Published: 28 September 2022
Members of the Safety and Security Watch Groups,
Business and community partners,
Home Team colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,
1. Thank you for inviting me for our first National Safety and Security Watch Group (SSWG) Award Ceremony since 2018, as the 2020 ceremony was cancelled due to COVID-19. Many of you had experienced first-hand the economic impact of the pandemic, which was felt especially hard in certain sectors, such as hospitality, retail, and F&B. But despite the difficult times for businesses, the community has remained resilient and kept up our strong partnerships. I am deeply appreciative of this, the Government is deeply appreciative of this, and I think collectively we find this year’s awards particularly meaningful.
2. SSWG goes back almost two decades to 2003, as a platform for the Police to work with building owners to secure their premises against potential terrorist attacks. The network has since grown to more than 1,600 members. Today, we recognise and appreciate the strong and proactive community behind this growth, including 137 award recipients. Thank you very much.
The Terrorism Threat to Singapore
3. We must take security seriously because the terror threat is real. As reported in the Singapore Terrorism Threat Assessment Report 2022, Singapore continues to be among the target for terrorists. As borders reopen and economic activities resume, our collective vigilance and preparedness are crucial in tackling this threat.
4. In our region, the violent ideology of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is sustained by a thriving pro-ISIS social media ecosystem. Such online networks facilitate coordinated terror activities across borders, and exchange of expertise such as weapons-making. And this presents a heightened risk of ISIS-inspired attacks conducted by home-grown extremists.
5. Domestically, we have taken action against 45 self-radicalised individuals since 2015. This illustrates how self-radicalisation, fuelled by radical ideologies spread online, is a serious threat for all of us. Worryingly, new forms of self-radicalisation have emerged. In December 2020, ISD detected Singapore’s first case of an individual self-radicalised by far-right extremist ideology. The 16-year-old Singaporean was inspired by the 2019 Christchurch terror attack, where a white supremacist had killed 51 worshippers in two mosques. Fortunately, the young man was detained before he could harm anyone in Singapore.
The Need for Community Partnership
6. Government efforts, therefore alone, in and of itself, are insufficient to mitigate the terror threat. Police cannot be everywhere at one point of time, cannot be there, everywhere, at once as well. While Police have implemented In-Situ Reaction Teams and Emergency Response Teams to quicken our response to any attack, the initial response needs to start even before the Police arrive. This requires an aware and vigilant community, which is why we launched the SGSecure movement back in 2016.
7. The community knows its people or people best, and is thus more sensitive to changes in behaviour compared to the outsiders. We depend on the community to be attentive and provide information on possible self-radicalisation to the authorities for early intervention. And this attentiveness is critical, both at work and at home. Early detection means timely help, guidance and counselling for self-radicalised individuals, thus preventing further harm to themselves and to others.
8. Many Government efforts also require active participation by businesses and a wider community as part of a whole-of-society effort. The SSWGs constitute a crucial network that allows the Police and the SCDF to work with building owners to enhance overall preparedness and readiness against attacks. This has been instrumental in supporting the SGSecure movement to prepare Singaporeans with the skills to deal with contingencies, emergencies.
9. I would also like to take this opportunity to mention the Community Watch Scheme (CWS) and SGSecure Responders’ Network (SRN). The CWS was introduced in December 2021 to further strengthen community partnership by onboarding more volunteers to play a part in Singapore’s safety and security. The SRN was launched in 2019 and builds a pool of SGSecure Responders who can be mobilised during crises and peacetime emergencies. They can be anyone who is willing to help report suspicious observations, respond to cardiac arrests and minor fires, or build cohesion and counter disinformation. Together, these programmes will build a robust net of community involvement, to achieve our common goal of safeguarding Singapore. And I think this is what makes Singapore stand out from many different countries, many different viewpoints in the world as each and everyone of us, many stakeholders, all feel a part of the ownership towards our collective safety and security.
SSWG Efforts and Awards
10. It has been remarkable how well SSWG members have kept up vigilance and preparedness. Members adapted to pandemic-related constraints by participating in 51 virtual table-top exercises over 2020 and 2021, to validate plans and measures. And during this time, SSWG members also kept updated on crime trends through webinars, and shared information with the wider community to aid crime prevention.
11. Members have also regularly reviewed their Emergency Response Plans and conducted fire safety drills to ensure high emergency preparedness. Many have facilitated their staff’s efforts to acquire life-saving skills and step up as Community First Responders (CFRs) to render emergency assistance to others. We are thus grateful and assured, and I think I am saying this on behalf of many members of the public as well, that we have the presence of all these many volunteers and responders with the necessary skills within our community. In December 2020, just an example, Mr Anthonisamy David survived cardiac arrest due to CPR being administered promptly by fellow security officers at the Singapore Turf Club, one of our SSWG members.
12. Another dimension to highlight is how SSWG members have substantially invested in technology to improve their security.
13. One example is Mount Faber Leisure Group. Besides setting up a Command Centre with central CCTV monitoring and a Public Announcement system, they have implemented facial recognition technology to replace a card access system, which reduces risks of unauthorised access to restricted areas. They have also pushed boundaries with two trials: the first is a concierge robot that doubles up to perform security surveillance at night. The second involves using AI, Artificial Intelligence to detect anomalies within a premise and send alerts for more effective response.
14. Another example is Copthorne King’s Hotel Singapore, which upgraded their CCTV system to include enhanced capabilities, such as vehicle number plate recognition, facial recognition, and the counting of crowd sizes.
15. These examples are not exhaustive, there are many others have done well too. I hope that we can share such good practices extensively and learn from one another.
TOPSIS Organisation Awards
16. This year, we are introducing the TOPSIS Organisation Awards as part of the SSWG Award Ceremony. TOPSIS stands for Threat-Oriented Person Screening Integrated System.
17. Since 2009, TOPSIS has been progressively implemented to enhance aviation and border security by having trained personnel identify suspicious persons for enhanced checks. It helps prioritise limited security resources for places with high human traffic. The TOPSIS approach is now also used to enhance the security of organisations from the tourism, transport, energy, education and religious sectors.
18. Today’s 18 awards recognise our partners’ efforts in sustaining their TOPSIS programmes, and includes a Special Commendation Award for the Land Transport Authority’s efforts in anchoring the TOPSIS in the public transport domain.
19. I would like to highlight one example. During the pandemic, SBS Transit produced an online TOPSIS learning package for new staff, and a refresher for current staff. This initiative helped ensure that all 11,000 staff were TOPSIS-trained. And this shows SBS Transit’s determination to ensure that every staff is and continues to be properly trained, which is highly commendable.
20. TOPSIS also supports the SGSecure movement by equipping community members with the TOPSIS skillset. Last August, a technician working at an MRT station noticed a suspicious commuter with a long object resembling a rifle and reported it as per the TOPSIS process. While the object was thankfully not a weapon, it serves to remind the community that everyone can contribute by reporting suspicious persons, objects and activities.
21. So, congratulations to all SSWG award recipients on your well-deserved awards. I would like to again thank all members for your continuous commitment to Singapore’s safety and security. I think I can speak on behalf not only of the MHA, and our colleagues and stakeholders, but really all the members of the public who are benefitting from your contributions, but who are not here with us here today. That gratitude and appreciation reside in their hearts. As we learn to live with COVID-19, we can look forward to more ground deployment exercises and other in-person interactions to validate plans and further build our partnerships.
22. With that, I hope you will also continue to encourage other businesses and community partners to join our programme and our movement. Thank you.