Home Team National Day Observance Ceremony 2021 – Speech by Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law

Published: 30 July 2021

SM Teo,

My Ministerial colleagues,

2M Josephine,

MOSes Faishal & Desmond,

And Home Team Colleagues, Volunteers, Friends & Partners,

I. Introduction

1.   We come together to celebrate 56 years of independence, amidst the crisis of a generation.

2.   It has been a challenging year for most of us. Last year – the foreign worker dorm outbreak. This year – the more contagious Delta variant, community clusters. There have been many disruptions to our daily lives – circuit breakers, heightened restrictions, safe distancing, limits, measures for dining and social gatherings.

3.   Singaporeans, all of us, have had to adapt, make sacrifices, for the good of the wider community.

4.   And, through it all, the majority of our people have remained stoic, have rallied together.

5.   The sacrifice has meant that our people, in particular, our senior citizens, have been better protected. We have one of the lowest COVID-19 mortality rates in the world.

6.   Meanwhile, economic and social activities continue, though reduced.

7.   But, we are still fighting Covid-19. We may see newer strains of the virus, which could be more infectious.

8.   The answer, really, is vaccination. It is all important, together with necessary, safe measures.

9.   In the Home Team, it is good that as of end [June] 2021, about 96% of medically eligible officers have taken at least one dose of the vaccine, or said they are willing to do so, and we need to push on with that.

II. A Safe Singapore, a Trusted Home Team

10.   Let me now turn to safety and security issues.

11.   Singapore topped the Gallup 2020 Global Law and Order Index for the 7th year in a row.

12.   And, a recent IPS study showed public confidence in state and civil institutions has increased over the past eight years.

13.   SPF saw an increase in public confidence. 87% of respondents have confidence in the SPF, up from about 79% in 2012.

14.   This result is the highest globally, across other Police forces.

15.   Internally, our Employee Engagement Survey results, across Home Team Departments, show consistent improvement over the last few years.

16.   Average scores for engagement across Home Team agencies has increased from about 70% in 2018, to 79% in 2019 to 82% last year.

17.   In particular, scores on meaningfulness of work, teamwork, leadership care for officers, they have all improved significantly.

18.   Increase in engagement levels leads also to positive impact on the performance of officers, and also organisational outcomes. And that in turn translates to more job satisfaction, greater commitment in discharging their duties.

19.   Highly engaged officers in turn inspire the public’s confidence and contribute to  higher public trust in the Home Team.

20.   While we see many positives, we also see a small group consistently attempting to delegitimise the Home Team, in particular, the Police. They attack institutions because they think therefore, they undermine the Government.

21.   Many will know, one recent example, the false allegations, that Police officers bullied an elderly lady who had dementia.

22.   TOC said officers clustered around her. They bullied her because she didn’t have her mask on. And that the officers continued to bully her even after she had put her mask on.

23.   The truth, as many of us know – The old lady appeared to be lost. Our officers helped her find her way home, bought her food, because they were concerned that she might be hungry.

24.   We had to call out the allegations. We released body-worn camera footage, that showed that the claims were malicious, and baseless.

25.   POFMA orders were issued against TOC and others.

26.   When our officers’ integrity is called into question, and the allegations are false, we will defend our officers.

27.   Integrity and honesty are fundamental to the civil service. We cannot, and we will not let false allegations go unrebutted.

III. Staying Resolute to the Home Team's Mission

28.   Over the past year, the Home Team has had to adapt, carry on with its mission of keeping Singapore safe and secure.

29.   ICA, for example, implemented border control measures very quickly, took on the task of enforcing the Stay Home Notice regime, set up the Safe Travel Office, to provide a single touchpoint for travel issues, matters.

30.   SCDF, their emergency responders – If you look at it, from January 2020 until now, July 2021, they have conveyed more than 7,000 suspected Covid-19 patients, [more than] 2,000 confirmed Covid-19 patients to hospitals.

31.   The Police Force has had to manage a very substantial growth in cybercrime, online scams, which seem to have been exacerbated by COVID-19. In 2020, more than 15,000 cases of scams were reported, which is a 65% increase from 2019.

32.   Drug syndicates have also changed their operating approach. They have adopted new methods. For example, importing drugs through drones, fruits, and so on. And CNB has had to react to these tactics.

33.   The global drug situation continues to worsen, continues to be worrying. In Singapore, we maintain a zero-tolerance stance towards drugs, and deal with narratives that suggest that drugs are not dangerous.

34.   One example is CNB’s recent short film “Down the Rabbit Hole”. It reminds viewers that drug dealers are in it for profits, at the expense of individuals, families, and society.

35.   Turning to Corrections – SPS and YRSG have reported a two-year recidivism of 22.1% this year, which is the lowest in decades. Efforts on rehab and reintegration have been stepped up.

36.   And at MHQ, the HCEG, chaired by PS Pang, has been working round the clock, non-stop, for well over a year, to support the Multi-Ministry Task Force on COVID-19. It has been doing incredible work, while at the same time, carrying the load of a heavy Ministry which apart from day to day functions, has also had to deal with high profile incidents, with too regular a frequency.

37.   I thank our officers’ families for their support behind the scenes, to keep our officers going.

IV. Leveraging Technology to Enhance Capabilities

38.   I have spoken on previous occasions, about our efforts to use tech.

39.   Let me highlight some major projects, which will come through this year.

40.   For ICA, digital and contactless solutions will become the new normal.

41.   Today, travellers who are eligible can scan their iris and facial biometrics, for immigration clearance. This is more secure than screening their fingerprints alone, and contactless – more hygienic, more convenient.

42.   More will be able to do so progressively, from this year onwards.

43.   Physical documents will be replaced with digital ones, progressively, starting with birth and death certificates, later this year. That means fewer physical visits to ICA, greater convenience for the public.

44.   SCDF is exploring the use of artificial intelligence, to enhance their operational capabilities. For example, video analytics will be used to classify types of fires, recommend the most appropriate appliance to dispatch, and that will accelerate sense-making, decision-making.

45.   SPF is in the midst of progressively rolling out the next-gen Fast Response Cars (FRC) to frontline officers. These next-gen FRCs will integrate technology and functional design, aimed at improving operational effectiveness and safety. For example, the In-Vehicle Video Recording System will help officers in sense-making.

46.   SPF’s training will also get a technological boost, to bring about greater realism and effectiveness. For example, the new Live Instrumentation Training System, we call it “Lits”, will be on trial. That will help improve officers’ tactical training, using laser analytics.

47.   CNB has digitised their case management and investigation system. It allows CNB officers to access and update case information while on the move, for swifter, more effective responses.

48.   SPS has also made good progress. The Selarang Park Complex was opened earlier this year. The Complex is high-tech. It leverages facial recognition technology for automated muster checking, uses video analytics to detect anomalies in inmate behavior.

49.   For learning and rehab, inmates are given mobile tablets, with guiding resources, to allow them to take greater ownership. Inmates are also taught digital literacy skills, together with YRSG.

V. Conclusion: A Hopeful Tomorrow

50.   It has been a challenging year and more.

51.   As we celebrate National Day, we can say to ourselves. We have come this far because of the unity and resilience of our people.

52.   We also recognise the exemplary contributions of our officers, volunteers, partners, and members of public who worked with us.

53.   They have stepped forward to be counted, when it mattered. They exemplify a spirit of unity – knowing that together, we can achieve more.

54.   Time and again, we have overcome adversities, as one People, one Singapore.

55.   We did it before, and we will do it again.

56.   We shall emerge from COVID-19 – stronger, closer, hopefully wiser, and together.

57.   Thank you, and Happy National Day!