Published: 18 May 2022
Excellency Marc Abensour, Ambassador of France to Singapore,
Ladies and gentlemen,
1. A very good morning, and welcome to Milipol Asia-Pacific 2022.
2. Milipol Asia-Pacific is an important conference and exhibition that brings security practitioners, from both the public and private sectors, to discuss the security challenges facing the world today.
3. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this event was not held in 2020 and 2021. And I am glad we can meet in person this year.
4. I would like to start by affirming the strong relationship between Singapore and France. In particular, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has been working closely with the French Ministry of Interior (MOI) on various areas of security cooperation, and the sharing of expertise. Even amidst the pandemic, we maintained strong cooperation. In November last year, both Ministries held a workshop on fostering social cohesion and countering radicalisation.
5. Later this morning, our two Ministries will be signing a new term of the Strategic Cooperation Plan, for another three years. The Strategic Cooperation Plan, first signed in 2016, and last renewed in 2019, has allowed MHA and French counterparts to deepen the collaborations in areas such as counterterrorism and civil defence. This renewal will expand our scope of cooperation and see deeper security partnership between the two Ministries.
6. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the French Government and Ambassador Abensour for their continued support and cooperation.
Security Threats and Challenges
7. The security threats and challenges facing the world are complex and evolving. Besides traditional threats, criminal activities have also been perpetrated over and through the digital world. There is now an even greater need for coordinated action across countries and agencies. They must continue to work together so that we can not only understand what is happening, but most importantly, we can continue to keep our countries, regions, and our people safe and secure.
8. Today, I will speak on two such challenges – terrorism and transnational scams.
9. Terrorism is a transnational threat that has evolved over the years. Today, terrorist groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda have proven resilient and adaptable, despite their leadership losses and setbacks in recent years. At the same time, far-right extremism has emerged as a growing threat, with their supporters reportedly more organised and capable of mounting attacks.
10. No country is immune – not even Singapore. In December 2020, we detained a 16-year-old for planning to conduct attacks against Muslims at two mosques in Singapore, on the anniversary of the March 2019 attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand. He was inspired by far-right extremist ideology, had a strong antipathy towards Islam, and a fascination with violence.
11. But domestic efforts alone will not be sufficient. Law enforcement agencies around the world must continue to work together to prevent, detect, and disrupt terrorist groups and individuals from carrying out acts of terror. We must also continue to share our experiences with one another and with other stakeholders, so that collectively, we become more effective in our fight against terrorism.
12. Online radicalisation is one of the biggest security threats faced by all countries today. To mitigate this threat, we work closely with community partners and the industry to prevent radical ideologies from taking root in our society, especially through online platforms. For individuals who have been radicalised, we work with community partners to rehabilitate them. In fact, we have done reasonably well, and very well I would say, in this area. We work closely with our stakeholders, and after many years of coming together, they have become a part of our ecosystem. For those who have been very actively engaged with us, they own the space and help us to protect Singapore, and help to contribute to the safety of the region as well. And these are community leaders who work and believe that they are responsible, and they have a role to play in keeping Singapore safe and secure.
13. Next, scams. Scams continue to be a challenge for law enforcement agencies, including in Singapore. Scams have been on the rise in recent years. In 2021, about 24,000 cases of scams were reported in Singapore – a 53% increase from 2020. Most scams are perpetrated across national boundaries by crime syndicates. They are well-resourced and adept at using technology to cover their tracks. And criminal proceeds are promptly transferred across borders, making recovery of losses very difficult.
14. To address this challenge, we have been working closely with industry partners such as banks and telecommunication companies to protect our people from scams. To mitigate victims’ losses, we work closely with banks to promptly freeze bank accounts suspected to be involved in scams. We also work with telecommunication companies to block spoofed calls made by overseas scammers. So today, for Singaporeans, if we see certain numbers, we ignore such numbers. This guidance came from our agencies and many Singaporeans appreciate this effort.
15. As I mentioned, most scams are committed by transnational crime syndicates. No country can win this fight alone. Law enforcement agencies need to work together to detect and disrupt these syndicates, so that collectively, we are more effective in protecting our people from scams.
International Cooperation and Public-Private Partnerships
16. With the transnational nature of the security challenges in our increasingly interconnected world, countries need to continue working closely and sharing expertise with one another. We must also invest in strong public-private partnerships to implement technology solutions that build up our capabilities to address these challenges.
17. In this context, Milipol Asia-Pacific brings together Government officials, security practitioners, international experts, and leaders from the private sector, to learn and collaborate with one another.
18. I wish everyone a fruitful conference. And to our guests from overseas, I wish that you will enjoy your time in Singapore.
19. On that note, thank you for having me and have a fruitful session.