Published: 24 May 2023
Home Team (HT) Colleagues
Ladies and Gentlemen
1. First, congratulations to all our HT colleagues getting promoted. Thank you for your hard work and contributions over the years.
2. Because of your work, and the work of other HT officers, the HT, as a whole, has continued to do well. And Singaporeans appreciate that.
3. The latest Home Team Public Perception Survey, conducted in late last year, shows Singaporeans’ continued very high levels of trust in the HT. 95.1% said that they personally trusted the HT which is a 3%-point increase from the already very high results in 2021. And 93.5% said they had confidence in the HT’s ability to keep Singapore safe and secure. This is the highest recorded since the survey started in 2016.
Upholding Trust in the Home Team
4. At last year’s promotion ceremony, I spoke about the two major components that make up trust. First, “Public Trust”, which includes trust in the Government, and in our public institutions, like the HT. Second, “Internal Trust” – whether our employees trust the organisation and trust each other.
5. A few weeks ago, at the Police Workplan Seminar, I also spoke about the five lessons on what we should do, and we should avoid by looking around the world, to continue to keep a high level of trust in the Police force:
(a) Police should not be politicised;
(b) Good, clear laws – which help to reduce violence in society. And I made specific reference to our gun controls laws;
(c) Not let Police get caught within societal faultlines;
(d) Ensure good conditions of service, including remuneration, and the willingness to defend our officers publicly when they are attacked unfairly; and
(e) At the same time, dealing firmly and clearly with wrongdoing within service when it happens.
6. Today, I will speak further on three factors, not specific or restricted to the Police. But it applies to the entire HT.
7. First, having professional officers, who undergo robust and good training, and who have strong values.
8. Second, being open and forward with the public, in our communications.
9. And three, ensuring that our internal processes are rigorous to deal with any wrongdoing. While at the same time, defending our officers when they are unfairly attacked.
10. On the first point of professionalism, the HT, as a whole, has a standard that our officers must be professional, competent but they also must have strong values to do the right thing. And always keep the interests of Singaporeans and Singapore at the heart of what they do.
11. All new uniformed officers go through intense training, like the Police’s Senior Officer Basic Course and SCDF’s Rota Commander Course, before they are deployed.
12. Throughout their career, officers also go through regular in-service training, functional courses, milestone leadership programmes – all of which to support their professional growth.
13. And we invest heavily in latest training methods and facilities, like simulators, simulation training, extended reality training, full scale physical mock-ups of disaster scenes, places where we might face security incidents, and many others in other situations. For example, SCDF’s newly-opened EXCEL facility, and the Next Generation Simulation System that HTA is developing.
14. And beyond that, we are not just an organisation that works professionally. When we talk about values, our people must know that we must do things right. Uphold the HT values of Honour & Unity. Do our duties without fear or favour and have the highest standards of integrity.
Open and Forward Comms
15. Second, how the public views the HT is important. We have to regularly tell people what we do, and be open about sharing stories of our work and our officers.
16. HT agencies have been letting the media experience first-hand what goes on during Police training, and showing the work that officers do through online videos, like a day in the life of an SCDF lifesaver, and at the checkpoints with ICA officers.
17. Agencies have generally become more open, they are allowing greater access into our facilities and sharing operational information for documentaries and reports, like CNA's documentaries “Inside Maximum Security” and “Beyond Maximum Security”. Am told that “Inside Maximum Security” has more than 9 million views on YouTube. And the recent news article of a CNB officer who got injured – with deep lacerations – he was trying to prevent a drug abuser’s fall from the 9th floor during an operation.
18. That approach allows the public to put a face and a story to HT officers, and it allows us to relate better to the work that you do, and it helps to dispel myths and misconceptions, and really get a better understanding of the difficult work, the difficult environment and the difficult circumstances that our officers face to keep Singapore safe and secure.
High Standards, Rigorous Internal Processes
19. Third, we are charged with upholding the law. We must then hold ourselves to even higher standards of conduct.
20. We must have robust and rigorous internal processes and structures to ensure that.
21. We don’t – and must not – hesitate to take errant officers to task, so that the good work of the thousands of other officers is not tarnished.
22. I spoke at the Police Workplan Seminar about our strict internal processes to take action against potentially errant officers. If an officer is found guilty of breaking the law, the courts take into account the Police officer’s duty to uphold the law. So, the punishment can be heavier.
23. But, at the same time, I also spoke about the importance of standing up for officers, quicky, firmly, debunking falsehoods when they are attacked unfairly.
Attempts to Undermine Trust in the HT
24. So we are in a good situation now, but there have been deliberate attempts by some groups to chip away at this trust.
25. For example, in May 2021, Police officers were accused of bullying an elderly woman who was not wearing a mask in Yishun.
26. An Instagram user posted a story claiming that police officers had “clustered” around a woman who was not wearing a mask, and that officers continued to “tell her off” even after she had put her mask on.
27. The Police clarified. These allegations were untrue. The officers were, in fact, helping the woman, who has dementia. They were helping her find her way home, and the officers used their own money to buy her food as well.
28. But our clarifications were ignored. The Online Citizen (TOC) went on to post a YouTube video making similar false allegations.
29. They questioned the officer’s tone of voice when speaking to the woman.
30. They featured an interview with the woman in which the woman claimed that the officers did not buy her food. It was later confirmed that she mis-remembered. She has dementia. So TOC knowing that, exploited her condition for their own purposes.
31. We then came out to debunk these allegations. We released the body-worn camera footage, which we don’t normally do.
32. The POFMA office issued a correction direction to TOC in May 2021.
33. TOC’s subsequent application to the High Court to cancel this correction direction was thrown out. The Court agreed that TOC’s video was a falsehood.
34. However, earlier this month, Terry Xu and The Online Citizen Asia, or TOCA, again tried to resurface and rehash the same false allegations on the incident.
35. This is what malicious and exploitative actors do, and we have to call them out each and every time.
36. Another example – in recent years, anti-death penalty activists, a small number, have published articles that twisted facts out of context, to undermine confidence in CNB, our drug laws, and the Singapore criminal justice system.
37. Drug trafficker Tangaraju Suppiah was convicted in 2018. He was coordinating the trafficking of more than 1kg of cannabis – which is more than double the capital threshold.
38. The Transformative Justice Collective (TJC) published a Facebook post saying that there was no due process, there was no fairness, questioned the investigations. And said Tangaraju had never touched the drugs.
39. Really, that shows their duplicity. In the past, they criticised us on the basis that we catch so-called “low-level traffickers”, who were getting the drugs, and we did not catch the higher level traffickers who were directing. But here, when there is someone coordinating – he is a higher level trafficker. And when we catch a higher level trafficker, they say he never touched the drugs. So this is what I mean by duplicitous.
40. British billionaire Sir Richard Branson then waded in, though I am not sure how much he followed the actual trial in our courts.
41. Mr Branson said that Tangaraju’s conviction did not meet the standards for criminal conviction, and that “Singapore may be about to kill an innocent man”.
42. MHA then had to issue a statement to lay out the facts.
43. There was due process, he was represented by legal counsel throughout the court process.
44. He was tried in the High Court. They heard all the evidence, including his defence, found that the case was proven beyond reasonable doubt.
45. He appealed to the Court of Appeal which upheld the conviction.
46. TJC and some of these activists were peddling lies.
47. We need to work very hard to preserve the public’s trust in the HT, against malicious actors who will use every opportunity to cast falsehoods and aspersions against the HT and our officers.
48. We will need to call out their lies, defend our actions not just locally, but also at international fora.
49. It is critical for us to do so, especially in today’s environment where social media, generative AI and deep fakes can be easily exploited.
50. If we don’t do so, progressively, misperceptions can take root, which might eventually lead the public to view the HT negatively, and our officers with suspicion. Undermining the high trust that we have with the public.
51. Despite all the challenges, we are in an extremely good position today.
52. My heartiest congratulations to the 351 HT officers both civilians and uniformed officers who will be receiving your promotion letters today.
53. Thank you for your service in keeping Singapore and Singaporeans safe. Thank you very much.