Published: 05 August 2019
Chairman, Public Service Commission (PSC)
Scholarship Recipients and Families
Home Team Colleagues
Ladies and Gentlemen
1. Good evening.
2. First, congratulations to the new Home Team scholars. This is one of the events that I look forward to.
3. Today, we celebrate your achievements. We also celebrate your families and teachers who have nurtured and guided you in your development. And you have done them proud.
A STRONG AND CAPABLE HOME TEAM
4. We welcome you to the Home Team family.
5. You know what our Mission is – to ensure the safety and security of Singapore, which we will never compromise.
6. Let me give you a sense of how Singaporeans feel about their safety, so that you understand what sort of organisation you are joining. What is the key responsibility of the organisation? What is that sacred trust? If you look at the 2018 Gallup Global Law and Order Report, we were ranked the safest country in the world, for the fifth year running.
7. You look at people’s lived experience, how people feel – 94 per cent of residents from Singapore felt safe walking home alone in their neighbourhood at night. Women, completely confident, almost everywhere, walking alone. Parents are completely confident in letting their young children go onto public transport.
8. If you look at fire safety, we continue to have one of the lowest rates of fire fatalities and incidents in the world. We have less than one fire fatality per million population. It is lower than comparable cities like Hong Kong (three per million), Tokyo (six per million) and New York (nine per million).
9. You look at our drug situation – it also remains under control, even though the situation around the world is getting worse. Our two-year recidivism rate of offenders from our prisons is 24 per cent. If you take a country like New Zealand, it is around 50 per cent.
10. There is also a high level of public trust and confidence in the Home Team. To me, that is critical, intangible. You cannot quantify the trust that people have in the Home Team. That is why it is a sacred trust. And we, the Home Team, over many years have built it up.
11. In our recent Home Team Public Perception Survey - we do this regularly, 90 per cent of respondents said they trusted Home Team officers. They trust us to carry out our duties objectively and with integrity, and they have confidence in the Home Team’s ability to manage national crises. In fact, too much confidence, so the reverse side of it is when we ask people to take more ownership and responsibility, to come forward and volunteer and train to deal with emergencies - the general approach is that the Government and Police will take care of it.
12. So we are in a good position. You are joining an organisation which is doing well and enjoys high public trust, and is strong in morale.
CHALLENGES FACING THE HOME TEAM
13. Challenges - there are two trends that will have a serious impact.
14. First, identity politics. More people around the world identify themselves along narrow ethnic, cultural and religious lines.
15. They turn inward, they reject diversity, they reject co-existence with others.
16. This has led to a deterioration in trust between communities.
17. There is more hate speech, and they are more openly expressed, often without shame or sense of wrong. And we, at least a certain generation, are getting colonised in our minds. I mean look around Singapore, nobody denies that there are identity politics, nobody denies there are issues of race. But we are very different, thankfully, because of 50 years of active management of these issues, and the population accepting that.
18. We are much different compared to the U.S. where you have “Blue Lives Matter” referring to the police force, and “Black Lives Matter”, and they shoot at each other. You have videos of anger and frustration, attacking the majority or minority – all that in the name of freedom of speech. Why do we need to be colonised by that and bring that into our system?
19. We are not at that stage. We are at a stage where we can sensibly talk about it. We can try to continue to make changes. There were lots of changes over the years and we can continue to make changes. But if we allow that kind of hate speech to become commonplace, if we allow that to become the norm, you will see that it would change the values of society, it would change the people relate, it would change the way people look at each other. It will fuel extremist ideologies, which existed on fringes but increasingly occupies centre stage in political discourse worldwide.
20. Look at the US - the Texas shooting. A young man, 21, white, reads stuff online about white supremacy, goes to El Paso on a Saturday morning to a supermarket that is full of Hispanics and he shoots twenty people dead. Wives, husbands, children – killed, lives are lost. For what? How does this come about? Every word, every sentence, every video, eventually will have consequences.
21. So when hateful and divisive rhetoric becomes the norm, and societies turn a blind eye, violence follows. History has shown this time and time again.
22. So we in Singapore watch identity politics and hate speech here, extra closely. This is our mantra.
23. We have to be extra vigilant in policing and keeping peace in our common space, and be firm and objective. And that is why we intervened in the spate of videos alleging discrimination by the Police against Malays. They think they can get away with making such false allegations, they are wrong.
24. And so when you come in, you would be expected to uphold those values. Keep our society safe, keep internal security. Keep the peace, make people feel safe. I think one of the supreme privileges of being a Singaporean is a sense of safety and security that the entire society feels, across Singapore.
25. The second related trend that will have implications for the Home Team is that technology is changing rapidly.
26. The increasing trend of cybercrimes is worrying, especially internet scammers. Our overall crime rate has been falling, and reached an all-time low in 2017. But it increased in 2018, primarily because we had a lot of cyber-enabled scams. So physical crimes like theft and robbery continued to fall, partly because our society is getting older. Generally, societies with a lot of young men between 20 to 25 see a spike in violence. But secondly, the way in which people generally behave with each other over a long period of rule of law and order has conditioned our people to behave within the law. And the active policing; the Police being on top of the situation.
27. So that is cybercrime – a lot of it happens outside of Singapore, beyond our control. And the increasing popularity of cryptocurrency makes the tracking of these crimes very difficult.
28. And offline, drones are becoming an increasingly common sight. We had runway closures at Changi Airport about two months ago. This sort of thing can cause a lot of damage, a lot of mischief.
29. As technology advances, we have to keep pace. Otherwise, we will be behind the people who do all this mischief.
OPPORTUNITIES AMIDST THE CHALLENGES
30. But technology also presents a lot of opportunities.
31. For example, the recent launch of the Sky Aerial Response Command, or SkyARC. The SkyARC is the Police’s UAV command. It will give Police added abilities, for example to secure major events and locate missing persons in forested terrains. It gives Police a good situational picture.
32. And at our checkpoints, ICA is incorporating state-of-the-art biometric technologies. For travellers – the idea is to be able to “breeze-through” the clearance experience. In the future, you won’t have to stop to produce your passports to clear immigration. Automatically, there is facial and iris recognition technology, and you won’t have to do anything.
33. SCDF is also turning to technology; all our Departments are. They are moving into using Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) to help its emergency call dispatchers. All the emergency calls are sent to a central place. With A.I., it can reduce the time it takes to process the calls, improve the effectiveness of triaging the calls, identify which ones need to be dealt with, which ones can take a little bit of time. So it will make the system intelligent enough to transcribe, log and make even a preliminary medical assessment of 995 calls – which ones need immediate attention; which ones can be staggered. Because our resources are limited. And, they have shown it to me, they are trying it in our four official languages, and even Singlish!
34. So technology will be a game-changer. We will be setting up the Home Team Science and Technology Agency. Scientists and Engineers in this new agency will help to advance our technical, technological capabilities in areas we have identified as being critical for the Home Team.
35. We have launched a new MHA Merit Scholarship; it will create additional pipelines of talent for key civilian leadership appointments within MHA. This is targeted at candidates who are keen to contribute to our home-front security, public safety, policy development and science and engineering.
36. The first recipient of the PSC-awarded SGS (MHA Merit) scholarship is Eleanor Sim. She will be reading Computer Science at the Georgia Institute of Technology in the U.S.
37. The Home Team Science and Technology Scholarship will be awarded to Ms Lin Lejia, who will be reading Computer Science at NTU.
38. Within our uniformed services, we have built up and will continue to build up a cadre of officers. They will have both operational knowledge and technical expertise.
39. We call them Ops-Tech uniformed officers; they will partner the scientists and engineers in the Home Team Science and Technology Agency, to develop new technological solutions that we hope will give us the edge in our operations.
A STRONG HOME TEAM REQUIRES STRONG LEADERS
40. The outcomes that we have achieved today in terms of safety and security have been made possible only by the good work put in by generations of Home Team officers, with the right political leadership.
41. And that is why we invest heavily in our people. People are the core strength of the Home Team, as it is for most organisations. So we recruit and groom young people because we need top-notch officers. We set high expectations on our young leaders because the public expects the Home Team to deliver.
42. And that is why you – the scholars – your decision to join us is very significant, for you and for us. When you accept a Home Team scholarship, you are making a solemn commitment to your fellow Singaporeans, that you will help to keep them safe.
43. We are proud to welcome all 23 new scholars today to the Home Team family.
44. We saw a significant increase in interest in a Home Team career this year. The percentage of PSC scholarship applicants who put the Home Team as their first choice was the highest in the last five years, and ranked third among all scholarship schemes, after the Teaching and PSC (Open) scholarships.
45. We are also seeing our scholars pursue studies in a wider range of disciplines.
46. We have four recipients of the Singapore Police Force Scholarship.
47. One of them, Ms Ang Shermaine is the first female recipient of the SPF Scholarship. It is a happy coincidence because this year the SPF is celebrating 70 years of women in policing. I am heartened that over the years, law enforcement has moved away from being a male-dominated profession. I hope that Shermaine will inspire many more young women to take up the challenge of policing.
48. And with that, let me congratulate every one of you, parents, and I welcome you to this family, the Home Team.
49. Thank you very much.