Published: 28 September 2018
Members of the various Safety & Security Watch Groups,
Business & community partners,
Home Team colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,
1. A very good morning. I’m very happy to be with you at this morning’s National Safety & Security Watch Group Award Ceremony. Today we are recognising 169 National SSWG award winners for your efforts in enhancing the safety and security of your premises, and for actively participating in SSWG activities. Congratulations to all of you.
2. The Safety and Security Watch Group scheme, or SSWG, started in 2003 as a platform for the Police to work more closely with building owners to secure their premises against attacks. Over the years, the SSWG has grown in strength due to the strong support given by the community and the efforts by Home Team agencies. The SSWG now includes over 1,400 buildings in about 170 clusters, and has expanded its efforts beyond looking at physical security measures, to also include contingency planning and staff training.
3. I am glad for this growth, as the SSWG is even more relevant today with the continued threat of terrorism.
Continued Threat of Terrorism
4. The regional terrorist threat is at its highest in recent years. In 2016, seven terrorist related plots were disrupted, and 119 militants were arrested in Malaysia. In Indonesia,15 plots were disrupted and over 150 militants were arrested. In 2017, there was the Marawi siege, where the Philippine government fought the terrorists in a five-month-long battle. This year in May, we have seen coordinated suicide bombings in Surabaya against churches and police stations. The situation is definitely not rosy, and ASEAN Defence Ministers had earlier this year committed to strengthen cooperation against terrorism.
5. Singapore has also been specifically targeted by terrorist groups. Last year, an ISIS-linked group had planned to launch rockets at the Marina Bay Sands, by using a hill or an outer island of Batam as a launch point. ISIS publications and videos have threatened violence against Singapore and Singaporeans. There has been an increase in the number of cases of self-radicalised Singaporeans, including five teenagers, who were detained in the last three years.
6. From the many shocking examples over the years, we have seen that buildings and crowded places in particular are attractive targets for terrorists that seek to inflict maximum damage. The 2015 bombings in Bangkok at Siam Paragon and Erawan Shrine; a truck driving through crowds at the waterfront in Nice, France in 2016; the Manchester Arena bombing in 2017; vehicle ramming and knife attacks at London Bridge in 2017. That’s just saying a few.
7. These are public places where any person - you or me, our families, friends and colleagues, could expect to be at.
SSWG: Stronger Together
8. So, what more can we do together to counter the scourge of terrorism?
9. In recent years, the Government has put in place strong measures to address the terrorist threat. We have amended laws to enhance building protection and to manage incidents better, through the Infrastructure Protection Act and Public Order and Safety (Special Powers) Act. We have deployed the Emergency Response Teams and In-situ Response Teams for quicker and more effective response to incidents.
10. However, these efforts on their own can never be enough; the Police cannot be everywhere and we need you, the private sector and the community, to play your part.
11. The SSWG is a crucial network that has allowed Police and SCDF to work with building owners to enhance your overall preparedness and readiness against attacks. The SSWG has also been instrumental in supporting the SGSecure movement to prepare Singaporeans with skills to deal with incidents and contingencies. We hope that as SSWG members, you will continue to lead by example, and you will encourage other building owners who have not joined the scheme to be part of this movement.
12. Terrorist attacks have evolved over the years and we have seen terrorists diversifying from bombs and guns, to more accessible means of attacks such as vehicles, knives and drones. These threats will continue to evolve and we cannot be complacent, thinking that we have done enough to counter them. Instead, building owners need to stay abreast of the latest threats, assess if your measures are sufficient, and make the investments to improve your buildings’ security when needed.
13. To this end, the Police and SCDF will continue to organize meetings, courses, and seminars to keep SSWG members up to date on the latest threats, and protective measures available. The Police and SCDF stand ready to offer advice and expertise to help building owners who wish to enhance their security measures and to exercise your contingency measures, so that we can ensure that they will work when the need arises.
14. I am glad that all of you are here today and have heeded the call to safeguard our way of life.
15. We have been giving out the SSWG Awards since 2009, to recognise SSWG members’ efforts in implementing measures to protect their buildings and the people within. This year, we are giving out 169 awards. It is a small token for the hard work and resources you have put in to keep Singapore and Singaporeans safe and secure.
16. I would like to highlight a few examples to illustrate how SSWG members have been supporting the Home Team, and taking charge of their own security.
17. First, the Ramada & Days Hotels at Zhongshan Park have been regularly attending Kampong Java NPC’s table-top exercises and networking sessions to keep their knowledge up to date. They have organised their own SGSecure sessions to educate new and current staff on what to do in the event of an attack. All of their staff are also trained to detect and deal with suspicious chemical substances, or drones flying into their premises.
18. The Ayer Merbau Cluster at Jurong Island has also been very active in implementing security measures, such as installing additional card access controls, reviewing their emergency response plans, and participating in SGSecure ground exercises with the Police and SCDF. Thanks to the comprehensive security training conducted, the staff have become attuned to look out for abnormalities at work. In one case, one of the staff at the Petrochemical Corporation of Singapore alerted security to a container of sensitive chemicals that was left outside the company’s premises. It was later established that it was accidentally left behind by a contractor. Such vigilance by all staff, and not just by security officers, is commendable and is what we want everybody to do.
19. I hope you can learn from these examples and apply these practices to your premises as well.
20. In summary, given the heightened terror threat, we cannot afford to be complacent. We must be prepared; we must stand united. Only then, can we overcome the terror threat together.
21. Once again, that you very much for all your contributions, and congratulations to all the award winners. Please continue to keep up the good work.