The Security Industry and Fire Safety Managers' Counter-Terrorism Seminar - Speech by Mr Desmond Lee, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of National Development

Published: 24 January 2017



Members of the Security Industry,


Members of the Fire Safety Managers' Association of Singapore,


Home Team Colleagues,


Ladies and Gentlemen,


1. Good morning. I'm glad to see so many of you here at this morning's Security Industry and Fire Safety Managers' Counter-Terrorism Seminar. Thank you for your strong commitment towards a safe and secure Singapore.


The Increase In the Terrorism Threat


2. Like many countries around the world, Singapore is deeply concerned by the threat posed by terrorism. In Singapore, we have enjoyed relative peace, safety and security for many decades. But the terrorism threat that we face today is greater than before.


3. In 2014, ISIS had declared its intention to set up wilayat or provinces in Indonesia and the Philippines under the ISIS Caliphate. ISIS has published propaganda videos and newspapers in Malay, to recruit new members from our region.


4. About 1000 people from Southeast Asia have been radicalised and have travelled to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS. They have even formed a cell called the "Katibah Nusantara" or Malay Archipelago Unit. The Southeast Asian fighters in ISIS have been able to direct their network of operatives back in their respective home countries to carry out attacks, such as the attacks in Puchong, Kuala Lumpur and Tamrin, Jakarta last year which were orchestrated by Malaysian Muhammad Wanndy and Indonesian Bahrun Naim respectively. We have also seen a small number of Singaporeans and foreigners living here become radicalised. A few have in fact joined the fight in Syria and Iraq.


5. As ISIS suffers setbacks in Syria and Iraq, they are focusing on other areas. As a result, more attacks are happening all over the world. Not only is there the significant risk of people returning from the battle zones to Southeast Asia to look for targets in this region, there is also the threat of lone-wolf attacks by self-radicalised inpiduals. These attacks by self-radicalised inpiduals are hard to detect.


6. The emergence of new methods of attack has also made the detection of plans and prevention of attacks more challenging. You would have read and seen the graphic pictures and videos of attacks by terrorists using vehicles to ram through areas which are full of people. One was in Nice, in July last year, killing 86 people. Then, in Berlin last December, a truck drove into a Christmas market killing at least 12 people and injuring 56 others. Another incident happened just weeks ago, on 8 January in Jerusalem, when a truck ploughed through a crowd killing 4 people and injuring at least 10. We also see an increased use of weapons which are easily available and easily concealed, such as knives.


Importance of Reviewing Security and Response Plans


7. While the Government is fully committed to countering terrorism, the Government cannot do it alone. We require the community to play a part. Among the community, I hope that all of you here today, the security and fire safety industry, can play a leadership role in protecting Singapore. Your efforts to improve the safety and security measures of the buildings and facilities you are in charge of, can help to deter and prevent attacks.


8. Apart from enhancing building security, we also encourage you to work with owners of buildings and premises, the Fire Safety Managers and Company Emergency Response Teams, on the emergency response plans for different scenarios. You can put in place the evacuation procedures and In-Place Protection (IPP) measures to enable people to escape harm. Should a terrorist attack happen, many people will look to you for leadership and direction. Your emergency response training and first aid skills will help save lives. You have a critical role to play.


Upgrading Skills and Knowledge


9. Terrorists will keep changing their tactics to avoid detection and suspicion and inflict greater damage. None of us can afford to be complacent. We need to keep upgrading our knowledge and skills, and put in place new detection and response procedures. The security and fire industry must also keep pace with these developments. I am very glad that you are here today to attend this seminar. You can further sign up for specialist courses offered by Workforce SG. Police and SCDF have been working with Workforce SG to ensure that the courses taught are relevant and up-to-date. Terrorist attacks can happen anywhere, to anyone. We need to train more members of the community in basic preparedness skills. This includes the employees, tenants or residents in your workplace or facilities, so that they, too, would know how to react in an emergency. We must all play our part because in a crisis, our personal safety and the safety of our loved ones depend not just on how prepared we are, but also how prepared others around us and our loved ones are.


Resume Normalcy as Soon as Possible


10. Terrorism threatens not only our physical safety but also our social fabric. To further their political ambitions, terrorists aim to sow discord and distrust within societies.  We must learn from what has happened in other countries where terrorism has had negative consequences on their people. We cannot let terrorism pide our society. We cannot become paranoid of each other. We cannot live in a climate of fear and distrust.


11. If we look upon our fellow Singaporeans with suspicion, or if we worry constantly about being attacked and shut ourselves up at home, the terrorists would have met their objectives of sowing fear and breaking apart our society.


12. Building a united and strong community goes beyond the home and into the workplace.


13. The same close ties and bonds should also exist in our workplaces. We need to build a safe and cohesive workplace through mutual understanding of, and respect for, our colleagues. Therefore, in addition to keeping your workplace safe and secure from physical harm, it is equally important that we strengthen workplace cohesion and harmony among staff and colleagues. These measures will make us more resilient and allow us to recover from an incident quickly, and together as one community.




14. Today's seminar is designed to set you thinking on what you can do to protect not just your workplaces but also Singapore. I urge you to use this platform to share best practices with one another, so that we can be better prepared. I believe as safety and security professionals, and as citizens of Singapore, we will not allow any act of terror to disturb the peace that we enjoy here. Let us continue to work together to foster a community where everyone stays alert, stays united and stays strong. I wish you all a fruitful seminar and a Prosperous Lunar New Year in advance.


Civil Defence and Emergency Preparedness
Managing Security Threats