Published: 17 January 2023
Home Team Colleagues,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. Today, we recognise the contributions of officers and Home Team partners who will be receiving awards for their operational excellence, outstanding service, and innovation.
2. Our Home Team has been able to fulfil its mission year after year to keep Singapore and Singaporeans safe, in large part, because of the high standards that our officers – all of you – uphold.
3. Many of you might be aware of a recent survey by YouGov, released a few days ago. 57% of Singapore Citizens, or nearly six in 10, said they were happy with the way things are in Singapore. That is a very good number, because usually it is about 30 or 40 per cent. It is a good percentage in any country.
4. When you drill down to the details, the highest in the index was on law and order. 77% of Singaporeans were happy with the Government’s performance – nearly eight in 10. The second highest was public health – 69% were happy. I think it is an indication of how people feel about COVID-19, and the very good work that has been done. But despite that, the fact that there is a good 8% more who were happy about the law and order situation, tells you something.
5. People are generally happy, but as you know, in our line of work, good news is when there is no news, and it can change anytime.
6. And, our environment is getting more and more challenging.
7. So, I will first touch on some of these challenges, before talking about the good work done by our officers, which we will recognise through the awards that we are giving out today.
Impact of Technology on Society
8. Advancements in technology have allowed us to work faster and smarter. But, they have also made crimes much easier to commit.
9. For example, smartphones and new chat applications have made it easier for scams to spread at a very fast speed. In the first half of 2022 alone, there were 14,000 scam cases.
10. Platforms have also made it easier, faster, and cheaper to carry out Hostile Information Campaigns.
11. Last August, there was a report, which said that there had been a series of campaigns over five years involving multiple accounts across many social media platforms, and all of these were designed to give pro-Western messages in the Middle East and Central Asia, praising the West. So obviously, a targeted campaign.
12. Around the same time, in September, Meta also reported that it had taken down
a network of accounts believed to be part of an “influence operation”. These accounts targeted the United States, the Czech Republic and Chinese-speaking and French-speaking groups around the world.
13. One group of accounts posted in Mandarin specifically targeted the US and its foreign policy.
14. Another group of accounts was positioned as conservative or liberal American,
and stoked the flames on the debate on gun rights and abortion, encouraging inflammatory rhetoric.
15. Nowadays, it is extremely easy to spread disinformation or conduct such operations to drive a wedge in society.
16. And of course our small size and multiracial, multireligious nature makes us an extremely easy target.
17. And if you look at social cohesion, around the world, people are defining their identities increasingly along narrow lines – racial, cultural, political, religious lines.
18. And that has generally led to a less civil and more divisive discourse which has been prone to violence.
19. In Singapore, we had a major debate on s 377A last year. We amended the Constitution to protect the definition of marriage from Court challenge.
20. While repealing s 377A, in the lead-up, there were strong views expressed all around.
21. A group that wanted to retain s 377A organised a conference.
22. Some tried to stop it from happening.
23. Meanwhile, a pro-LGBT group produced a film denigrating the Christian community for its stance on gay issues, and wanted to screen it in Singapore.
24. But barring these, on the whole, the discussion proceeded with a degree of civility, and even the conference that was organised by those who wanted to retain s 377A, went off in a very civil way mostly. On both sides, the debate was conducted with a large degree of civility.
25. And as a society, we managed to handle a very sensitive, very difficult topic, without I would say, serious impact to our social cohesion. If anything, people understood on both sides, and the large middle ground, and in some ways, I think our society came out stronger.
26. There was a Pew Survey last year, last August. This was specifically focused on how people felt around the world about their country. After the pandemic, 75% of Singaporeans felt that Singapore is more united now, than before the pandemic. In contrast, across the world, the average – 61% said that their countries were more divided. So, six in 10 across the world felt that their societies were more divided; 75% in Singapore felt their country was more united.
27. Our challenge is to ensure that the debates and dialogues, that will continue to happen, continue to remain civil. Then, the law enforcement agencies can go about dealing with a relatively small number of people who don’t obey the law.
28. Another challenge I want to touch on is the threat of terrorism and self-radicalisation. This remains very real.
29. Since 2015, 46 self-radicalised persons have been dealt with under the Internal Security Act.
30. Yet, a survey two years ago, a 2021 MCI survey, found that as compared to 2019, there was a seven-point drop in the percentage of respondents or Singaporeans who believed that Singapore is a target for terrorists.
31. Our people’s sense of the threat is reducing, when in actuality, the risk is increasing.
32. In 2022, the Indonesian authorities arrested many Jemaah Islamiyah members
who were actively recruiting new members, training up and raising money.
33. And last week, the ISD announced that a Ministry of Education teacher got self-radicalised, after watching videos online. He had made plans to go to Gaza to join HAMAS to fight and he was also encouraging others to join through social media.
34. It is not the first case. We had another case in 2021, where another Singaporean also wanted to fight in Gaza, and also attack Jews in Singapore.
Notable Examples of Award Recipients
35. In this environment, it is important for us as the Home Team to be nimble, savvy, and bold in engaging our Singaporeans, and in how we work.
36. So let me share some examples from among our award recipients.
37. First, the Prisons team behind the two CNA documentaries – the first, titled, “Inside Maximum Security”, and the second one titled “Beyond Maximum Security”, that Prisons worked with CNA.
38. These documentaries were hugely successful, more successful than what any of us could have hoped for. I think they were successful because they gave the public an honest, realistic picture of the journeys that inmates take – real people, as they went through prison life, and as they reintegrated back into society, after release.
39. The documentaries also showed the good work done by our Prison officers and what is the meaning of the phrase, the Captains of Lives, together with the Yellow Ribbon Singapore, and our community partners, in supporting our inmates at every step.
40. And, the documentaries I think, helped hugely in dispelling various notions about prison conditions in Singapore.
41. Many of you would have seen the documentaries. They were extremely well done.
42. “Inside Maximum Security” has actually won several global awards. It also topped YouTube’s 2022 list of Top Trending Videos in Singapore, with over 11.5 million views on YouTube.
43. And, “Beyond Maximum Security” has also already garnered 800,000 views on YouTube in the few weeks since it was launched in late December last year.
44. Credit to the team behind this, and also due credit to CNA which produced a very high quality, very watchable documentary.
45. Moving on to technology. Today, we are also recognising the team behind our Counter-Unmanned Aerial Systems Capability Development Programme. This programme supports advanced systems to detect, take down drones, including through mobile counter-UAS systems.
46. On the investigation front, a team in HTX developed a way to create 3D models of drone data boards.
47. This was an out-of-the-box solution, modelled after medical CT scans, to solve a real problem faced by investigators, which was how to extract digital evidence from drones without compromising the drone data.
48. These are important, because drones are increasingly more capable and more widely used. Many of you would know that in 2020, we had a case of two men who allegedly used a drone to import drugs from Malaysia.
49. Another example of using tech to improve our everyday work is the Prison’s AVATAR system.
50. It uses Video Analytics to alert prison officers to abnormal or aggressive behaviour amongst inmates. Officers can then respond more quickly to potential conflicts, and keep both inmates and officers safe.
51. Some of the awardees here today have also played an important role in our fight against scams. With the collective effort of the teams and their partners, the Anti-Scam Command has investigated more than 5,300 scammers and money mules, and they belong to more than 15,000 cases, and the amount of money involved was about $140 million. And this was within the first seven months after the Command was formed.
52. The Anti Scam Command now has a network of more than 80 stakeholders,
including financial institutions, FinTech players, telcos, and online marketplaces. They can move quickly to freeze and recover funds, and reduce the losses suffered by victims.
53. Finally, we also recognise officers who have carried out their core duties in an exemplary way.
54. In June 2021, a team of ICA officers – they were very alert, they detected a lorry driver, who was transporting live chickens, but he was also trying to smuggle e-cigarette pods and refills hidden behind a passenger seat.
55. They interviewed the driver, and they managed to extract information that there were six other lorries which were part of the smuggling operation. ICA then managed to intercept all seven lorries, and recovered more than 54,000 pieces of e-cigarettes pods and refills.
56. Another example is Sergeant Marcus Tan Poh Keong, who went above and beyond his duties as a Paramedic.
57. While attending to an elderly patient, Marcus learned that the family was facing financial difficulties due to medical expenses. With their permission, he went to MSF to see how to help the family, and he also offered to bring the family to meet a Social Services Officer on his day off. This is extraordinary.
58. These are just some examples of the good work done by our Home Team officers.
59. You have all done good work, but it is not possible to mention everyone.
60. Congratulations to all our recipients, and thank you to all officers for all the hard work that was done in a very challenging year.
61. As we start a new year, I am confident we will maintain our operational excellence, and work together.
62. Thank you.
1. Media Factsheet - Minister's Awards Presentation Ceremony (PDF, 135KB)