Published: 02 April 2019
Excellency Marc Abensour, Ambassador of France to Singapore;
Ladies and Gentlemen;
1. It is my pleasure to join you today at the second edition of Milipol Asia-Pacific. A very warm welcome to our speakers and visitors from overseas.
2. The Milipol Asia-Pacific has established itself as the leading homeland security event in the region since its inaugural edition in 2017. This year, the participation of senior leaders and decision makers from the public and private sectors remains strong; bringing together renowned speakers and more than 300 international exhibitors.
B. Singapore-France Relations
3. Milipol Asia-Pacific is jointly supported by the Singapore Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the French Ministry of Interior. This is testament to the strong bilateral ties between the two countries, including on security, as well as law and order. Our operational agencies have benefited from the close collaboration. We were deeply appreciative to have senior French commanders share their operational experience with our law enforcement officers in Singapore during senior leadership programmes organised by the Home Team Academy in the last 2 years. And such collaboration is also useful to our French counterparts, such as to know the latest developments in this region, and to share best practices and innovations.
4. Just yesterday, our two Ministries renewed the Strategic Cooperation Plan, which is a key cornerstone of our relations, for another 3 years. This will allow us to further deepen collaboration in the key areas of counter-terrorism, cybercrime, border security, and crisis management, among other areas of mutual interest.
5. Coinciding with the France-Singapore Year of Innovation, MHA and the MOI signed an Administrative Arrangement focusing on cooperation in science and technology in homeland security in April 2018.
C. Security Threats and Challenges – 2 Key Concerns
6. Such bilateral and multilateral cooperation and collaboration are needed, and are invaluable. The security threats and challenges we face today are varied and complex. In addition to the traditional twin threats of transnational crime and terrorism, the rise of criminal activities in the digital world, more commonly termed as cybercrime, also warrants urgent, coordinated action across borders. Let me touch on two key concerns affecting this region.
Global Threat of Terrorism Remains High
7. Firstly, the global threat of terrorism remains high. ISIS has suffered a momentous blow when it recently lost its last physical stronghold in the Middle East. Whilst it is significantly weaker without an established base to train aspiring militants, its ideology persists in cyberspace. As a virtual caliphate, ISIS remains a potent threat and is likely to continue to inspire attacks globally. In the past, ISIS had attracted supporters and sympathisers and inspired attacks worldwide, including the Southeast Asia region, where it has been linked to some two dozen terrorist attacks and more than 60 foiled attack plots thus far.
8. The fight against terrorist individuals and groups must continue. Aside from established groups like ISIS, there is a growing concern on terror attacks committed by self-radicalised lone wolves. In Singapore, we continue to see cases of self-radicalisation. Since 2015, we dealt with 22 radicalised Singaporeans under the ISA.Another worrying trend is the profile of those radicalised - they are getting younger. And the average time taken for radicalisation has also fallen – a sign that individuals are getting radicalised faster. We also have to be alert to the threat posed by radicalised foreigners working or otherwise resident in Singapore. Since 2015, over 50 foreigners in Singapore were found to have been radicalised.All but one have been repatriated to their home countries.
9. Increasingly, we are witnessing more hate-driven terror attacks, like the most recent one in Christchurch, New Zealand on 15 March 2019. We have to deal with such decisively, as early as possible. Earlier this year, we took action against a Singaporean freelance religious teacher, Murad bin Mohd Said, and his student, Razali bin Abas. Murad was propagating beliefs promoting violence and views detrimental to the cohesion of Singapore’s multi-racial and multi-religious society. Murad’s teachings rendered Razali susceptible to more radical and violent influences and, over time, Razali became convinced that it was legitimate to kill those he felt were oppressors of Islam, including non-Muslims and Shi’ites. The Murad and Razali cases show that the threat of radicalisation is ever-present, and real, and we – as a Singapore community - need to remain vigilant.
10. A strong community response to the terrorist threat is critical. Singapore launched the SGSecure national movement in September 2016 to sensitise, train and mobilise our community in the fight against terror. The SGSecure Programme Office from the Ministry of Home Affairs will share more on this later.
Rise in Cybercrime
11. The second key concern that I will touch on, is the rise in cybercrime. Cyberattacks and cyber-enabled crimes are on the uptrend, and criminals are employing more sophisticated tactics with the help of technology, to steal data, extort and transfer money, and disrupt systems. “Cybercrime as a service” is also increasing in popularity, allowing someone without technical skills to buy specialist crime services, to carry out cyberattacks or commit other types of cybercrime. A competitive environment means that more effective malware is being produced by hackers to overcome security measures put in place to thwart them. APT, or Advanced Persistent Threats, are also being employed by both state and non-state actors to steal sensitive data and research.
12. Globally, it is estimated that approximately $600 billion was lost to cybercrime and cyberattacks. In Singapore alone, more than $158 million was lost just to scams in 2018, predominantly through online platforms. And this is just a conservative estimate.
13. With the borderless nature of cybercrime, regional and international cooperation with foreign law enforcement is necessary. We need to work together to allow for fast cooperation to trace and stop the monies, and interdict the criminals. To illustrate this, the joint operations conducted by police officers from Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong in 2018 led to the arrest of over 40 suspects responsible for over 150 cases of internet love scams across 3 jurisdictions.
D. Leveraging on Technology
14. Technology plays a critical role and offers tremendous potential for public and private organisations to better tackle the threats of terrorism and cybercrime. Just as criminals and malicious actors employ technology for illegitimate purposes, it remains critical for homeland security agencies globally to harness technology to remain effective in our response to the security threats and challenges. Constant innovation is also key to preparing ourselves against evolving and new homeland security threats. To strengthen our society in the face of these threats, we will need to continue investing in a strong public-private technology ecosystem and implement technology to significantly augment our collective expertise and innovative capacity.
15. Let me briefly share what MHA is doing in this area to support our desired operational outcomes. Since 2015, we have embarked on a major transformation to strengthen our agencies’ operational effectiveness, including developing new technologies, focusing on threat detection, digital forensics, and unmanned systems (such as drones and unmanned boats) which are currently being used by our police and civil defence forces. Another example is the enhanced use of biometrics and screening technology to secure Singapore’s borders, where the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority will implement the BioScreen-Multi Modal Biometrics System to automate and streamline processes at our checkpoints later this year. This system will allow us to use a combination of any of three biometric identifiers, namely iris, facial and fingerprints, for fast and accurate immigration clearance.
16. To qualitatively enhance MHA’s capabilities, we are setting up a new Science and Technology (S&T) Agency to directly support the Ministry’s work and that of the Homefront. With our investments in capability development expected to grow from $979 million currently to about $1.9 billion in 2025, this new agency will focus on developing capabilities unique to the operational context and requirements of Singapore’s homeland security to better support operations.
E. Close Bilateral and International Cooperation and Collaboration
17. In the face of emerging, global threats in a dynamic landscape, it remains critical for countries to continue cohesive efforts to strengthen close bilateral, regional and international cooperation and collaboration.No one organisation, group or country has the ability or expertise to resolve or manage the challenges that lie ahead of us in a rapidly changing, increasingly interconnected world. There is strong impetus and imperative for all of us to remain open to dialogue, partnerships at various levels and achieve better outcomes collectively. It is in this context that we welcome the strong partnership with France, and with our other strategic partners. Working closely together, we are stronger, better prepared, and more effective. And so we must continue building these bridges of cooperation and collaboration.
18. With esteemed international speakers offering unique insights on key emerging security, terrorist and criminal challenges, as well as many reputable companies showcasing the latest technology in the exhibition, Milipol Asia-Pacific 2019 stands out as a reliable and sustainable platform for us to gather, participate, learn and collaborate. This will contribute towards the capability development of law enforcement agencies and security organisations.
19. I wish you all a fruitful conference. Enjoy your time in Singapore. Thank you.