Published: 20 August 2020
Home Team colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,
1. Good afternoon. Congratulations to the new Home Team Scholars. You are joining the Home Team. We believe it is a very meaningful mission - ensuring the safety and security of Singapore; protecting properties; and keeping Singaporeans safe.
The COVID-19 Crisis
2. This year has been extremely challenging for the whole country. We have learnt much from the SARS battle in 2003, but this fight is different. COVID-19 is more easily transmitted, and people with COVID-19 often are asymptomatic, but yet highly infectious. It is much more difficult therefore to pick up who has the virus. It is therefore, in many senses, an invisible enemy.
3. We have had to implement extraordinary measures to curb the transmission of the virus, reducing physical interactions between people, and restricting who we allow into Singapore.
4. Of course, the impact of it all is a very sharp decline in economic activity. Unemployment rates have gone up, are going up, and will go up further. So, it is not only a public health crisis, but also a very serious economic and social crisis.
5. Many agencies have come together to deal with COVID-19, including, of course, the Home Team. Our officers from across the Home Team work closely, and tirelessly round the clock. They fulfil critical roles. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) runs the Homefront Crisis Executive Group (HCEG), which is chaired by our Permanent Secretary, and supports the Multi-Ministry Taskforce, planning and executing national policies and responses for COVID-19.
6. We implement COVID-19 measures at our borders. For example, the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) enforces the Stay-at-Home Notice (SHN) regime, and is also setting up a new office to ensure safe cross-border travel. The Home Team Science & Technology Agency (HTX) deploys laboratories and COVID-19 test kits to screen incoming travellers. The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) officers conveyed many infected persons to hospital. The Singapore Police Force (SPF) and the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) help with their investigative expertise to do contact tracing, and our officers support operations at the Government Quarantine Facilities. SPF provides the security, SCDF checks the health of persons who are under quarantine. We run operations at several migrant worker dormitories – that’s quite an important job – officers from different Home Team Departments came together to form what we call the Forward Assurance and Support Teams (FAST). They look into the workers’ well-being in dormitories, welfare, health, and safety. HTX deploys technologies - for example, UAVs and patrol robots, to ensure operational effectiveness while reducing the risks to our officers.
7. Many of our officers have stepped forward, often beyond the call of duty, to be part of this national effort. They put their own health at risk. A few of our officers and their families have caught the virus. Fortunately, they have all recovered. Many have sacrificed time with their families. Some officers who face, or are doing things, with a higher potential exposure to the virus because of their responsibilities, have chosen to stay away from their families during the period to keep their families safe. We salute all of them for their courage and selflessness.
Leadership During Crisis
8. The COVID-19 situation continues to be tough, not only in Singapore but all around the world. Even in places, which had brought the virus under control initially - for example, Australia and Hong Kong - there have been new waves of infection. We have to brace ourselves for a continued battle ahead.
9. Leadership is even more critical in crises such as this. We need leaders who can navigate uncertainties, and who have the courage to make decisions and make judgement calls, on data that you have which may often be incomplete. When new data is received and when the environment changes, to have the courage to revisit previous decisions and plans, and make changes if necessary.
10. During periods of uncertainty, there will be fear, there will be apprehension. We need leaders who can communicate effectively, cut through the clutter, reassure, and provide confidence.
11. Within the Home Team, we pay close attention to how our officers are coping.We conduct morale sensing surveys regularly. Commanders and supervisors engage the officers, not only on work matters, but also on how their families are doing. We show our appreciation for our officers and we support and encourage them during this difficult period.
12. Because of the strong leadership, the values held by our officers and their passion for the mission, the morale among our officers has remained high.
Building a Strong Pipeline of Home Team Leaders
13. There are many challenges facing us –new pandemics, and also other threats to security and stability.
14. In this context, let me emphasise another key point – the trust that people have given the Home Team. People’s trust is absolutely critical for the Home Team’s ability to enforce the law, and to keep the country and people safe. We are fortunate that the Home Team enjoys a very high level of trust. Public perception surveys regularly show that about 90 per cent of respondents agree that the Home Team is fulfilling its mission of keeping Singapore safe and secure. Our people trust Home Team officers to do their duties objectively, and with integrity.
15. But as recent developments in other countries show, the trust can be easily lost, if people feel that the law enforcement agencies are no longer acting to protect them. The loss of trust will make it very difficult to establish law and order, and prevent chaos from taking over. Trust, once lost, is difficult to regain. It has happened in other places, and it can happen here too if we are not careful.
16. The Home Team will continue to need strong and capable leaders who can lead our officers, prepare for and tackle future crises and maintain the very high level of public trust that we have today. It is in this context that we invest heavily in getting talented young people who believe in our mission to join us, and we develop and groom them to be their best. Each of you scholarship recipients made a very significant career decision to join the Home Team as our Home Team scholars.
17. This year, we are very proud to welcome 14 new Home Team scholars to our family. You have been chosen out of over 300 applicants. Two are recipients of the Singapore Police Force Scholarship. that is awarded by the Public Service Commission to Singaporeans with outstanding academic performance and have shown leadership qualities, and a strong desire to serve in SPF. Congratulations to Ms Sundaram Mohan Shakthi and Mr Sim Zheng Hao. Shakthi will be reading Psychology at Yale-NUS College; and Zheng Hao will be studying Liberal Arts at New York University.
18. Six Singapore Government Scholarships and one Local Merit Scholarship were awarded for the uniformed services. The first Singapore Government Scholarship for ICA will go to Joey Chang who will study Geography at Cambridge University. Three MHA Merit Scholarships were awarded for the Science and Technology field, and two others in the general field.
19. Let me end by congratulating the parents, family members, school principals. You have nurtured and developed your children and students well.
20. Congratulations to our scholars again. You will have a meaningful and exciting career with the Home Team. Be a guardian of our Home. Your leadership journey begins here.
21. Thank you.