counter-terrorism.
2. I will first speak on road safety.
3. Mr Sitoh Yih Pin asked whether MHA will address the upward trend in irresponsible driving such as drink-driving and red-light running. Ms Jessica Tan spoke about distracted driving. Since 2014, Traffic Police has been doing its utmost to encourage responsible driving and nudge motorists to drive safely in camera zones. It has publicised the locations of its cameras, installed signage and blinker lights, and painted the cameras in bright colours. Yet irresponsible driving remains a concern.
4. To address this, MHA will be amending the Road Traffic Act to enhance criminal penalties for irresponsible driving, especially in egregious cases. We want to ensure that irresponsible drivers receive sentences commensurate with the harm that they cause, and are kept off the roads for longer periods of time. To complement these, MHA will also raise composition sums for road traffic offences including the offence of using a mobile phone while driving.
5. Mr Sitoh Yih Pin also asked if MHA will review course requirements for new or inexperienced drivers. This year, Traffic Police will be introducing mandatory simulator training for all learner drivers, on top of existing course requirements.
6. Mr Murali Pillai asked if MHA would consider putting in place a tiered drink-driving approach that takes into account the effect of alcohol on probationary or young drivers, as compared to other drivers.Our laws currently do not differentiate alcohol limits to different classes of drivers, because we cannot make an a priori claim on the effect of alcohol on persons based on factors like age and experience.
7. Furthermore, Traffic Police does not enforce drink-driving offences based solely on whether one has violated the alcohol limit. A person would also be deemed to have been drink-driving as long as he had consumed alcohol and had been unable to control his vehicle, even if he did not exceed the prescribed statutory alcohol limit. These criteria apply to all drivers, regardless of age or driving experience.
8. In the end, we must recognise that the problem of dangerous driving cannot be curbed by regulations alone. Since the launch of the “Use Your RoadSense” campaign in 2015, Traffic Police and its partners have been actively promoting graciousness and responsibility among various groups of road users. Road safety is a shared responsibility, and we all need to play our part.
9. Ms Jessica Tan and Mr Low Thia Khiang asked how we can improve fire safety. Singapore has one of the lowest rates of fire fatalities in the world. This is owed largely to our high fire safety standards. Many of our fire safety provisions are incorporated at the design stage. For example, every residential unit is designed as a fire compartment to prevent the spread of fires to adjacent units. Fire escape routes are designed to have adequate ventilation, while infrastructure like rising mains and hosereels are built in to aid fire-fighting operations.
Public Education and Evacuation Procedure
10. Ms Tan and Mr Low said it was important that residents know what to do in the event of a fire. Public education is indeed a priority for us. SCDF regularly conducts events, like Emergency Preparedness block parties, to teach residents emergency response skills, including how to extinguish small household fires and how to evacuate from a smoke-logged room. SCDF also works closely with senior activity centres to conduct regular fire safety awareness workshops for the elderly.
11. Mr Low asked about whether residents in super high-rise public residential buildings can safely evacuate during a fire. Our evacuation strategy for ensuring the safety of residents in such buildings is multi-layered.
a. First, we require such buildings to incorporate various fire safety measures in their design, such as refuge floors and fire lifts.
b. Next, we are building up a strong corps of community volunteers to help with evacuations. SCDF works closely with the Community Emergency and Engagement, or C2E, Committees and Community Emergency Response Team, or CERT, to direct evacuation procedures in the event of a fire incident. These teams comprise grassroots leaders and residents staying in the vicinity, who are trained to assist in evacuation and crowd control in an emergency. SCDF familiarises them with the fire safety facilities unique to super high-rise residential buildings, to ensure that they are equipped to perform their roles effectively.
c. These volunteers are key partners to manage fire incidents in their initial stages, until Home Team officers arrive on scene. On-site Home Team officers will go door-to-door and facilitate the evacuation of residents who have yet to leave their units, and if necessary, will use the fire lifts to evacuate those with mobility issues.
12. SCDF also devotes specific resources to educate residents living in such buildings. For example, SCDF conducts door-to-door engagements and evacuation exercises for the residents of these buildings to ensure that they are familiar with evacuation procedures. SCDF has also produced and disseminated a poster to specifically educate residents in such buildings on what they should and should not do in the event of a fire.
13. Mr Chairman, in Mandarin please.
16. Mr Chairman, I will now resume my speech in English.
17. Ms Jessica Tan also asked how we can improve fire safety standards for older buildings. Currently, SCDF reviews the Fire Code constantly to stipulate new fire safety provisions. For example, a new requirement last year was for home fire alarm devices to be installed in all new residential premises.
18. However, changes to the Fire Code only apply to new buildings and buildings that undergo addition and alteration works. To ensure that older buildings are also upgraded with time, MHA will be amending the Fire Safety Act. Owners of selected older buildings will be required to put in place critical fire safety upgrades. We will prioritise high-risk industrial buildings, public buildings, and hospitals, and work closely with their owners to ensure that the new requirements are practicable.
19. The amendments will also address enforcement gaps. Currently, it is an offence for certain parties such as building owners, occupiers, and industry professionals to install non-compliant fire safety products. However, it is not an offence if parties are involved in the supply of non-compliant fire safety products, but stop short of installing them on buildings.
20. With the amendments, SCDF will be able to take action against any errant party who use, or cause the use of, non-compliant fire safety products. SCDF will also be able to order errant parties to take remedial actions, such as recalling or stopping the sale of non-compliant products, and removing them from buildings if they have been installed.
21. Mr Chairman, I will now speak on our counter-terrorism efforts.
22. The terrorism threat to Singapore remains high, and we remain an attractive target to ISIS and other groups. We may not have yet been hit, but we certainly have been targeted, and we must not take our security for granted.
23. Mr Christopher de Souza asked about measures that MHA is taking to detect and deter self-radicalisation. The threat is very real. Since 2015, 24 radicalised Singaporeans have been detected and dealt with under the Internal Security Act. This is a stark increase from the 11 such cases that were detected between 2007 and 2014.
24. While the overall responsibility for counter-terrorism lies with the Home Team, the community also plays an indispensable role, especially in detecting suspected cases of self-radicalisation. Families, friends and colleagues are best placed to notice such signs in an individual. For example, Mr Mohamed Faishal bin Mohd Razali, who was detained under the ISA in April 2018, had told two of his friends about his plan to participate in armed violence overseas. His friends and family members had tried to dissuade him, but to no avail. Eventually, someone who knew of his plans alerted the authorities, so that he could be prevented from continuing down the path of radicalisation. So I encourage the public to report suspected cases as soon as possible. Early reporting not only prevents the commission of violence and loss of lives; it also gives the individual the best possible chance of being rehabilitated.
25. Our religious communities also play a critical role. For example, the Religious Rehabilitation Group is a voluntary group of Islamic scholars and teachers who not only conduct counselling and rehabilitation for radicalised individuals, but also invest significant educational efforts to ward off extremist thinking in the general Islamic community. We cannot allow extremist ideologies to take root in our society, and we must safeguard our way of life.
26. Mr Gan Thiam Poh and Ms Rahayu Mahzam asked for an update on SGSecure. The SGSecure movement began by sensitising the public to the terror threat, and imparting basic information and skills to cope with an attack. As awareness grew, we focused more on raising preparedness. We have worked with workplaces, schools, neighbourhoods, and places of worship to help them be crisis-ready. Today, 3 in 4 Singaporeans are aware of SGSecure, 1 in 2 Singaporeans believe that we are well-prepared to handle a terror attack on our shores, and almost all Singaporeans believe that we will stand united in the face of an attack.
27. In the coming months, a new series of SGSecure initiatives will be rolled out. They include: holding SGSecure events at condominiums; more public roadshows; forming an SGSecure Responders Network to mobilise first responders from the community; and bringing together stakeholders from different domains to be part of the Community Response Round Table. Through these new initiatives, we hope to make participation in SGSecure programmes more accessible, and to strengthen our whole-of-society response to the terror threat.
28. Lastly, I would like to address Mr Muhamad Faisal Abdul Manap’s question about the Police’s standard procedure in replying to appeals. The Police will consider all proper representations which include representations from elected MPs and from Grassroots Advisers on behalf of their own constituents, and their grassroots leaders. All appeals will be assessed on their own merit. Representations by non-elected MPs such as Non-Constituency MPs and Nominated MPs will be treated as personal appeals by the appellants.
29. Mr Chairman, let me conclude. In the face of public safety risks and the heightened terror threat, it is more important than ever for Singaporeans to partner the Home Team. We succeed only when the community stands with us, shares our vision, and partakes of the same effort. Together, we will build a safe and secure Singapore.
30. Thank you.