MHA Addendum to President’s Address by Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law

Published: 18 January 2016

1.     Safety and security are cornerstones of Singapore's stability and economic development. To keep Singapore safe and secure, the Home Team will maintain a high level of operational excellence and preparedness. We will also step up efforts to deal with new and growing challenges. 


Safety and Security Challenges


2.     At the global level, terrorism, cybercrime and transnational crime continue to pose serious threats to our safety and security. The ongoing conflict in Syria and Iraq and the rise of ISIS have heightened the global terrorism threat. The recent attacks in Paris and elsewhere demonstrate that the global threat of violent extremism is real and present. In our region, the situation has become more serious. ISIS has attracted many foreign fighters to join its fight in Syria and Iraq. Regional authorities estimate that as many as 1,000 Southeast Asians have travelled to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS. When these people return, they will have the capacity to do harm, given their combat experience and networks. In Singapore, we have had to detain a small number of radicalised Singaporeans who were planning to stage "lone-wolf" attacks in Singapore.


3.     Transnational crime and cybercrime will also pose a challenge. The movement of people and goods across countries has made crime increasingly cross-border in nature. Syndicates and individuals are exploiting the speed, convenience and anonymity of the Internet to commit or enable crimes such as theft and fraud. Our law enforcement agencies have detected the work of transnational syndicates behind serious criminal offences such as drug trafficking and illegal bookmaking. With our high Internet and mobile penetration rates, cybercrime has also been on the rise, which is driving up overall crime rates.    


4.     These security and crime trends are taking place amid attempts to change global norms, and Singapore's demographic shifts. An example is drug control policy. There are attempts by some countries to decriminalise drug consumption and possession, as well as to adopt practices such as drug-substitution therapies and needle-exchange programmes for intravenous drug-users. For countries where drug consumption rates are high and out of control, they believe that such approaches will reduce the collateral harm of drug abuse. On the domestic front, Singapore's population will age and become more diverse. Traveller and cargo volumes at our checkpoints will increase, due to upcoming developments such as Changi Airport Terminal 4. While our work will grow in load and complexity, there is a limit to how much we can grow the size of the Home Team, given Singapore's manpower constraints. We will have to develop new operating models and concepts, and make better use of technology.


Areas of Focus


5.     Over the next term of Government, the Ministry of Home Affairs will focus on four key areas.


Step up Security Responses and Strengthen Resilience against Terrorism


6.     First, we have to further step up our security responses to the evolving terror threat. This will be on several fronts. The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority ("ICA") will strengthen border security capabilities to bolster our first line of defence. Inland, the Singapore Police Force ("SPF") will complete the installation of police cameras at all HDB blocks and multi-storey carparks in 2016. SPF will consider the feasibility of installing more police cameras in our HDB estates (including HDB blocks), as well as other public areas, to enhance our ability to prevent, deter and detect criminal and terrorist threats. 


7.     SPF will work with commercial and private establishments to enhance their security measures. We will also engage our community partners and grassroots organisations on programmes to strengthen community vigilance, community cohesion and community resilience. Terrorists aim to strike fear and divide society. We will build upon the Community Engagement Programme to ensure that our communities remain vigilant against such threats and stay united should an attack take place. We will conduct regular and realistic exercises to develop local communities to be better-prepared and resilient in the event of crises.


Develop New Operating Models

8.     Second, the Home Team will review the way it operates and develop new operating models, to cope with increasing demands amid manpower constraints. We will adopt a data-driven, tiered and differentiated frontline response model to serve the public better. For example, emergency ambulance calls are increasing at a rate of 5 percent a year. It will not be realistic for the Singapore Civil Defence Force ("SCDF") to continually expand its ambulance fleet and personnel at the same rate. SCDF will review how it can better tier its emergency ambulance response – in terms of speed of response and manpower deployed – based on the severity of the cases. Data analytics is a crucial enabler for such a response model. It allows us to analyse the data, discern patterns, and deploy our resources dynamically to where they are most needed.


Deepen Community Engagement and International Partnerships


9.     Third, we will adopt a holistic approach towards safety and security issues that covers not only intervention, but also upstream measures. We will review our laws to keep them relevant and effective against emerging threats. We will also scale up our public education efforts. For example, the Central Narcotics Bureau ("CNB") is expanding its outreach to parents to get them involved in keeping their children away from drugs. SPF will also be stepping up its engagement efforts to tackle the rising incidence of cybercrime.


10.     Community engagement is a key plank of such an approach. We have been working closely with local communities, through initiatives such as SPF's Citizens-on-Patrol and SCDF's Save-a-Life. In the coming years, we will take community partnerships to a higher level. SPF will reach out to millions of mobile device users for real-time crime-reporting and leads, through extending its crowd-sourcing reach to mobile platforms.


11.     We will deepen our cooperation and partnerships with international organisations such as INTERPOL, ASEAN and the UN. This is critical, given the transnational nature of crime and security threats. To combat terrorism, we will share intelligence, as well as support international initiatives to counter radicalisation and address the root causes of extremism. To combat the scourge of drugs, we will work with like-minded countries to affirm a zero-tolerance stance to prevent harm from drug abuse and stand firm against pressures to decriminalise and legitimise drug consumption. To address emerging threats more effectively, we are actively exploring new partnerships. For example, we will tap the expertise of organisations such as INTERPOL to develop our horizon scanning capabilities. This will allow us to better detect emerging trends that have security implications, before their effects are manifest. To combat cybercrime, we will work with INTERPOL and regional counterparts to set up information-sharing platforms.


Strengthen Home Team


12.     Fourth, we will build a stronger and more integrated Home Team. This will help us better deal with issues that span different Home Team Departments. We will more holistically integrate intelligence efforts, investigations and operations across Home Team Departments. 


13.     Our Home Team officers are at the heart of everything we do. We will step up efforts to recruit, develop and retain capable and committed people. Degree and non-degree holders will be placed on a single scheme of service within each Home Team Department. We will also develop specialist career tracks to build officers with deep expertise in specialist domains. We will partner leading institutions such as local universities, business schools and corporate universities to deliver high-quality training and develop Home Team officers to their fullest potential.   


14.     Our transformation plans for Home Team NS will see more NSFs and NSmen assume leadership and specialist positions. By better leveraging their capabilities, we hope to make their NS experience more challenging, meaningful and satisfying.




15.     The Home Team will maintain a high level of operational excellence and preparedness, even as we embark on our long-term transformation efforts. We will strengthen community resilience, and ensure that our society remains cohesive and united. We treasure the trust and confidence that Singaporeans have placed in us. Together, with the community, we will keep Singapore safe and secure.


Managing Security Threats
Community Engagement