Executive Summary of the Ministry of Home Affairs’ Committee of Supply (COS) Debate 2015

Published: 06 March 2015

Robust laws, effective enforcement and strong community partnerships have helped the Home Team maintain a high level of safety and security. Looking ahead, terrorism, transnational crime and cybercrime, and domestic challenges such as our changing demographics, will continue to place greater demands on the Home Team.

2.     Over the past two and a half years, the Home Team has been reviewing our strategic long-term plans, together with our partner agencies and the Ministry of Finance. The aim was to map out the strategies to address challenges facing the Home Team over the next five to ten years.

3.     We will ensure that the Home Team is adequately resourced to implement these strategies and plans. Within the coming 5 year period, we will add 2,000 more officers, and MHA's expenditure will increase from the current 1.1% of nominal Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in FY2014 to around 1.3% of GDP. For FY2015, it will increase by 11.7% and reach 1.2% of GDP. With greater certainty and a higher level of funding, we can make long-term plans, develop our forces more systematically, build stronger operational capabilities as well as strengthen community partnerships.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean's Speech: Resourcing a Ready Home Team and Taking Community Partnerships to the Next Level, For a Safe and Secure Singapore

4.     DPM Teo's speech provided an overview of MHA's performance over the past year and the Ministry's key areas of focus in 2015 and beyond. He also spoke on key developments which make keeping Singapore safe and secure more challenging. These include terrorism and the growing threat of ISIS, transnational crime and cybercrime, and the changing domestic operating environment such as our ageing population.

5.     Terrorism is a global threat, which also impacts Singapore and our region. The Home Team will secure our borders, harden our infrastructure and maintain our capability to respond swiftly and effectively to any threats. We will continue to conduct exercises to hone our response, enhance our intelligence capabilities and work with international partners to identify and pre-empt terrorism threats.

6.     However, despite our best efforts, it is not possible to ensure that a terrorist attack will never happen in Singapore. Our society needs to be ready to withstand, and maintain social cohesion and harmony in its aftermath. Those who carry out such attacks seek to divide our society and strike fear in innocent people. If an incident were to occur, we must stand united as a community and condemn the violent acts of these particular individuals. Such extreme views do not reflect the beliefs of the wider community, and indeed are rejected by them. As Singaporeans, we must continue to build on what we have in common, rather than accentuate our differences. We must also carry on with our daily lives, reach out to each other, and not allow fear to paralyse our society.

7.     The key approaches to the challenges faced by the Home Team are making full use of the potential of our Home Team officers, significantly stepping up our investments to leverage on systems and technology, and taking community partnerships to the next level. Over the last 10 years, manpower in the Home Team has grown from about 19,300 to 24,700, or more than 5000 officers over 10 years. We will continue to grow our manpower judiciously and moderately. Over the next 5 years, we will add another 2,000 officers to the Home Team to cope with increasing traveller volumes, boost frontline policing and emergency medical services, and improve response to public order incidents and fires. However there are natural limits to how much we can grow the Home Team, given the smaller cohorts of young Singaporeans entering the workforce. We will partially address this by re-employing more of our officers. We will also continue to provide opportunities for our Home Team officers to upgrade their capabilities, and provide more comprehensive training and meaningful deployment for our NS personnel.

8.     Second, we will significantly step up our investments to leverage systems and technology as force multipliers. We expect to increase our development expenditure gradually from about 8% of our expenditure in the past five years to about 20% over the next five years. For example, both the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) and the Police have brought their new command and control systems into service in end-2013 and November 2014 respectively. To further improve immigration clearance and border security, the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) will conduct a trial at Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal in April 2015 to capture the fingerprints of all arriving persons. The fingerprints are used to verify the travellers' identity before he is allowed entry into Singapore, and will facilitate automated self-clearance during his departure.

9.     The community plays a major role in keeping Singapore safe and secure. The Home Team intends to build on this strong foundation of community involvement, and take our community partnerships to the next level. We will better organise, facilitate and support these community efforts through programmes and platforms including those that encourage crowdsourcing. Technology can help us to do so, in a sustainable and scalable manner. We will also invest resources to make it easier for community responders to help.

2nd Minister S Iswaran's Speech: Building Capabilities for a Safe and Secure Singapore

10.     2nd Minister Iswaran's speech outlined the Home Team's strategies to keep Singapore safe and secure – strengthening frontline policing capabilities, leveraging technology and strengthening community partnerships.

11.     2nd Minister Iswaran gave a status update on the implementation of the Community Policing System (COPS), which was introduced in 2012 to enhance frontline crime-fighting capabilities.

12.     On technology, 2nd Minister Iswaran said that the Police had harnessed various technological initiatives to strengthen our crime-fighting capabilities. These include Police Cameras (i.e. PolCams) at HDB blocks, Body-Worn Cameras and the In-Vehicle Video Recording System. We are also building our expertise and capabilities to deal with cybercrime. The Police will establish a new Cybercrime Command within the Criminal Investigation Department specialising in cyber-investigations and digital forensics. The Police will also work with INTERPOL's new Digital Crime Centre, located in Singapore, to develop digital forensics and new solutions to tackle cybercrime.

13.     To take community partnerships to the next level, we need to create new platforms and enabling technologies to make it easier for Singaporeans, especially a younger generation who are tech savvy, to come forward to work with and help the Home Team. These include setting up online portals such as CrimeStopper and the Traffic Police's "E-Feedback on Road Users" to allow members of public to provide information on criminal activities and traffic violations to the Police over the Internet.

Senior Minister of State Masagos Zulkifli's Speech: Standing Firm against Drugs

14.     SMS Masagos' speech focused on the overall drug situation in Singapore and the strategies to deal with the challenges, our current road traffic situation, and the Home Team's efforts in community partnerships.

15.     The Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) maintained its enforcement tempo in 2014, dismantling 21 drug syndicates and seizing about $8 million worth of drugs. However there are two worrying trends on the demand-side – the proportion of younger drug abusers has increased compared to five years ago, and we are arresting more cannabis abusers, many of whom are young people aged below 30. Youths may have the impression that cannabis is a "soft drug". This is not true. Cannabis is addictive and harmful. It is especially harmful to young people, and has been linked to impairments in brain development, psychomotor skills, and even cognitive decline with a drop in IQ. It is important for Singapore to maintain its zero-tolerance approach against drugs. SMS Masagos is co-chairing the Task Force on Youths and Drugs with Minister of State (Education) Ms Sim Ann, to tackle the youth drug abuse problem and the Task Force will release their findings and recommendations later this year.

16.     We have seen improvements in our road traffic situation and our road fatality rate has decreased by more than 50% over the past two decades. However, more can be done to improve road safety. The Traffic Police (TP) will be installing 30 more digital red light cameras by September 2015, adding to the 120 cameras already installed. TP will also install 20 new digital speed enforcement cameras at 11 locations by end-2015 and step up enforcement against speeding. In the coming months, TP will launch a new road safety campaign to encourage all road users to "Use Your RoadSense". This campaign aims to encourage all road users, including motorists, cyclists and pedestrians to be more patient and careful while on the road.

17.     SMS Masagos also reiterated the need for strong community partnerships and how community partnerships can help transform our approach towards emergency response. An example is SCDF's "Save a Life" initiative. This programme will comprise three parts. First, in partnership with MOH, we will grow the pool of community responders and train volunteers to administer CPR and operate AEDs. Second, we will make AEDs more accessible at HDB blocks. Third, SCDF has developed a new myResponder App that alerts users to cardiac arrest cases nearby and locates the nearest AEDs. Another initiative is the Neighbourhood Active Responder Programme (NEAR). NEAR volunteers will be trained to respond to residential fire incidents and medical cases requiring first aid treatment, including cardiac arrest cases.