Published: 07 November 2016
Dr. Lim Wee Kiak: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs with regard to the recent hostage incident where a two-year-old child was held in a 17-hour standoff in Sembawang (a) why did the police not storm into the flat earlier and rescue the child; and (b) what were the considerations before the police decided to act.
1. The priority of the Police in a hostage situation is to ensure the safety of the hostage, and the people in and around the incident location, such as the public and Home Team officers. Where possible, Police will seek to resolve the incident without any person coming to harm. The tactics employed to achieve this objective would vary according to the incident.
2. I cannot go into the specific operational details for this case. In general, Police will engage the hostage-taker to seek a peaceful resolution, even if it could lead to a prolonged stand-off, such as in this case. There are risks involved for the hostage and people in and around the incident, when a storming operation is carried out. The Police did not storm into the flat earlier as it was assessed that the hostage-taker did not pose any immediate danger to the child if he was not provoked. As a result, the ground decision was taken to de-escalate the situation by deploying the Crisis Negotiation Unit to talk to the hostage-taker to persuade him to surrender.
3. When negotiations were not successful, the Police had to assess the right timing to break into the flat without putting the child at risk. The Police eventually succeeded in rescuing the child, unharmed, and apprehended the hostage-taker. No one was injured in the operation.