Parliamentary Speeches

Second Reading of the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) (Amendment) Bill – Closing Speech by Assoc Prof Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, Minister of State, Ministry of Home Affairs & Ministry of National Development

Published: 03 April 2024

Mr Speaker, 

1. I thank the Members for their comments, suggestions, and strong support for the Bill. Please allow me to address some points they have raised. 


Continued Relevance of the Act

2. Mr Lim Biow Chuan and Associate Professor Razwana Begum asked if we still require the Act for the maintenance of law and order in today’s Singapore given that crimes involving drugs, unlicensed moneylending and secret societies are now under control. I have explained this in my opening speech. The Act has been an integral part of our arsenal and complements our existing laws. We must not be complacent, even if the secret society situation in Singapore is under control.   

3. Mr Lim also asked about other countries in the world which have topped the Global Peace Index, and wondered if they have similar legislation as ours. 

4. I must emphasise that our laws are unique to our background and our circumstances. I have explained how the powers under the Act came about, and how the Act has served us well in maintaining public safety, peace and good order. We have studied the gang situation in other countries that do not have similar legislation. For instance, New Zealand continues to be plagued by gangs and gang-related crimes. ‘The Economist’ reported that New Zealand had one of the world’s highest gang membership rates in 2018. New Zealand has also seen a 75% increase in the number of youths aged from 18 to 25 years old joining gangs between 2017 and 2022. 

5. Without the Act, we face a real risk of an uncontrolled gang situation and a rise in violent, and other serious crimes. We cannot afford to have this in Singapore.

6. Mr Dennis Tan has asked for various statistics on how the Act has been used in the past. MHA does not generally release information about the use of the Act, as we need to balance the call for transparency against the need to prevent prejudice to investigations, and to keep witnesses safe. That said, the Singapore Prison Service (SPS) publishes statistics on detainees annually, and I would refer Mr Tan to those annual statistics. I have also stated in my opening speech that 123 persons were dealt with under the Act from 21 October 2019 to 31 December 2023. This comprised 86 Detention Orders, and 37 Police Supervision Orders. There are currently no detainees who have been detained for more than 10 years.  

7. Mr Tan also asked about the use of technology in Police enforcement methods. In this regard, the use of police cameras has greatly assisted the Police’s enforcement efforts, especially in unlicensed money lending cases. The Police will continue to leverage technology as a key strategy in its enforcement approach. However, as we have emphasized, the Act is an instrument of last resort. 


Involvement of Youths in Secret Societies 

8. Mr Murali Pillai and Associate Professor Razwana raised concerns on the involvement of youths in secret societies and asked if the Police could take more preventive measures. Mr Murali also asked if powers of detention could be used on recruiters of secret society members, who are not personally involved in violent activities. I will first say that we share the same concerns about youths’ involvement in gangs and agree that their recruitment into secret societies must be taken seriously. 

9. The Police adopt a two-pronged strategy of enforcement and prevention to address the problem of street gangs, particularly amongst youths. Besides taking firm enforcement actions, Police routinely conduct community outreach programs and work with key partners to implement a range of diversionary and rehabilitative initiatives to educate the public on the dangers of joining gangs; and to discourage, deter, and detect youth involvement in gangs. Some of these partners include other Government agencies such as MSF, MOE, and social services agencies such as Family Service Centres. The Police’s educational efforts include organising talks at schools, arranging prison visits for wayward youths, their parents and guardians, and promoting programmes like the Streetwise Programme. We hope that these programmes will raise awareness and prevent youths from becoming involved in gang activities.

10. When it comes to enforcement, the Ministry views recruitment of youths into gangs as particularly aggravating as this perpetuates gangland lawlessness, while corrupting our youths. Detention Orders have been, and will continue to be, issued against recruiters.  


Obligations / Conditions of a PSO

11. I will now address questions raised by Members relating to the operational aspects of the Act.  

12. Mr Ng asked about the nature of obligations imposed on a supervisee who is under a Police Supervision Order. The obligations that the Minister may impose can be found in Rule 3 of the Criminal Law (Obligations on Person Subject to Supervision) Rules 2018. These obligations include requiring the supervisees to reside at a specified place, curfews, restrictions on where a supervisee may enter, restrictions on who the supervisee may communicate with, amongst others.  
13. The Rules were made in December 2018. We review the rules and obligations from time to time to ensure that they remain relevant and effective.


Criminal Law Advisory Committees (CLACs)

14. Mr Ng also raised a few queries concerning the second and third types of Advisory Committees that review detention cases at least annually.

15. These two Advisory Committees comprise senior lawyers and prominent private citizens with extensive relevant experience and knowledge in areas such as the criminal justice system and the rehabilitation of ex-convicts.  

16. As to Mr Ng’s question on what support is provided to these two Advisory Committees to aid them in reviewing existing detention orders, they have access to all relevant information including:

(a) The nature and gravity of offences committed;
(b) The detainee’s criminal antecedents;
(c) The detainee’s conduct and response towards Prisons’ rehabilitation programme;
(d) The detainee’s likelihood of re-offending and continuing to pose a threat to safety and security; and last, 
(e) The detainee’s re-integration plans.

17. As Mr Gan Thiam Poh has rightly pointed out, this system of Advisory Committees being supported by professionals has worked well.

18. Mr Ng also asked whether these two Advisory Committees have exercised their powers under Section 40 of the Act to summon and examine a witness, or to compel the production of documents. The Advisory Committees assess each case on its own merits, and exercise their powers under Section 40 of the Act to summon and examine a witness, if they deem it necessary.

19. Mr Leong Mun Wai has suggested additional safeguards. We note all that he has said. The current safeguards are carefully considered, and we have explained several times, why this structure works for us. We have explained why MHA, acting with the Minister, and with the advisory structures, is the best structure, and has kept law and order. Thus far, there has not been any abuse of the system. Singapore is ranked number one in law and order. If our system has worked for us, and has no obvious flaws, then we must ask – what are we trying to change? 

20. On the issue of the President, the responsibility for law and order lies with the Government, not the President. The President is there to perform specific duties as identified in the Constitution. Beyond that, the President has no executive power. And if something goes wrong with law and order, it is the Government that is accountable to the people. We have an Executive that answers to Parliament, and in specific circumstances, the President has powers to veto; but law and order is an executive responsibility and not the President’s responsibility. Therefore, we do not agree with this suggestion. 

21. As for Mr Leong’s question as to whether the Public Defender’s Office will extend aid to detainees – detainees are currently not assigned counsel by the State, but they may choose to be represented by any lawyer of their choice, or seek pro bono representation, under schemes that may be available to them. 


Support for Detainees and Police Supervisees

22. I now turn to Mr Ng’s and Associate Professor Razwana’s queries regarding the rehabilitative aspects of the detention regimes, in particular the programmes that are in place for detainees while in prison. Detainees are housed in the various institutions at the Changi Prison Complex based on their security risk and rehabilitative needs. 

23. The SPS works closely with every detainee to understand each detainee’s rehabilitative needs before placing them on programmes to target specific behavioural and offending needs. SPS engages different agencies to provide a range of programmes to detainees. For instance, SPS collaborates with Yellow Ribbon Singapore to provide detainees with work opportunities. Detainees are also given access to vocational training, religious counselling and education. Where required, detainees undergo the gang renunciation programme or psychological-based correctional programmes to increase their self-awareness and equip them with pro-social skills to change their offending ways. 

24. Family support is also important in a detainee’s rehabilitation journey. As such, detainees are encouraged to maintain a close relationship with their family members through letters and visits. Prison also engages specialised family services agencies to deliver structured family programmes that seek to address transitional issues for detainees and their families, with the view of helping detainees build skills and confidence to maintain ties and build stronger relationships with their family members. 

25. Associate Professor Razwana asked about the recidivism rates of detainees, as compared to that of the general prison population. With respect, it is not meaningful to make such a comparison as the two regimes are complementary to each other. For instance, an individual might be detained on one occasion, and be prosecuted in Court for other offences. The point I want to make is that SPS takes the rehabilitation of every detainee seriously. Each detainee undergoes programmes customised to his profile and needs. 


Relevance of Parts 2 to 4 of the CLTPA

26. I now turn to the final issue, as raised by Mr Murali. He also asked about the relevance of Parts 2, 3, and 4 of the Act, and whether these provisions should be ported over to other legislation. MHA is certainly cognisant that the Act consists of these provisions and had, in the course of preparing for this Bill, satisfied ourselves that they remain relevant and necessary. We will continue to review these provisions and propose changes if necessary. 

27. Mr Speaker, to conclude, for the reasons encompassed in both my speeches, the renewal of the Act is necessary and the Act remains relevant today. 

28. I want to also respond to Mr Dennis Tan, who has mentioned a quote by the Minister of Home Affairs in 1989, and has asked when the Government will be ready to do away with the Act. Mr Leong Mun Wai also touched on this. We have to recognise that each time the Act comes up for renewal, we must allow the Government of the day to consider the circumstances and current conditions, and come to the assessment of what is in the best interests of Singapore. We should not bind future Governments in this assessment.

29. The powers under the Act will ensure the continued safeguard of the public safety, peace and good order in Singapore. Once again, I thank Members for supporting the Bill.  

30. Mr Speaker, I beg to move.