Threat-Oriented Passenger Screening Integrated System Forum 2018 - Speech by Mrs Josephine Teo, Minister, Prime Minister’s Office, Second Minister for Home Affairs and Second Minister for Manpower

Published: 13 February 2018

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Friends and Colleagues,


Dealing with the Terrorist Threat


1.     As we all know, the threat of terrorism against Singapore is at its highest level in recent years. We are an attractive target, and have been cited in extremist publications. In December last year, a Singaporean was even featured in an ISIS-linked video encouraging attacks in our region.  

2.     The threat is real and a successful attack could result not only in the loss of lives, but loss of investor confidence and tensions between our different races and religions. This is why the Ministry of Home Affairs has been extensively and repeatedly highlighting the threat.

3.     It is also why the Government has been putting in significant investments and efforts to raise home-front protection. We have introduced laws to protect major events and large or iconic buildings, expanded CCTV coverage, enhanced border protection, and upgraded the response capabilities of our security forces. 

4.     But relying on just the Government for our security will not afford us the best chance of preventing and mitigating an attack. We therefore launched SG Secure, a national movement to organise our community to prevent an attack, and if we are attacked, to remain cohesive and resilient in the aftermath. 

5.     Today, I would like to highlight two other areas where, as a community, we can also play a part to deal with the terrorist threat. 


Enhancing Building Security


6.     The first is in building security. Last year, we introduced the Infrastructure Protection Act (IPA). I will always remember the IPA because I was 5 days in my job when I passed the act in Parliament. The Act allows MHA to require large or iconic buildings, or those that provide essential services, to undergo a security-by-design process. This involves undertaking a risk assessment for the building, and integrating security features and measures in their design when they are being built or renovated. And because the design incorporated all of the thinking that was necessary to secure the buildings, such buildings are in a better position to withstand attacks. 


7.     In enacting the IPA, we recognised that it is not practical to impose the security-by-design process on all buildings. So we adopted a risk based approach, focusing on buildings where the risk and impact of an attack are more significant. 


8.     But this does not mean that the other building owners do not have to be concerned. The terrorist threat can hit any one of us; and it does not discriminate.  


9.     To help building owners better take ownership of their own security, MHA is doing more to enhance building security capabilities in Singapore. 


10.     This morning, I launched the Security Industry Transformation Map (SITM for short), where one of the major initiatives is to train and develop a larger pool of competent security consultants. Building and premises owners will then be able to more easily engage experts to carry out risk assessments, and recommend appropriate and effective security solutions. Efforts under the SITM to promote greater use of technology in the security industry will also help improve building security. 


11.     Another resource of which building owners can avail themselves is the "Guidelines for Enhancing Building Security in Singapore", or GEBSS. It was first released in 2010 and includes best practices in the incorporation of security into building design, and in security measures.


12.     The GEBSS has been updated to deal with the evolving threat. Additions to the guidelines include:-


i.     How to conduct a security risk assessment to identify vulnerabilities in a building;

ii.     How to develop a security plan based on the concept of layered protection, using the "deter, detect, delay, deny and respond" framework; and

iii.     New scenarios have been added to illustrate possible security threats to the different areas of a building.


13.     I understand the concerns of building owners over the cost of building security measures. But it is also in your own business interest to ensure the safety of tenants and members of the public who visit the buildings are assured.  Furthermore, building security can be cost-effective if it is based on sound risk assessments, and planned for before the building is constructed or undergoes major renovation. For example, areas housing the critical functions of a building can be planned further away from potential threats. More advanced safety measures such as automated barriers, CCTVs or other security systems, while incurring upfront cost, could save manpower cost over the longer run. 


14.     The updated guidelines are available online, on MHA's website. MHA's Centre for Protective Security Studies will also conduct outreach and workshops on the updated guidelines.


TOPSIS – Equipping Stakeholders to Detect Suspicious Characters and Behaviour


15.     The second area in which the community working or residing in a building can do more for their own security, is to help detect suspicious characters and behaviours. Even if a building is patrolled by security personnel, they will not be everywhere all the time. Therefore, it is important for the non-security community in the building, such as the tenants, to add to the sense of vigilance.


16.     In 2009, we introduced a programme called the Threat-Oriented Passenger Screening Integrated System, or TOPSIS. Over the last 10 years, the TOPSIS team from MHA has partnered stakeholders at all the land, air and sea checkpoints to implement the programme.


17.     Under TOPSIS, frontline staff at the checkpoints, including non-security personnel such as service staff, they act as eyes and ears on the ground. They are trained to detect tell-tale indicators so that we can subject suspicious persons to enhanced security checks. This programme at the checkpoints has helped us achieve more comprehensive checks without adversely affecting the efficiency of immigration clearance.


18.     Since TOPSIS was introduced, there have been many successful detections. Let me share just one. 

i.     Ms Mageswari Ramasamy, a Customer Services Officer with SATS, was serving a passenger who was trying to obtain a boarding pass for his connecting flight. However, the passenger appeared unsure and stuttered when asked about his purpose for travelling. His passport also appeared to lack security features.


ii.     This aroused Ms Mageswari's suspicion and SATS security officers were activated to conduct further checks. As it turns out, his passport and visa were found to be counterfeits – they were fraudulent. Ms Mageswari is here to receive an award today. And I think we have to thank her  for her vigilance – it saved us a lot of potential problems


19.     I would also like to thank the organisations which have committed to the TOPSIS programme. We are giving awards to recognise your partnership and I hope you will continue on this journey with us.


TOPSIS 2.0 – Extending TOPSIS to Enhance Security within Our Border


20.     The reality is that threats to Singapore's security cannot all be stopped at our checkpoints.  How we wish that would be the case. That when we set up the border, all trouble stops there.  Some will inevitably slip through, while others will be home-grown. Recent attacks overseas have been directed at public places within the city. 


21.     That is why we now want to expand TOPSIS beyond our checkpoints. We will enhance our outreach to implement TOPSIS in inland locations which could be attractive terrorist targets. This includes critical infrastructure such as power and water treatment plants, and buildings with high human traffic, such as malls and theatres.  The people working at these locations can play an important role in security, in being alert to suspicious persons and activities. 


22.     Some organisations have already implemented TOPSIS. Sentosa, for example, after implementing TOPSIS in 2015, saw a 50% increase in cases of suspicious persons detected and reported by their staff. Sentosa is receiving a Gold award today, and will share their TOPSIS journey later during the forum.


23.     To reflect the expanded scope of TOPSIS beyond our checkpoints, TOPSIS will be renamed. The "P" in the TOPSIS acronym used to stand for"Passenger", and we will be changing it to "Person". So TOPSIS now stands for Threat-Oriented Person Screening Integrated System.


24.     I hope that many more organisations will come on board TOPSIS 2.0.




25.     Let me conclude. 


26.     We can make our home and workplace even safer, if every one of us steps up to play a part in security.  All it takes is for us to be vigilant, and some training to detect suspicious characters and behaviour. In this way, we can work together to safeguard what we hold dear – our loved ones, our communities, and our way of life.


27.     So on this note, I thank you for being here today and I wish you a fruitful afternoon at this forum.


Factsheet on TOPSIS Forum 2018


Factsheet on TOPSIS Forum 2018 PDF, 79.0 KB, 2 pages


Managing Security Threats