Minister’s Awards Presentation Ceremony – Speech by Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law

Published: 03 November 2023

Home Team Colleagues 

Ladies and Gentlemen

1. Today, we are giving out 123 awards, recognising Home Team officers and partners who have done excellent work and served with distinction. 

2. Even as we gather here today, as you look around the world, leaving aside the wars in the Middle East and Europe, you see a lot of change, not for the better, in the law-and-order environment. Countries which were previously seen as places which were safe are now facing substantive law and order problems. 

3. And these are first-world countries. I’ll give you a few examples from Europe. First is Sweden. Our understanding of Sweden is that it is one of the safest places, one of the best places to live. In 2019, 257 bomb attacks. This year, the army was brought in because the Police could no longer deal with the surge in gang-related killings. A lot of it has got to do with the liberalisation of drugs or treatment of drug traffickers, but also, I would say, a very soft approach to crime and crime control. Over the years, they’ve built up, plus immigration without cultural integration, and a softer approach – new immigrants don’t take advantage of that, and you get this.

4. If you look at Netherlands, again one of the world’s top countries. You have the Chief of the largest Dutch Police union saying that they have a narco-state. You look at the infrastructure, the big money earned by organised crime, parallel economy. It’s now become one of the most important transit ports for the global drug market. 

5. If you look at Belgium, violence has reached, and I quote, “the face of narco-terrorism”, where the underworld is increasingly turning to the upper world. The underworld is becoming the upper world, they have got more money. They can pay the Police better. They can pay the civil servants better. And they are buying out the entire admin structure. So my counterpart, the Justice Minister, has to live and work out of safehouses, because the system cannot guarantee his safety any more.   

6. These are just 3 examples. You’ve seen the US, you’ve seen the UK. The reasons are manyfold – part of it is the overall legal framework. Even as we are tightening and looking at where it needs to be tougher, we make it tougher – of course we relax in some places too – and in Singapore we generally have the approach that if you are guilty you are likely to be caught, if you are guilty you are likely to be found guilty, and if you are guilty you are  likely to serve a sentence. Corruption is very minimal in the law enforcement side, in the legal sector, the agencies are efficient. Most often, you get the results. So people understand that – through many years, the legal structure, the way in which our society is organised, the messages that we give our education systems, the economic opportunities, all have come together to keep crime low and a whole mindset change on how people should behave. In many countries, the legal framework is not quite the same, the approach to crime control is not the same, how the judicial system deals with the laws, what laws they are – it is different. And where a society is a very highly evolved state – that might work, but if you have people taking advantage of it, then more and more people start taking advantage of it, then it comes to an inflection point. But because we take a very cold, hard look at what is necessary – as I’ve said, we have compassion in our hearts, but in our minds, we need to be clear. We cannot be soft-headed. 

7. We continue to be a place where people feel safe, women and children can walk around freely and safely, anytime and anywhere and there is a very good relationship of trust between the people and our law enforcement. It doesn’t happen by accident. We work very hard at it, and we keep a legal framework which has a broad level of support from our people. 

8. Among the various factors that are behind this, a key factor is obviously the good work done by our Home Team itself. 

9. I want to touch on five areas largely related to our award recipients today. 

Close Cooperation as a Home Team

10. First, our officers work closely, seamlessly, across agencies as one Home Team. This close relationship took some years to build. 

11. When I meet my counterparts in other countries, they tell me how difficult it is because agencies will not easily agree to work closely together, because they fear that some degree of autonomy is lost. If you look at our Home Team agencies, they have autonomy. They are able to decide for themselves, and yet it is possible to work closely.  

12. Last year, there was a large fire at the Keramat, or shrine, on Kusu Island. 

13. This was a challenging operation. Visibility was low – late at night, and there was no street lighting on the island. It was raining, waters were choppy. And on the island, it was very slippery and muddy, officers’ protective gear was soaked, and there was lightning activity. 

14. The fire was not a typical marine fire. It was at the top of a hill on Kusu Island – it required both land-based tactics, to lay hoses up the steps to the shrine, and sea tactics – pumping seawater to the scene. 

15. Our officers adapted to the conditions, and worked very well together. SCDF Marine Division officers worked to contain the fire while PCG officers cordoned the area, and made sure the island’s caretakers were safe.

16. Eventually, the fire was put out successfully. 

17. A job very well-done, by all the officers who worked closely together on this. 

Working With Community Partners

18. Second, besides working well together as a Home Team, our agencies have also done well in working together with partners in our community. 

19. For example, the SPS-Family Service Centres (FSC) initiative was piloted in 2020. This is for Prisons to work with the FSCs to help newly admitted inmates.

20. When inmates are admitted, they are interviewed by social workers to see what help their families may need. 
21. The FSCs then support these families, for example, through counselling or referring them for financial assistance. 

22. This gives our prison inmates peace of mind, that their families are taken care of – so they can focus on rehabilitation. 

Using Technology to Optimise Outcomes

23. Third area: a constant push to make use of technology, to do things better. 

24. One of today’s award winners is the team from HTX and ICA that developed the biometrics self-enrolment kiosk.

25. Previously, about 14,000 man-hours were spent by ICA officers per year enrolling people’s fingerprints, and face and iris scans. 

26. With this kiosk, members of the public can do this on their own. 

27. The team also developed the system from scratch, as there was no commercial product that was suitable.  

28. Another example: Project Dragonfly, which is a collaboration between Prisons, HTX and the Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA), to have full CCTV coverage of inmate areas with video analytics built in. 

29. As a result, security and surveillance are more effectively and efficiently done and prison officers can focus on aspects like rehabilitation of inmates. 

Reinventing Our Concept of Operations

30. Fourth: We also have to adapt the way we do things to changing needs and challenges. 

31. For example, ICA’s Integrated Checkpoint Command (ICC) for the land domain.

32. This brings together all HT officers at the land checkpoints under a single chain of command, to allow ICA to better respond to security incidents. 

33. The transition to ICC was not straightforward. It involved careful planning and preparation. Legislative amendments, new joint operations plans and SOPs, and the Police helped to train over 300 ICA officers to take on these new roles. 

34. On the Corporate side of the Home Team, the way HR is done in MHA has also been transformed. 

35. In the past, each HT Department handled its own HR processes, like recruitment administration, or managing employee contracts. There was some duplication of effort. 

36. Since January 2021, common Human Resource services like those I mentioned have been centralised, in the HR Services Centre, at Ministry HQ. 

37. There is also a Contact Centre which is a one-stop service portal for HR related queries for all Home Team officers. 

Professionalism in the Course of Duty

38. Finally, my fifth point, at the heart of all of this, at the heart of the Home Team’s success, is our officers’ professionalism, coolness and empathy.

39. Let me share a recent example. 

40. In March this year, CNB officers conducted a raid at a flat. 

41. One of the suspects tried to escape via a bedroom window. He lost his footing.

42. Inspector Sunny Chien saw this, and he reacted quickly to grab him. 

43. He saved the suspect’s life – though he got a deep laceration in the process.

44. At the same time, a teenage girl nearby saw what had happened and was quite visibly traumatised. 

45. Station Inspector Khoo Bao Ling noticed, and went to comfort her, and stayed with her until her mother arrived. These are not part of SOPs, not part of duties.

HT Day: Reinforcing the HT Identity

46. I started off, talking about the importance of our agencies working as a united Home Team.  And many of today’s awards were only possible because of this close cooperation. 

47. So, to further strengthen this culture, we will be launching the inaugural “Home Team Day” on 24 February next year, 2024.

48. Why 24 February? That was the day that we launched the Home Team Concept, more than 20 years ago in 1997.

49. Home Team Day will be launched next year. It will be an annual event, to recognise the contributions of our officers including NSmen and volunteers, and to reaffirm our commitment to the Home Team concept and mission.

50. More information about the Home Team Day will be shared in the coming weeks. 


51. Thank you all for your commitment.

52. And congratulations, once again, to this year’s award recipients. 

Annex - Media Factsheet

1. Media Factsheet - Minister’s Awards Presentation Ceremony 2023 (PDF, 132KB)