Speech by Minister for Home Affairs, Mr K Shanmugam at the 70th Anniversary Dinner of the Volunteer Special Constabulary

Published: 21 October 2016

Home Team colleagues,


VSC Officers – past and present,


Distinguished Guests,


Ladies and Gentlemen,


A very good evening to all of you.



1. It's one of those events where the mood is so good and enthusiasm is palpable. It is really a pleasure to be with you here.


Formation of VSC

2. As we celebrate 70 years of VSC, the VSC enjoys an illustrious history. It started in 1946. It was then known as the Special Constabulary (SC) and was an auxiliary force with 150 officers at that point of time.


3. Very soon we had in 1950, the Maria Hertogh riots. That was a baptism of fire for the VSC. The rioting took place over a week. 8 people died, 131 injured and 200 vehicles were burnt and damaged. The VSC was mobilised to restore public order, side by side with regular Police officers. The VSC officers faced the rioters. They put their lives on the line. Eventually, the Police Force, regulars as well as VSCs, brought the situation under control. They restored peace and calm during this difficult period of Singapore's history. 


Key Milestones of the VSC

4. After that, over the years, there have been several important milestones in the history of the VSC. In 1967, as part of National Service, some young men were attached to the VSC. By 1981, after 14 years, it was decided that the VSC would go back to being a volunteer force. In 1995, VSC underwent a re-organisation and adopted a similar staff and line structure as the Police.


5. In 1999, a very significant decision was made. SPF decided that VSC officers would wear the same uniform as regular Police officers. It was significant as it signified the VSC's full integration into the SPF. It meant that when the public dealt with the VSCs, they were dealing with a police officer, not just a VSC officer. They had the same powers and duties, and of course, the same expectations as any other officer.


VSC Duties and Roles

6. Today, we are extremely fortunate to have more than 700 VSC officers with our Force. They come from all walks of life. We have professionals, students and taxi drivers. People who earn an honest day's living outside and spend their time as a VSC because of their passion. They want to keep Singapore safe. They want to perform key important duties alongside regular Police officers. What are their duties? They do frontline policing. They are at the Police Divisions, Police Coast Guard and Traffic Police. They are deployed at major operations like NDP and Year-end Countdown celebrations. They are involved in community engagement in the neighbourhoods, road shows, school talks and community policing.


7. As SPF's priorities have increased or changed over the year, so have the VSCs' duties evolved. With the implementation of the Community Policing System, or COPS, VSC officers have been attached to the NPCs' Community Policing Units (CPUs) for the last 3 years, since 2014. They go on bicycles, they conduct patrols and interact with residents. They have also been integrated with the Public Transport Security Command and Criminal Investigation Department. The VSC officers have also been attached to the Security Command. During Istana Open House, they work side by side with other police officers to keep the place safe.


8. And now, the buzz word is SGSecure. It is a critical movement, we are rolling it out. We want every Singaporean to be involved, to understand what SGSecure is and play their role. If everything is dependent on the Police Force or the response from the security forces, then inevitably people will think there is nothing for me to do and the number of deaths in an attack would be simply related to how long it took for the security forces to come. What is critical is that everyone takes charge, knows what to do, and everyone is able to help, when it is safe to do so. And that everyone understands that they have to also alert the police as soon as possible. The faster the police gets alerted, the faster the response is.


 9. We have to mobilise and educate across the community. It is a massive task and VSC officers have volunteered to help us in this. I visited one of the SGSecure training sessions for VSC and the enthusiasm, integration and sense of ownership was tremendous. While we are on this topic of SGSecure, many of you would have seen the SGSecure advertisements. I encourage all of you to download the SGSecure app on your mobile phone. Please encourage your family, friends and those you know to download the app too. We want to try and have everyone have the SGSecure app on their mobile phone. It is a way for the Police and SCDF to send out emergency alerts to you. In the event of an emergency, anyone with the app will be able to send back information very quickly and intuitively to the Police or SCDF.


10. You can see from the wide diversity of roles from security deployments to SGSecure, that the VSC is fully integrated with the Police Force. That shows the level of trust and confidence that the Government, MHA and SPF have in each one of you.


School and Specialist Honorary VSC

11. Over the years, we have also appointed additional officers and designated them as different groups of VSCs. For example, the School Honorary VSC officers[1]. That scheme was introduced in 1997 to deal with the issue of juvenile delinquency. School Honorary VSC officers serve as the link between the Police and the schools. We now have about 300 of them.


12. The second group are the Specialist Honorary VSC officers[2]. They support the SPF in expert domains such as veterinary science, media, law and IT. We have 12 of them. For example, Honorary Inspector Kenneth Tong volunteered his expertise as a veterinarian. He set up a clinic in the Police K-9 Unit and takes care of the well-being of our Police dogs. Honorary ASP Yeow Seng Yong is a Chinese Radio Presenter. He helps with SPF's public outreach at road safety roadshows and he has a way with people, and is very popular with the senior citizens. 


13. All three groups – the VSC, School Honorary VSC, and Specialist Honorary VSC – serve with pride and contribute in your own ways to the mission of SPF.



14. What is most remarkable about the VSC is the dedication of the people. Everyone has a day job and jobs take up a lot of time. To go beyond that, to come to serve and put on the uniform, requires an intense level of dedication, driven by a deep sense of duty. We have VSC officers who have served for many years, even decades. Very often, the VSC officers are more experienced than the younger regular officers who join their team.


15. For example, Volunteer Superintendent Jimmy Yap, a dentist by profession. He is 61 years old and is our oldest serving VSC officer. He has served in the VSC for 28 years. Volunteer DSP Joseph Lui. He runs a printing company and has served in the VSC for 36 years. He is the VSC's longest serving officer. They are testament to the passion and commitment of our officers.


16. We are proud to have VSC officers who are now serving Singapore in other ways, beyond the VSC. I was told by Commander VSC that out of the nine Commanders in VSC, we have five here today. Judge of Appeal Justice Chao Hick Tin served as the Commander of the VSC from 1981 to 1987. Council of Presidential Advisers (CPA) member, Chairman, Presidential Council for Religious Harmony and retired Supreme Court Judge Goh Joon Seng, served as the Commander of the VSC from 1988 to 1990.


17. We are very proud to have these VSC officers, past and present. They are role models and an inspiration for the rest of us.



18. Tonight, as we celebrate our 70th anniversary, we would also like to remember and honour the VSC officers who have given their lives in the line of duty. Mr Andrew Teo Bock Lan, who was attacked by rioting mobs in the 1955 Hock Lee bus riots, Mr Abdul Kadir Bin A Rahman, who died in a traffic accident while pursuing motorcyclists who had made illegal modifications to their motorcycles in April 1988, and Mr Seah Ben Hur, who died while performing Traffic Police roadblock duties on 8 November 2005. We will remember what they have done for the SPF, and for Singapore.


Recognition for VSC Officers           


19. It is only right that we recognise the contributions of our VSC officers. From 1 July 2016, under the MHA Group Insurance scheme, MHA has decided to cover VSC officers with a $150,000 Group Term Life and a $150,000 Group Personal Accident insurance during official VSC duties. The premiums will be paid by MHA and there is a possibility of purchasing additional insurance coverage at very attractive rates.


VSC Allowance

20. Earlier this year, I spoke about VSC allowances in Parliament. I said that not only were we right in increasing the allowance in the past, we will look at increasing it in the future. We will make good on that. The VSC allowance is modest but the point is the fact that we value you and it is a symbolism.  


Awards and Commendations


21. We are also proud that our VSC officers continue to receive Ministry and state-level awards and commendations every year. In August this year, I presented the Minister for Home Affairs National Day (Volunteer) Award to three VSC officers[3]. At the National Day Awards this year, 12 VSC officers were awarded the Pingat Bakti Setia (Polis) [i.e. Long Service Award]. Some of you will also be receiving the Annual VSC Best Officer Awards tonight. 


22. We are also recognising VSCs officers who are retiring, after having served with dedication for many years. These gestures cannot make up for your personal sacrifices but they show that we remember and appreciate their contributions. 


Transforming the VSC for the Future

23. Even as we look back at the past 70 years, we do well to look ahead. The Home Team is embarking on a transformation exercise to prepare for future challenges in 2025. The VSC will also need to consider where you are now and where you need to be in 2025. The SPF has recently set up a review team comprising regular officers and VSC officers. The team will develop the VSC 2025 Transformation Plan, even as MHA and the Home Team Departments are undergoing a similar review and plan for transformation. This will help guide the VSC for the next decade.


24. On this note, as we think about the future, let me issue a challenge to the VSC, to double your membership by the time we celebrate the 80th anniversary. That's a challenge worth looking at. It's not about quantity, it's about quality, but let's see if we can find other dedicated people who will come in and serve with similar dedication and enthusiasm.



25. Let me conclude by thanking all of you, VSC officers past and present for your hard work, contributions, dedication and sacrifice. You have undoubtedly contributed to making Singapore one of the safest places in the world. I thank you for your 70 years of service and wish you all the best for the future.  


26. Thank you.


[1] There are currently 293 School Honorary VSC officers. They are nominated by the schools and MOE, and only have police powers in schools and at school events. They do not receive VSC allowance and have no minimum number of VSC contribution hours to fulfil.


[2] There are currently 12 Specialist Honorary VSC officers. They are nominated by the SPF units and do not exercise police powers. Similar to the School Honorary VSC officers, they do not receive VSC allowance and have no minimum VSC contribution hours to fulfil.


[3] The three VSC officers are: Volunteer SUPT Edwin Ignatious, Volunteer DSP Abdul Hakkim, and Volunteer DSP Ang Lee Meng.