Parliamentary Speeches

Committee of Supply Debate 2022 on “Safeguarding Singapore, Together” - Speech by Mr Desmond Tan, Minister of State, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment

Published: 03 March 2022


1.   Mr Chairman, I will elaborate on three areas that the Home Team will be focusing on, our partnership with the community and industry stakeholders in the year 2022 to keep Singapore safe and secure. These three areas are crime prevention, combatting scams, and anti-terrorism.

Community Partnership for Crime Prevention

2.   First, we will continue to work with the community to prevent crime.

3.   Mr Christopher de Souza asked about the Police’s partnerships with the community to create safer neighbourhoods.

4.   In 2021, the Police launched the Community Watch Scheme (CWS) to build a volunteer network to fight crime. This scheme actually integrates existing groups such as the Neighbourhood Watch Zone (NWZ), Vehicles on Watch, and Riders on Watch, into an overall community partnership programme. Today, about it stands at a 5,000 membership.

5.   Some members have also gone beyond and to help patrol the streets. Some do so on Citizens on Patrol (COP) by donning a vest. Others go even further to don a uniform under the Volunteer Special Constabulary scheme. These efforts have helped make our neighbourhoods and communities safer.

a.   One example I would like to highlight is Mr Pragash S/O Kulasagar, who has volunteered via the COP scheme for 20 years. In February 2018, while on patrol, Mr Pragash and his team were approached by a couple who shared that their domestic helper was molested outside the lift of their flat. Mr Pragash and his team used the description provided and were able to narrow down the identity of culprit and helped solve the crime

6.   Mr Sitoh Yih Pin asked how the Government will tackle public disorder and disamenities brought about by errant debt collection activities. We have listened carefully to feedback from the ground. We intend to put in place a new debt collection regulatory framework to address this issue. This framework will involve a licencing regime, and introduce restrictions on what debt collectors can or cannot do.

Scams and Cheating Cases

7.   Second, on our whole-of-society approach to tackling scams and cheating cases. Mr Derrick Goh and Mr Mark Chay asked how the Government will combat the scourge of scams together with our stakeholders.

8.   In February, I made a Ministerial Statement on two aspects of our approach: (a) enforcement; and (b) public education. Let me just highlight some of the key points from there.

9.   I mentioned about the Anti-Scam Centre, which continues to be effective, and will continue to be organised for better effectiveness.

10.   I talked about working with transnational agencies and jurisdictions, and law enforcement agencies, to continue to be more effective as many of these crimes were transboundary.

11.   And finally, we will continue to work with the telcos as well as the banks to secure our networks and to ensure that our funds are secure in the transactions. Some of the measures include blocking of SMSes, phone calls as well as websites, will be introduced in the year ahead.  

12.   We will continue to explore other strategies to combat scams. For example, later this year, MHA will be introducing the E-Commerce Marketplace Transaction Safety Ratings. This rating will help consumers understand the safety features offered by different e-marketplaces, so they can make an informed choice on where or how they are going to do their online shopping.

13.   We are also working with agencies to develop a framework that will help us tackle scams, as well as a broader suite of criminal activity online, such as child pornography, terrorism, and content inciting violence in our communities. Ultimately, we want a safer online environment for all users. We will engage the relevant stakeholders on our proposals very soon. This responds to Mr Desmond Choo as well as Mr Mark Chay’s question on how we can deal with the harmful online content and virtual crimes.

14.   Mr Murali Pillai asked if the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) is adequately resourced, and whether the CAD can tap on the private sector to enhance its operations.

15.   As I earlier mentioned, resourcing across the SPF – that includes CAD – is indeed very stretched. We will have to discuss with the Ministry of Finance on how we can increase our manpower in the Police force to enable officers to cope better. We regularly review our salaries of our CAD officers to make sure that their salaries are kept competitive, and that they are able to be adjusted should the market forces also move.

16.   Even so, this has not prevented CAD from being an effective unit. CAD has also proactively engaged industry stakeholders to streamline its operations.

a.   For example, in 2021, CAD worked with trusted industry partners to disrupt an extensive network of shell companies potentially used for money laundering. This partnership allowed CAD to intercept over US$33 million in criminal proceeds.

17.   With regard to the Member’s suggestion of a whistleblowing legislation, today, our current laws already protect the identities of informants for organised crime and money laundering offences. At the same time, we take a stern view of such crimes and so our laws do not protect them from prosecution or to provide further incentives. While we can understand that whistleblowing will encourage more people to step forward to help detection, there are also other considerations we need to consider. Including how we may create moral hazard or lead to frivolous reporting, or there may be some cases where the whistleblower themselves is complicit in the crime. These considerations will have to be weighed against some of the benefits that the member talked about.

18.   Mr Don Wee asked how we will address “money mules” – individuals who receive and transfer tainted funds as part of a trans-national syndicated money-laundering process.

19.   Today, a large proportion of investigations into money mules do not result in prosecutions, due to the inherent difficulties in proving the money mule’s intent to participate in moving monies for scam syndicates.

20.   To address this issue, MHA will be making amendments to the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act or CDSA, to allow money laundering offences to be made out at lower levels of culpability. These amendments are currently scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2022.

Anti-Terrorism and the Security Industry

21.   Next, let me touch on our approach to anti-terrorism.

22.   Mr Christopher de Souza asked about the Government’s partnerships to prevent terrorism and strengthen our response. Key to Singapore’s counter-terrorism strategy is working closely with global security, intelligence and law enforcement agencies to foil terror attacks. For example, in 2016, ISD worked closely with our Indonesian counterparts to thwart a plot by the pro-Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group that targeted Marina Bay Sands.

23.   The Government also works closely with our community and religious leaders to address the roots of the ideology upstream. We also are ramping up our community response and mobilisation capabilities to terror attacks through the SGSecure Movement.

24.   Mr Christopher de Souza also asked how we rehabilitate radicalised individuals. Today, we have extensive partnerships with organisations such as the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) and the Inter-Agency Aftercare Group. To-date, over 80% of those detained for terrorism-related conduct have been released from detention. Most of them are gainfully employed, and some are pursuing their education. They have good social support and remain resilient against radical influences.

a.   I would like to cite a quick example of a former ISIS supporter named “Daniel” (not his real name), who was only 17 years old when he was detained in January 2020. Following extensive engagement by rehabilitation stakeholders, “Daniel” has renounced his support for ISIS and radical ideologies. While in detention, he received weekly tutoring from RRG members who are also MOE-trained teachers, to prepare him for his GCE N-level exams. He did very well in his exams, and his achievements have strengthened his resolve to change for the better. “Daniel” has since been released from detention in January 2022 and is now furthering his education.

25.   Our partners in the Security Industry also play a critical role in keeping Singapore safe from terrorism. Mr Patrick Tay and Mr Xie Yao Quan asked about Government’s role in helping this sector to be better-equipped to play this role. Our approach is always multi-pronged.

26.   To continue raising the professionalism of our Security Industry partners, with effect from 1 July 2023, all security officers must complete the “Recognise Terrorist Threats” (RTT) training before they can be deployed at any site.

27.   We will also uplift wages for all security officers, including women, whom we always try to recruit. The PWM recommendations will provide a six-year schedule of sustained wage increases for over 40,000 resident security officers.

28.   Since May 2020, all Government Procuring Entities are required to adopt outcome-based contracts (OBCs) for their security services and we will move forward towards a 100% adoption of OBCs in the coming years. We hope more private sector entities will follow suit.


29.   Mr Chairman, to conclude, let me speak a few words in Mandarin.

a.   议长先生,保护新加坡,是我们每一位新加坡公民的责任。
b.   尽管我们都在尽全力部署和防范,但是罪案的发生,往往是防不胜防。我们必须三管齐下,通过三方面,制止罪案的发生。首先,继续加强和社区伙伴的合作,及时为个人和家庭提供援助;第二,加强防止诈骗的意识,不要让诈骗有机可乘;第三,对制造分裂和极端反社会心态和行径,要提高警惕。
c.   在接下来的一年里,政府和内政团队,希望和国人继续携手合作,共同防止和打击罪犯。保卫家园,贵在行动,无论是留意和举报可疑人物,或是对左邻右舍表示关心,我们每个人都能够为防止犯罪做出一点贡献,共同打造让大家能够安心安身、安居乐业的新加坡。

30.   Mr Chairman, as the security environment continues to evolve, the Home Team will continue to work with our community to build a safer and a more secure Singapore.