Home Team Promotion Ceremony 2019 - Speech by Mrs Josephine Teo, Minister for Manpower and Second Minister for Home Affairs

Published: 22 May 2019

Home Team Colleagues,


Distinguished Guests,




  1. Good evening. This year, more than 6,2001 Home Team officers are being promoted. Congratulations to all the promotees, and thank you for your dedication to safeguarding Singapore.


  2. In the past year, there were many achievements we can be proud of. The Home Team has maintained a high standard of operational excellence, managed the security of major events under the international spotlight, enhanced many important pieces of legislation and policies, strengthened partnerships with the community, and continued to build up our capabilities and expertise.


  3. Minister Shanmugam is not able to join us this evening, but I think I can say with confidence that we are both most encouraged by the growing strength of leadership and workplace culture.


  4. There is no question in our minds - these have been key enablers.Our people, each one on your own, working as teams and across departments, these make the biggest difference.


  5. From the 2018 Employee Engagement Survey, we get an overall sensing. Our officers in Home Team Departments are engaged, and find their work meaningful.


  6. Collectively, engagement within the Home Team is above the Public Sector average. In particular, two Departments stood out for their engagement efforts, and were among the top 15% of 91 agencies that participated in the survey. More importantly, our overall results have improved significantly from the previous survey in 2016.


  7. One area we must continue to emphasise is the culture of thinking and working as one Home Team. We have taken several big steps to build this up further. For example, we are setting up the Home Team Operations Centre, which will act as the 24/7 nerve centre for all Home Team operations. The Ministry of Home Affairs Headquarters divisions and Home Team Departments are also working together to enhance our ability to detect and track Persons-of-Interest nationwide, such as terrorists and criminals on the run. We are developing the MHA Data Lake, which will allow us to organise and retrieve data from across the Home Team.


  8. These efforts help to shape our culture. Our officers can themselves feel the difference, as the same engagement survey shows.


    The Home Team Leadership


  9. Everyone, up and down the ranks, has worked very hard. To all our Home Team leaders, thank you for shouldering tremendous responsibility, upholding high standards of performance, and importantly, guiding and looking after our men and women.


  10. One of the burdens of leadership is having to make difficult policy and operational decisions. Last year, we cancelled Blu Jaz Café’s Public Entertainment Licence. This was due to repeated and egregious lapses in safety, amongst other offences. The decision drew the ire of the arts community, but our reasons were sound, so we held our ground. Their repeated lapses were a risk to public safety. We communicated our reasons to the public, leading to an increase in their support of our decision.


  11. As leaders, we need to be clear on our principles. Doing the right thing will not always be popular. When there is unhappiness on the ground, we double our efforts to manage it.


  12. Fortunately for us in Singapore, our people respond to reason provided these are communicated clearly. The real challenge is how to be heard above the din and sweeping one-liners of social media, so that the majority will understand the Government’s position.


  13. Sometimes, the timing of policy change is also important. We must be prepared to adjust at the margins, in order to secure the bigger goal.


  14. Even with the best of efforts, we may get it wrong. We have to accept the fact. If our initial call was not the best, we must have the courage to adjust expeditiously. Earlier this year, we cancelled Watain’s concert. Society reacted in a way that we had not anticipated in our original assessment. We took into account the reactions and the longer term implications, and decided to change our position.


  15. As colleagues, standing with one another is also critical. When things go wrong, we must avoid being too quick to jump to admonish and punish. Instead, we must recognise the inherent difficulty in making judgement calls when the picture is fast-evolving and unclear, and all we have are hours or even minutes, and not days and weeks. It is more important that we acknowledge failings and learn lessons for the future.


  16. Increasingly, the Home Team will also need strong leadership to push boundaries and transform for the future.


  17. We are in the implementation phase of Home Team Transformation, so it is timely for us to recap its five key directions, and what we must do as leaders.


  18. First, work together as one Home Team. Develop joint approaches on issues, and make full use of expertise across Departments.


  19. Second, optimise resources for maximum impact. Demands on us are growing faster than our resources, so we must think about how to work smarter. We will need to use data to understand where the needs are, and deploy our resources accordingly. We may sometimes have to drop or do less for things which don’t matter as much anymore.


  20. Third, use technology as a force multiplier. Technology presents many opportunities to achieve more with less manpower resources.


  21. Fourth, strengthen partnerships and empower the community. We must recognise that the Home Team can only do so much on our own. By working together with our partners and the community, much stronger outcomes can be achieved.


  22. Finally, and perhaps most importantly of all, we must develop next-generation officers. It is our leadership responsibility to develop our officers. Upskill them, so that they can be more effective in whichever role they are deployed in.


    Supporting the Leadership Journey


  24. It goes without saying that leadership is a heavy responsibility. MHA knows this and will not leave it to chance. Instead, we will support your development in a systematic, intentional way.


  25. The Home Team Centre for Leadership will be launching a new Home Team leadership model. This will help you to better understand the expectations of being a leader. The model also has a list of red flags – that is, what not to do as a leader.


  26. The model will be accompanied by a leadership development roadmap. We already have many initiatives in place, so the roadmap is really intended to help you understand how all the different initiatives come together to support your development. How it can be made real and tangible for yourself.


  27. With training, as well as support from the Home Team leadership development community, I am confident that each of you will be able to excel as leaders. Your people are counting on it.




  29. To all promoted officers, congratulations once again. Thank you also to the families of our officers. Whether you are here or back home, we want to extend our appreciation to all and want to say how grateful we are for your understanding towards our officers. Sometimes they have irregular schedules, sometimes they are being called to exigencies of duty that were not anticipated. It goes without saying that none of these would have been possible without your support and your great understanding.
  30. So on that note, I would like to wish everyone a pleasant evening, and please do enjoy yourselves. Thank you.

[1] 6,235 officers will be promoted in 2019, comprising 4,082 regular officers from across Home Team Departments and Statutory Boards, 2,153 ORNSmen from SPF and SCDF, and 107 members of the Volunteer Special Constabulary and Civil Defence Auxiliary Unit.