Minister’s Award Presentation Ceremony 2017 - Speech by Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law

Published: 27 September 2017

Home Team colleagues,


Ladies and gentlemen,


1.     Good afternoon.


2.     We are here to recognise our officers' dedication, commitment and excellence in carrying out our mission to ensure the safety and security of all Singaporeans.


3.     The vast majority of Singaporeans recognise and appreciate that, and know that they can walk around and live their lives in an environment that is peaceful, and free of crime. But there are some who nevertheless seek to obstruct our officers in the course of their duty.


4.     Sometimes, they carry out physical attacks, and one of the things we have made very clear is that we will not tolerate that. We will stand up for our officers against people who obstruct them from carrying out their duties, or cause them physical and verbal harm.


5.     If you look at the previous years - from 2014 to 2016 - there has been more than a 65% increase in physical and verbal attacks. We had 484 cases last year, more than one per day.  From our perspective, there is zero tolerance for this.


6.     What the public may not understand is that it is not easy for our officers to deal with people who are violent, because we want to exercise reasonable force. For our officers, we try and use reasonable force when arresting and restraining violent subjects. We do not want to cause unnecessary or excessive hurt. We also do not want any kind of image, caught on video, that can do harm to our own force, and morale as well.


7.     At the same time, our officers can be assured that if people are violent towards them, or obstruct them, we will work with AGC to press for very stiff sentences.  You would know of the recent case where officers were attacked at Bukit Timah Road. The original sentence was one week, which was, to say the least, very odd. On appeal, it was increased to 10 weeks.


8.     In another case in April, a drunken chap at Changi Airport took on our officers. AGC successfully appealed, and the jail sentence was increased to more than eight months. So MHA will work, and has been working with AGC, to press for deterrent, harsher sentences for anyone who obstructs our officers from carrying out their duties, particularly if they are violent. And if that approach does not work, we will relook the legal framework.


9.     You have heard me say many times that the work of Home Team officers continues to be challenging. The environment is complex and changing, the workload is increasing, and we work within manpower constraints. We have talked about how we deal with that, through technology, through transformation, the Home Team coming together, working together, leveraging off each other. We cannot do that without your dedication, without your commitment, and without your hard work.


10.     Today, we are here to recognise more than 400 Home Team officers for excellence in their work. We will give out Home Team Achievement Awards to recognise collaboration across the Home Team; Operational Excellence Awards to recognise outstanding projects and operations; the MHA Star Service Awards and Home Team Innovation Awards to recognise excellence in service delivery and innovation.


11.     Let me share five examples.


a)     In October last year, the Home Team, together with the SAF, conducted Exercise Quicksilver. This was to validate our counter-terrorism plans. It was a massive island-wide exercise at public locations, with multiple terror attack scenarios. More than 3,200 officers, including community volunteers, were mobilised. It was a successful exercise to help us understand where the gaps were. We are working on the gaps. The next exercise will test how far we have gone. That exercise will receive the Home Team Achievement Award.


b)     In August last year, there was a major ship fire at Tuas, which SCDF responded to. The fire was the size of eight Olympic swimming pools. Two decks of the ship were affected. It took seven hours and 100 officers to put out the fire. It really stretched our marine fire-fighting capabilities, but our officers did well. Operations and coordination on the ground and sea were seamless. Officers were well-prepared, well-trained, and worked as one team.


c)     The third example goes back to 2013. It was a complex fraud case in the stock market. Three penny stocks saw their stock prices rise sky high abnormally, and then within a few days came crashing down. It wiped out billions of dollars of market value and affected public confidence. CAD worked with MAS from 2013 to 2016. The investigations were detailed. Those efforts paid off and all the main suspects were caught. They were charged last year and the case is now before the Courts.


d)     ICA worked closely with the Office of the Chief Science and Technology Officer to pilot an automated car clearance terminal. It posed the potential for productivity, and also enhanced security from the use of biometrics. A few weeks ago, PM Lee visited the Woodlands Checkpoint. He tried, tested and commended it. This is the kind of innovation that leads us on the path of confidence to the future, and we need to constantly build new capabilities like this.


e)     The fifth case involves CNB. They worked closely with the Royal Malaysian Police and brought down a drug syndicate. This led to the arrest of the syndicate leader and 14 of his associates in Johor.  Three of the drug dealers were also arrested in Singapore. More than 92kg of drugs were seized, and this saved a huge number of lives.


12.     These are just five examples. There are many, many examples. Everyday, there is heroism and many things that are being done across the Home Team.


13.     I wish to thank each and every one of you here, and every one of our Home Team officers for the work that you put in. Congratulations to the award recipients for the good work. Let's continue to keep the Home Team flag flying high.


14.     Thank you.