Ministry of Home Affairs Committee of Supply Debate 2016 - Speech by Mr Desmond Lee, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of National Development

Published: 06 April 2016

“A Safe and Secure Home for Singaporeans”


1.     Madam, the threats and challenges that the Home Team faces are transnational and ever changing.  We must adapt and adjust our response to keep pace with developments.


2.     Traditional crime is on the decline, but there is a clear uptrend in cybercrime.  


3.     Mr Chris de Souza, Dr Tan Wu Meng, and Mr Desmond Choo asked how we will tackle this trend. Mr de Souza specifically asked about our capabilities to deal with cybercrime.


4.     Madam, I will now speak in Mandarin on Cybercrime. 


5.     近年来,虽然传统犯罪活动持续下降,网络罪案却急速上升。电子商务欺诈案、情色骗局、网络爱情骗局等, 各种网络欺诈罪案总数,从2014年到2015年,几乎增加了一倍。这是我们密切关注的现象,我们也需要与各界一起努力, 共同对抗不法份子。


6.     网络罪案特别难处理。互联网世界是无国界的。这些网络诈骗集团的基地通常设在海外。它们用匿名方式在互联网上, 随时开设与关闭帐户, 掩人耳目。无论警方再怎么努力,与海外执法人员密切合作,侦查工作很多时候还是会无法继续下去。也就是说,这类骗局的受害者所蒙受的金钱损失,往往没有机会再追讨回来。


7.     所以,要对抗网络罪案,"预防胜于治疗"的道理, 尤其重要。一些听起来好得令人难以置信的好介绍、好lobang ,往往就是一个骗局。人们在网上向你展现的, 不一定就是他们的真实身份。贴在 Facebook上的大头照也不一定就是他本人。所以,进行任何网上交易都得格外小心,时时提高警惕。我们不只自己要谨慎,也要多留意身边的子女或年老父母和长辈, 因为他们可能对网络威胁比较没有意识。


8.     全国罪案防范理事会设了一个名为"Scam Alert"的网站,也就是"提防骗局"网站,提醒国人关于网络骗局的最新诈骗手法。国人可以在网站上读到别人陷入网络骗局的各种经历,也可以分享自己的经历。


9.     我在这里要跟大家分享一个 "Credit-for-Sex "情色骗局的故事。类似的故事在 "Scam Alert" "提防骗局"网站上很常见。受害者通常会在流动平台社交媒体,比如微信上,收到一则来历不明的年轻女子发来的短信,这名女子可能来自中国或者台湾,有个惯用的名字,比如"小燕子"。而这个"小燕子",会说她自己目前在新加坡念书或工作。她先是与受害人谈天说地,但是很快地会谈到金钱的问题,说自己怎么急需帮助。之后,小燕子会建议与受害者见面提供性服务,两小时100元或150元,要过夜的话收费就更高。受害者可能一开始会拒绝她,可是经不起小燕子再三发短信求助,最终会答应在新加坡的某个地方与小燕子见面。


10.     无论受害者是起了色心还是纯粹出于好奇,他都已经是一步步走进陷阱了。当然,当受害者来到指定地点,他不会见到小燕子,小燕子很可能根本就不在新加坡。她会叫受害人先付她一笔钱,才肯现身露面。在大多数的案子中,这笔钱都不会是以现款支付,而是要受害人购买一张100元或150元的 iTunes 卡,再通过微信把兑换密码传给小燕子。受害人发现上当时,往往已经来不及了。有些受害人幸好会及时起疑,拨打微信号码,这时他们可能会发现, 线上另一端的"小燕子"听起来比她自己所说的年龄要大许多,或者根本就不是女的。


11.     我们大家在网上与陌生人交流或进行任何交易的当儿,都必须要谨慎行事、保持清醒,才能做出正确的判断。


12.     随着国人提高警惕的同时,警方也会加强努力,大力打击网络罪犯。警察部队2015年在刑事侦查局 (CID) 属下设了新的"网络罪案指挥中心"(Cybercrime Command)。我们也会持续检讨法律制度,让我们更有效地打击跨国界网络罪案,并应对网络罪犯不断改变的犯罪模式。

[English translated speech]


5.     Traditional crime has been on the decline in recent years. However, cybercrime has been on the upward trend. The total number of online cheating cases involving E-Commerce, Credit-for-Sex, and Internet Love Scams has almost doubled from 2014 to 2015. We recognise that this is an area of concern and we need a concerted effort to deal with these perpetrators.


6.     Cybercrime cases are very tricky. The Internet is borderless. Many perpetrators are based overseas. They hide behind the anonymity of the Internet and can open and shut down their accounts quickly to invade investigations. Despite the Police's best efforts, and close working relationships with our foreign counterparts, there were many instances where investigations have led to dead ends. As such, victims of cybercrime scams might find it quite hard to obtain their money back.

7.     That is why it is important to adopting a "prevention is better than cure" mentality in the fight against cybercrime. An offer that sounds too good to be true, such as a good "lobang", may turn out to be a scam. People may not be who they claim to be online. Their profile photo in Facebook may not be their real identity. That is why we need to exercise caution and be vigilant when conducting online transactions. We should also pay attention to our children or elderly parents, as they may not be fully aware of the threat of cybercrime.

8.     The National Crime Prevention Council has set up a website, "Scam Alert", to alert Singaporeans about new cases of online scams. Singaporeans are able to read about stories of online scams which others have encountered, and share their own experiences.

9.     I will share an example of a "Credit-for-Sex" case. Similar stories are commonly found on the "Scam Alert" website. The victim will receive an unsolicited message from a young lady on a mobile platform, such as WeChat. She could be from China or Taiwan, has a generic profile name such as "小燕子 (xiaoyanzi)", and claim to be working or studying in Singapore. She would start off with harmless conversations with the victim, but would soon start to talk about financial problems, and claim that she was desperate for help. Thereafter, she would offer to meet the victim for sexual services at the rate of $100 or $150 for two hours, or more for staying overnight. The victims might reject her officers initially, but after persistent messages, the victim would relent and agrees to meet "小燕子" at a location in Singapore.

10.     Regardless of whether the victim agreed to meet her out of curiosity or lust, he would already be on his way to falling into a trap. When the victim arrives at the specified destination, he would not be able to meet "小燕子" and she is most likely not even physically present in Singapore. She would ask the victim to electronically transfer a sum of money to her before meeting the victim in person. In many cases, the payment would not be in cash, but rather in the form of iTunes gift cards with a stored value of $100 or $150. The victim would then be requested to send the redemption code to"小燕子"by WeChat. By the time the victim realises that he had been cheated, it would have been too late. Fortunately, some victims would become suspicious and call the WeChat number only to find that "小燕子" sounded like a much older woman than she claimed to be, or might not even be female.

11.     We must be alert and exercise caution when making transactions online with strangers, and remain vigilant in order to make the right judgement.

12.     Coupled with the enhanced vigilance from the community, the Police will also step up efforts to tackle cybercrime. The Police had established a new Cybercrime Command within the Criminal Investigation Department in 2015. We will continue to review the legislation to enable us to be more effective in combating transnational cybercrime and its evolving modus operandi.


13.     Our approach to tackle cybercrime highlights the need for two important and complementary strategies.


14.     First, the Home Team will continue our efforts to keep Singapore safe and secure, staying nimble and responsive, upgrading our capabilities and making early investments for the future.  Second, and just as importantly, all Singaporeans have a part to play, to be more vigilant and to come together as a community.  


15.     This approach also applies in other domains of safety and security. Let me illustrate.  



16.     Madam, as Minister explained earlier in his speech, the Home Team will need to adapt to our evolving landscape, to cope with increasing workload and enhance our operational effectiveness, without significantly expanding the Home Team. This will be especially important for our border security. 


17.     We are trying out some new concepts and technologies for our checkpoints at the new Terminal 4, to prepare ourselves for future challenges. At Terminal 4, we will have enhanced automated lanes with biometric checks, and centralised arrival and departure immigration halls. These will allow ICA to optimise limited manpower, and provide greater border security without compromising service standards.  We plan to roll these initiatives out eventually to all the existing terminals. 


Private Security Industry


18.     Madam, let me move on to the private security industry.  


19.     Like the Home Team, the private security industry faces a shortage of manpower but ever growing demand.  As Mr Patrick Tay pointed out, technology can be an enabler in the private security industry. However, mandating the use of technology through law may not be the best approach, given varied security requirements.


20.     Instead, we want to work with private security firms to encourage them to invest in technology.  We will support them in various ways.  First, as a major buyer of security services, the Home Team will restructure our procurement approach to encourage the greater use of technology as part of the security solution. 


21.     To incentivise our key private security partners to rely less on manpower and more on technology, we are prepared to co-invest in our partners' use of technology. We are also exploring contracts of longer duration so that the investment in technology can be amortised over a longer period, and makes better business sense for our security partners. These longer-term contracts will also allow these companies to invest in their staff to enhance their productivity. 


22.     Second, the Government also provides support to private security agencies through various schemes that are already available to help defray the cost of technology adoption for these companies.  For example, e2i administers a scheme known as the Inclusive Growth Programme (IGP) which covers up to half the cost of productivity improvement projects, but only if these productivity gains are shared with lower-wage workers. So the grant helps security firms adopt technology to boost productivity, but in a way that also benefits the security guards that they employ.


23.     Third, MHA will continue to work with the relevant agencies and industry partners, via various platforms such as the Security Tripartite Cluster, to pilot innovative technology-augmented operating models.  


24.     Madam, besides harnessing technology, we will update our laws to keep pace with the changes in our operating environment.


25.     Mr Patrick Tay asked if the building code would be amended to mandate security audits and security threat assessments of commercial buildings and premises.  


26.     Building security is critical and we need to do more amidst the current terrorist threat. 


27.     However, instead of making it a blanket requirement, we will take a calibrated and differentiated approach. Let me explain.


28.     Today, for sensitive installations and critical infrastructure like Changi Airport, and large-scale building projects with large numbers of visitors like the Integrated Resorts and Sports Hub, MHA already works with the owners to deploy security measures. This is based on an assessment of the threats and vulnerabilities of the buildings.  We are reviewing our laws to formalise this security review framework so that more of such building projects will incorporate security measures upfront, at the design and construction phase.


29.     For soft targets such as entertainment centres, hotels and shopping centres, we will engage owners through community platforms, such as the Safety and Security Watch Groups, to strengthen security measures.  We will work closely with the owners of these premises and facilities to see how we can implement wider adoption of CCTV coverage that can be used for crime and terrorism prevention, and post-incident investigations. 


30.     For major events, the Police currently work with organisers to determine the appropriate security measures to be taken. We will also review our laws to require event organisers to put in place the necessary safety and security measures. 


31.     We are mindful of the challenging business environment and potential costs of mandating security measures. However, we cannot compromise security and expose our public to danger. To better manage the costs involved, the Government will work closely with premises owners and event organisers to take cost-effective measures that address our security objectives.


32.     Madam, I will now address some of the other questions raised by Members. 


33.     Mr de Souza and Mr Png Eng Huat asked about stateless persons in Singapore and both made speeches of cases they had encountered.  As of 31st January 2016, there were 1,411 stateless persons living in Singapore.  Of these, 85% are Permanent Residents (or PRs) eligible for healthcare, education and housing benefits accorded to all PRs.


34.     Mr Png and Mr de Souza asked if we will review the citizenship criteria for such persons who have worked and resided in Singapore for a long time. Madam, I understand where the Members are coming from.  We assess each and every application compassionately and sympathetically, especially for those who have integrated well and can contribute to Singapore. 


35.     However, we must be clear-headed about who we grant PR and Singapore citizenship to. We do not want to automatically grant somebody such a status just because he or she has been residing here for a long time. This would not be in Singapore's interests.  But I assure the Members that if they raise cases to our attention, we will assess them carefully, and look at the circumstances behind all of them.  The considerations may not all be apparent to Members, but we certainly do not reject cases out of hand.


36.     Mr Png also asked about the updating of NRIC details. The National Registration Act requires NRIC holders to report any change in their place of residence to ICA or the Police within 28 days of the change. This is regardless of whether an individual is residing at his relative's place temporarily or a rented property. The address on the NRIC should be based on the place of physical residence, rather than on the ownership of property. This is an individual responsibility and failure to do so is an offence. 


37.     The Police will act firmly against those who wilfully contravene these requirements, to commit other criminal offences, including borrowers who obtain loans from unlicensed money lenders with their outdated addresses.  


38.     Mr Png, in a separate cut, suggested tighter controls on where jackpot clubs are sited. 


39.     Registered private clubs are permitted to operate jackpot machines only if the machines are provided to their members and guests as part of a whole suite of recreational offerings, which may include karaoke, gyms, swimming pools and so on. These machines are not accessible to the general public. There are age restrictions barring children from entering. These clubs have to meet other criteria, like the size of their membership base.


40.     MHA has initiated a review of the regulatory regime for private lottery and jackpot clubs, including the locations of these clubs and the social safeguards against problem gambling.  Individuals and parents should also exercise their own responsibility when using such facilities.


41.     Madam, let me end by discussing Ms Denise Phua's concerns over foreign worker congregation areas. 


42.     My Ministry continually reviews our management of "hotspots" with large congregations of foreign workers such as Little India and Golden Mile. We have worked with agencies, grassroots and community leaders, residents and business owners to steadily implement a comprehensive series of measures to keep such "hotspots" secure and orderly.


43.     These measures include improved lighting, installation of additional Police cameras, and daily deployment of Auxiliary Police Officers (APOs) and private security officers at Little India and Golden Mile. This deployment is intensified on weekends and public holidays. Officers attend training to sensitise them to the culture of foreign workers. The Police and relevant agencies also carry out frequent patrols and enforcement checks to deter and detect illegal activities. The Special Operations Command conducts a weekly anti-crime patrol to augment Police resources in such "hotspots".


44.     On a broader level, all foreign worker management is overseen by an inter-ministerial committee chaired by DPM Tharman.  


45.     The issues extend beyond safety and security concerns and include housing, transport and amenities, among other things. It is a Whole of Government approach. One initiative overseen by this committee is the provision of recreation centres to give foreign workers more options to meet their social and recreation needs and to provide services such as money remittance.  


46.     These centres are built near foreign worker dormitories, away from established congregation areas such as Little India. They host large-scale events like sports competitions, cultural celebrations and movie screenings.  


47.     My Ministry will continue to work with other relevant agencies and Members of Parliament, advisors, on the various aspects of foreign worker management, including safety and security.



48.     Madam, the threats to Singapore's safety and security are constantly evolving.  The Home Team will deal with these firmly, decisively, and nimbly to keep Singapore safe and secure. 




Managing Security Threats
Science and Technology