Dining-In at Senior Police Officers’ Mess - Speech by Mr Teo Chee Hean, Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security

Published: 02 December 2015

Minister Shanmugam

Minister Masagos

Parliamentary Secretary Amrin

Friends and colleagues


1.     Good evening. I am deeply honoured that the Home Team has organised this Dining-In for me.


Working Together with the Home Team


2.     Minister Shanmugam was very kind in his speech about my time at MHA. Let me first thank Minister Iswaran and Minister Masagos, as well as Permanent Secretaries, Deputy Secretaries, Heads of Home Team Departments, and all our officers whom I have had the honour of working with.  As I got to know you and the work you do, I found that our officers were very committed and dedicated, prepared to work hard and put in long hours to achieve a mission that we all believe in. I also found that there was a lot of potential and capability that could be tapped.


3.     What I set out to do was to help you realise that potential – by setting priorities more clearly, better aligning objectives with resources, making full use of the powerful synergy of working as one Home Team, preparing to meet the future. My objective was to help all of you to do your job better, and to derive more satisfaction from it.


4.     During the past four and a half years, we went through successes and difficult episodes together. The successes affirmed our values, methods and capabilities. The difficult episodes taught us important lessons and helped us to improve our operating concepts and build new capabilities, and reminded us why we need to live by our values. I am happy to see that our Departments now work together better as one Home Team. And our officers are now better equipped when they put themselves in harm's way, knowing that the whole Home Team is behind them.


Future Challenges for Singapore and the Home Team


5.     The work of the Home Team often takes place behind the scenes, and can sometimes be taken for granted. But it is important work, because safety and security, peace and stability form the foundation for all that we do. Cracking a major crime, or fighting a major fire, is more head-line catching than crime or fire prevention. But the daily effort of deterrence, prevention and rehabilitation is no less difficult, and is what ultimately lays the foundation for a successful Home Team. And it is even more critical today that we maintain this safe and secure environment, as Singapore faces new challenges in our next phase of development.


Finding new solutions to break out of resource constraints


6.     Our economy is in transition. We have to get used to making the most out of developed country GDP growth rates of 2 to 4 per cent, rather than developing country growth rates of 7 to 8 per cent which we had become used to. Our previous forecast for this decade was 3 to 5 per cent GDP growth per year on the back of a rapidly growing China, India and South East Asia. But for at least the next few years, we expect slow global conditions. This is coupled with the near zero-growth of our Singaporean workforce, and slower growth in our foreign workforce, which will mean slower growth. The restructuring process is not going to be easy. We are counting on innovation and creating value in new growth areas, so that Singapore's economy remains competitive, and Singaporeans continue to have good jobs.


7.     This means that Singapore, and the Home Team, will have to find non-linear solutions. We cannot build capability just by relying on a linear increase of inputs. We need to change the way the game is played, using new concepts harnessing new technology and better trained people.  The introduction of cameras, AEDs, and video submissions from the public are all important moves, but we have not yet exploited their full potential.


8.     We need to tap on new labour pools such as a new generation of older workers, designing work so that it can be modularised and shared, while having systems to schedule, monitor and track that work gets done and the mission is accomplished.


Tackling increasing transnational threats


9.     We cannot afford to just be domestically focused. We must also keep an eye out for what's going on in the region around us and the world. You are already dealing with the increasing effects of transnational crime, either launched from overseas affecting Singapore, or vice versa. The way we think about collaborations, our laws and our cooperation mechanisms with other countries and international organisations have to change to keep up.


10.     The global threat of violent extremism is real and present. And sadly, it will be with us for many more years. We have seen the tragedy of lives lost, and damage done in the 13 November attacks in Paris. We know of hundreds of people from the region who have gone to fight in Syria. Some have since returned to our region, armed with dangerous knowledge and new networks to cause harm. We have had to detain a small number of Singaporeans who have been self-radicalised and planned to join ISIS or carry out attacks in Singapore.


11.     Violent extremism is not just a security challenge, but a social issue. We must inoculate our people against extremist ideology so that they do not become radicalised. Even as we do all we can to prevent an attack, we must also be prepared for when, not if, an attack takes place. We must strengthen our social resilience, so that we can recover from any such incident and emerge stronger as one people, and not be torn apart by fear and mistrust.


Preparing for a new regional dynamic


12.     We are also watching developments in our region closely. Malaysia is undergoing a fundamental change in its politics, because of demographic changes – with greater rural to urban migration, and the shrinking of the non-bumiputra population from about half, to less than one-third. Racial and religious issues have become more pronounced. The domestic politics in Malaysia will not only impact our bilateral relations. Their domestic tensions over race and religion could affect us as well.


13.     With Indonesia, a new administration under President Joko Widodo is taking shape, a year after the elections. The team has taken a more nationalistic stance when dealing with international issues.


14.     The territorial disputes over the South China Sea continue to simmer. We want to see a peaceful, stable region so that Singapore and all our neighbours can continue to develop and thrive, and our people can continue to enjoy a safe and secure living environment.


15.     But we will face a more difficult regional environment, where we need to be prepared for domestic issues in our neighbouring countries manifesting themselves as bilateral issues or spilling over and affecting our security.


Preparing Ourselves for the Future


16.     These challenges that Singapore and our Home Team face require our Home Team leaders to adapt our approaches to be ready for the future.


17.     First, work more closely as one Home Team, and also with other agencies. Forge stronger partnerships with the community, and harness the ideas and energy of citizens in our efforts. Strengthen the trust and confidence of Singaporeans in the Home Team, which is such an important factor in our work.


18.     Second, constantly seek improvement and innovation. Be prepared to set aside old approaches where they no longer suit our needs. Think non-linearly to devise new solutions. Leverage new technology, new approaches, and new modes of operation, so that our officers can do their work better.


19.     This year was a milestone year for Singapore. As we mourned the passing of our founding Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew, and as we celebrated SG50, we saw how Singaporeans stood together, united as one people, proud of what we have accomplished as a country, and most importantly, determined to make Singapore even better for the future.


20.     The General Election results were better than expected. They reaffirmed the approach that the Government has been taking, and also the desire of Singaporeans for honest, able and stable government. In response, the Government has taken decisive steps to put in place a strong leadership team, not for just for the next 5 years, but for the next 10 to 15 years. If we prepare ourselves well now, we have every reason to have a well-founded confidence about Singapore's next 50 years.


21.     The Home Team too, must prepare itself well, and always be prepared to change for the better. But amidst all this change, some things must never change. Uphold the Home Team values of Honour and Unity, and always maintain the same camaraderie, courage and commitment to keep Singapore and Singaporeans safe and secure.


Working as One Home Team, led by Minister Shanmugam


22.     I am happy that the Ministry of Home Affairs is once again in Minister Shanmugam's safe hands. I am sure many of you join me in welcoming Minister Shanmugam back to the Home Team.  The two of us worked closely during my tenure in MHA – to make sure that MHA and MinLaw were well aligned. His two portfolios, Home Affairs and Law, have a natural synergy, because law, security, and order form an inseparable whole. More importantly, Minister Shanmugam is a firm advocate for the Home Team and our officers. His public and parliamentary record on this when he was Minister for Home Affairs speaks for itself. I know that you will give him as well as Senior Minister of State Desmond Lee and Parliamentary Secretary Amrin Amin your full support.


23.     Let me end by thanking all of you once more for your strong support and good counsel during my time as Minister for Home Affairs. It has been my honour and privilege to serve alongside you and your officers, and to stand together through thick and thin. I continue to take a keen interest in the people and work of the Home Team, as Coordinating Minister for National Security. Take care of yourselves and your officers.


24.     Thank you.