Updates from Ministry of Home Affairs


  • Fri, 27 Nov 2020 16:00:00 +0000: Yellow Ribbon Community Project Awards & Appreciation 2020 - Speech by Assoc Prof Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, Minister of State, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of National Development - Ministry of Home Affairs Newsroom
    Fellow Grassroots Advisors and Grassroots Leaders

     

    Ms Shie Yong Lee,

    Commissioner of Prisons

     

    Mr Chng Hwee Hong,

    Chairman of Yellow Ribbon Singapore

     

    Mr Teo Kian Teck,

    Vice-President of the Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association

     

    Our honourable volunteers, ladies and gentlemen

     

    Introduction

     

    1. A very good afternoon. Thank you for joining us this afternoon. I am very pleased to join you at this year’s Yellow Ribbon Community Project Awards & Appreciation event.

     

    2. This year marks the 10th anniversary of Yellow Ribbon Community Project, or YRCP. From a humble beginning, with eight grassroots divisions and 74 volunteers when YRCP was launched in 2010, it has since made significant progress. Today, 89 grassroots divisions have come on board, with over 1,200 volunteers trained and involved in this meaningful cause. This is a great achievement.

    3. I am heartened by the dedication and commitment of the volunteers who play a key role in reaching out to support and provide assistance to offenders and their families. These efforts go a long way towards helping offenders reintegrate into the community upon their release. I hope that going forward, more people will become volunteers, make a real and meaningful difference to the lives of offenders and their families.

     

     

    Appreciation for YRCP Volunteers

     

    4. The COVID-19 crisis is unprecedented. It has severely impacted the lives of Singaporeans. Some have lost their loved ones. Many faced uncertainties from the loss of employment or reduction in their income.

    5. For offenders and their families, the pandemic has added to the challenges they face, and they will require stronger support to cope with the situation.

    6. During this difficult time, YRCP volunteers play an even more critical role in supporting offenders and their families. When the home visits ceased in view of the COVID-19 safe management measures earlier this year, YRCP volunteers continued to keep in touch and close contact with families through regular phone calls. Your effort in keeping up the engagement, providing immediate support to the families of the offenders and helping them access government and community assistance, is crucial to stabilise the family situation quickly and minimise further disruptions to their daily lives.

    7. Today, I would like to recognise the efforts and dedication of a very special group of YRCP volunteers. They have been volunteering with YRCP for the past 10 years and have received a special 10-year Long Service plaque in recognition of their contributions.

    8. There are 30 recipients of the 10-year Long Service plaque. I would like to express my deepest gratitude to each and every one of you, for the sacrifices that you have made in contributing to this worthy cause.

     

    Key Initiatives of YRCP Over The Last 10 Years

     

    9. The 10th anniversary of the YRCP is an important milestone and it is timely we revisit and celebrate our high points over the last 10 years.

     

    10. As mentioned earlier, YRCP had a humble start in 2010, with eight divisions. We had 74 volunteers, who reached out to 78 families.

     

    11. Today, YRCP has grown to 89 divisions, with more than 1,200 volunteers. Cumulatively, we have reached out to more than 15,000 families.

     

    12. In 2016, YRCP 2.0 was launched to enable grassroots volunteers to contribute more to the lives of ex-offenders and their families. YRCP 2.0 aims to enrich the volunteers’ engagement in the following three areas:

     

    (i) Firstly, in rekindling familial bonds. YRCP volunteers help to rekindle familial bonds by encouraging the families to communicate with their incarcerated family member, either by visiting them in prison or via tele-visits.

    (ii) Secondly, YRCP volunteers provide positive pro-social support to the families by engaging the family beyond the first home visit such as linking them up with various community programmes and inviting them to community events to support them on their reintegration journey.

    (iii) Last but not least, to better support vulnerable children. YRCP volunteers help to identify vulnerable children of offenders who may require support in their studies or counselling and refer them to relevant community programmes.

     

    13. YRCP also works in close partnership with government and community organisations. In 2018, M3, a collaborative effort between three key community institutions, MUIS, MENDAKI and MESRA, was introduced to support the needs of the Malay/Muslim community. Under the M3-YRCP collaboration, YRCP worked with FITRAH, an office under MUIS, so that mosque and grassroots volunteers go on joint home visits to the offender’s families, so that they can assess the needs of the families in a more holistic manner. The families are then referred to MENDAKI, MUIS, MESRA or other community organisations where they can access the relevant social assistance and programmes.

     

    14. This initiative has been piloted in areas such as Sembawang GRC as well as Taman Jurong, Bedok, and Kampong Chai Chee divisions, and has benefitted over 240 families. Going forward, we aim to expand the M3-YRCP collaboration and we look set to roll out the initiative in Nee Soon, Pasir-Ris Punggol and Marsiling Yew-Tee by early next year.

     

    15. Starting from 2018, YRCP distributed booster packs to help families of offenders with household needs. Close to 2,000 families have benefitted from the YRCP booster packs in 2018 and 2019. This year, 880 families will receive the booster packs which contain grocery vouchers twice the amount received by each family last year. For families with children, each child will receive bookstore vouchers to give them a good start to the new school year. Offenders were encouraged to write a letter of encouragement to their children, which will be given to them along with the bookstore vouchers as a reminder of their parent’s love even while being incarcerated. I understand that the YRCP volunteers have started to distribute the Booster Packs to the families.

     

    16. I would like to thank our generous sponsors – Heartwarmers Volunteer Group, Inmates' Families Support Fund and Yellow Ribbon Fund for their support, without which this project would not have been possible.

     

    Strengthening Engagement with Families

     

    17. Even though the COVID-19 pandemic affected the physical home visits, this did not stop the volunteers from engaging the families by calling in to check on them. The regular phone calls helped to provide assurance to the families that the volunteers continue to do their best to support the families in need.

     

    18. Thank you for continuing to stay in contact with the families and often going the extra mile to help them. It is crucial that YRCP volunteers continue to do so, in order to get a better sense of whether the families are coping well, and to identify any new issues and needs early.

     

    YRCP Volunteers Going the Extra Mile

     

    19. Here, I have a heart-warming story to share. It is about the friendship between Madam Anna’s family and Nancy. Nancy is a Yellow Ribbon Champion who leads a team of YRCP volunteers at the Marsiling division.

     

    20. Madam Anna (not her real name) is one of the YRCP beneficiary families. She experienced depression after her husband was incarcerated and had to cope with the stress of looking after their three young children by herself. She also faced the anxiety of managing a three-year old son who was greatly affected by the absence of his father.

     

    21. During the house visit, Nancy and a fellow YRCP volunteer noticed that Madam Anna’s three-year old son was behaving aggressively towards her. Having ensured that the family’s immediate needs were addressed, Nancy and her fellow volunteer did not stop there. They went the extra mile to befriend the child. Over time, through their engagement with the child and Madam Anna, they helped Madam Anna to manage and improve the child’s behaviour.

     

    22. Madam Anna was grateful to Nancy and her team for spending time to engage her son and that she noticed the tremendous change in her son’s behaviour. Their dedication and support contributed positively to her family’s well-being.

     

    Conclusion

     

    23. So, YRCP volunteers like Nancy and her team have made a real and significant difference to the lives of many offenders’ families as they journey through a challenging phase in their lives. The community will continue to benefit from your partnership, efforts and contributions.

     

    24. I would like to congratulate all the 30 YRCP award recipients. I hope your good work will inspire more volunteers to support and join the cause, and I want to sincerely thank all of you for making this very meaningful effort. I know there are many more like Nancy out there, who have spent your time and effort quietly under the YRCP banner, to visit and care for fellow human beings and their families.

     

    25. It goes without saying, how thankful the families are. Last week, I met a few of the families who are benefitting from this programme, and almost all of them shared with me that they are very appreciative of the work being done by YRCP and the volunteers.

     

    26. One of them told me, “We follow some of the news that has been shared about what is being done. I, representing my husband, we are very thankful to you and all the volunteers.” So, they are very, very appreciative of what has been done by all of you, and I hope you will continue this journey and bring more people on board, so that we can help one another to make life better for each and every one of us, regardless of our situation and the incarceration of any of the family members.

     

    27. On that note, I wish you a very pleasant afternoon ahead and thank you for joining us once again. We are all very blessed to have all of you on board this journey with us.

     

    28. Thank you. 

  • Thu, 26 Nov 2020 16:00:00 +0000: 8th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Disaster Management and 9th Conference of Parties to the AADMER - Chairmanship Handover Speech by Assoc Prof Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, Minister of State, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of National Development - Ministry of Home Affairs Newsroom

    Honourable Chairman

     

    Excellencies from ASEAN Member States and the ASEAN Secretariat

     

    Distinguished Delegates

     

    Ladies and Gentlemen

     

    Introduction

     

    1. We cannot over-emphasise the impact that COVID-19 has had on our lives this year. Despite the challenges, Philippines, as the ACDM Chair of 2020, had led the ACDM with optimism and positivity. Let us give the Philippines a round of applause for their leadership. The region has persevered through the pandemic, and made significant progress towards achieving the ASEAN Vision 2025 on Disaster Management, that is, to be a global leader in disaster management.

       

      Achievements Of ACDM 2020

       

    2. Under the Philippines’ leadership, the ACDM successfully conducted two ACDM meetings, and today’s AMMDM meeting, through virtual platforms. The ACDM also adopted the ASEAN Declaration on the Strengthening of Adaptation to Drought and completed drafting the AADMER Work Programme 2021-2025, a substantial undertaking. We have officially adopted the Work Programme earlier today. This work programme outlines ASEAN’s priorities in the next five years to enhance key ASEAN mechanisms, and strengthen collaboration with international actors in the field of disaster management, emergency response, and humanitarian assistance to achieve the ASEAN Vision 2025 on Disaster Management.

       

      Moving Forward in 2021

       

    3. Singapore looks forward to taking on the role of ACDM Chair in 2021. Much work lies ahead of us to continue to fly the ACDM flag. We will focus on a few key areas.

       

    4. Firstly, the ACDM will work with the AHA Centre to develop the AHA Centre Work Plan 2021-2025. This workplan would chart how the AHA Centre will continue to support the implementation of the AADMER Work Programme 2021-2025 and its priorities. Secondly, recognising the devastating impact that drought has on some ASEAN Member States, the ACDM will collaborate with other ASEAN Sectoral Bodies and relevant partners to develop the Regional Plan of Action on Strengthening Adaptation to Drought and take concrete actions to address the challenges posed by drought.
    5. The ACDM Working Group on Global Leadership, co-chaired by Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam, will also take on the task of rejuvenating the Joint Task Force to promote synergy with other relevant ASEAN Bodies on Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief to enhance partnerships and cross-sectoral collaboration.

       

    6. Singapore is committed to organising our two flagship programmes: the ASEAN Strategic Policy Dialogue in Disaster Management and the ASEAN Senior Executive Programme in Disaster Management. Singapore is also working with the ASEAN Secretariat to publish the ASEAN Disaster Resilience Outlook, which aims to conduct a mid-term review of the ACDM’s efforts, and surface new and emerging challenges and risks posed by the changing regional and global landscape.

       

      Conclusion

       

    7. Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen – the work of the ACDM is extremely important for the ASEAN region. With better understanding of the disaster risks that we face and well-coordinated responses, we can reduce the impact of disasters on our region. Singapore looks forward to working with all ASEAN Member States, ASEAN Secretariat, AHA Centre, and partners in 2021, towards operationalising “One ASEAN, One Response”.

       

    8. Thank you, and we look forward to your support.
  • Thu, 26 Nov 2020 16:00:00 +0000: 8th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Disaster Management and 9th Conference of Parties To the AADMER - Country Statement by Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, Minister of State, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of National Development - Ministry of Home Affairs Newsroom

    Honourable Chairman

     

    Excellencies from ASEAN Member States and the ASEAN Secretariat

     

    Distinguished Delegates

     

    Ladies and Gentlemen

     

    A very good morning.

     

    Introduction

     

    1. It gives me great pleasure to attend the 8th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Disaster Management (AMMDM) and the 9th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to AADMER. I would like to congratulate the Philippines, for its able leadership as the ACDM and AMMDM Chair through 2020, and for successfully organising the series of meetings leading up to today’s AMMDM.

     

    Advancing Transformation Towards a Safer, Adaptive, Inclusive and Resilient ASEAN and realising our ASEAN vision as the Global Leader in Disaster Management

     

    2. It has been a challenging year with COVID-19 affecting the lives of communities around the world. ASEAN was not spared. ASEAN is home to more than 600 million people and is reportedly the most disaster-prone region in the world. This year alone, apart from COVID-19, ASEAN Member States in the Mekong Region had to deal with the effects of tropical storms Linfa and Nangka while Typhoon Molave and Super Typhoon Goni battered the Philippines and Vietnam. These natural disasters that occurred in the midst of COVID-19 strained the resources of National Disaster Management Organisations. International travel restrictions and Safe Management Measures also made it challenging for international Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) organisations to deliver aid.

     

    3. The pandemic, despite being disruptive, has become a catalyst for transformation. It has changed the way we live, work and play as we learnt how to leverage technology and online platforms. Today’s virtual meeting is a good example of how we have successfully adapted. We need to transform the way we work and collaborate in the ‘new normal’.

     

    The Impact of COVID-19 on Disaster Management in Singapore

     

    4. Singapore has embraced the use of technology in our COVID-19 response.The Government Technology Agency (GovTech) rolled out a suite of digital tools and solutions to manage the outbreak, such as the TraceTogether and Safe Entry applications for contact tracing, and the collation of data on crowd density at various locations to manage crowd levels. We have also stepped up communications using messaging apps to push key messages and updates to the population. We have created new official government websites that allow our population to check where they can collect masks or the crowd levels at selected locations. These actions have complemented and supported the work of Singapore’s healthcare sector in battling COVID-19.

     

    5. The fight against COVID-19 requires a national and integrated effort among different government agencies and the whole of society. During this period, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), which is also Singapore’s National Focal Point for AADMER, provided frontline support in COVID-19 related operations, such as temperature screening operations at Changi Airport, managing a Government Quarantine Facility, conducting swab tests in support of health authorities, stepping up fire safety checks at temporary worker dormitories, and training drivers and dormitory staff onthe proper donning of Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE.

     

    6. To maintain a high level of operational readiness, SCDF had to quickly adopt safe management measures in their operations, ensure the protection of frontliners through the provision of enhanced PPE, and adjust essential training to ensure the safety of personnel. For example, Rescue Battalions, which support the response to major urban search and rescue incidents in Singapore, had recently resumed training.Steps were taken to reassure personnel of their safety, such as implementing self-contained work zones to ensure training is safely conducted. Singapore’s regional response entities, such as the Operation Lionheart team and ASEAN-ERAT, were thus able to maintain their operational readiness to respond to disasters in the region should the need arise.

     

    Overcoming Challenges

     

    7. In spite of the travel restrictions, the ACDM has done well in maintaining open communication channels. We have also tapped on technology in a bid to move meetings, courses and training online.

     

    8. My SCDF colleagues shared with me that during the COVID-19 period, many virtual meetings were held to develop the AADMER Work Programme 2021-2025. This work programme forms the critical backbone and roadmap for ACDM for the next five years. Guided by the AADMER Work Programme 2016-2020, the ACDM had implemented many initiatives over the last five years, such as the Disaster Emergency Logistics System of ASEAN (DELSA) and ASEAN ICT Roadmap on Disaster Management. I hope that the new AADMER Work Programme will continue to foster greater cooperation in the ASEAN region and take us one step closer towards operationalising “One ASEAN, One Response”.

     

    Singapore’s Commitment and Contributions to Transforming Disaster Management in ASEAN and beyond

     

    9. I look forward to seeing the continued growth of ASEAN’s capabilities in disaster management. Singapore will assume the ACDM Chair in 2021, and will also co-chair the Working Group on Preparedness, Response and Recovery and the Working Group on Global Leadership. We recognise the importance of capability development and thought leadership especially during these challenging times. Hence, Singapore will continue to organise the two flagship events in this region: the ASEAN Strategic Policy Dialogue in Disaster Management and the Senior Executive Programme in Disaster Management. Singapore conducted this year’s Senior Executive Programme in Disaster Management as a three-part webinar in October 2020. The webinar was attended by more than 500 participants from the region and beyond. The topics included disaster leadership models and sharing of experiences and challenges in managing COVID-19.

     

    10. I am also pleased to announce that Singapore will host an AADMER Partnership Conference next year. We are cognisant of the interconnected nature of the modern operating environment, which requires close collaboration amongst partners, and will endeavour to work closely with our ASEAN colleagues, and external and community partners to scope and develop the plan of action for the AADMER Work Programme. Singapore also hopes to share our expertise in Operations-Technology with the ASEAN community. By leveraging on technology, we can further streamline work processes and possibly one day, operate seamlessly as one ASEAN in disaster management.

     

    Conclusion

     

    11. In this crisis, we saw the resolve and resilience of our region. Looking ahead, there are many opportunities for ASEAN to work together, adapt and transform to reach greater heights. With the strong collective resolve to reduce disaster risks and enhance our expertise at disaster management, and determination to advance as a region, we can make ASEAN disaster-resilient and safer for all.

     

    12. Thank you.

     

  • Wed, 25 Nov 2020 16:00:00 +0000: Film Premiere of “Seeking The Imam” - Speech by Mrs Josephine Teo, Minister for Manpower and Second Minister for Home Affairs - Ministry of Home Affairs Newsroom
    1. Good evening Ambassador Ong Keng Yong, Ambassador Zainul Abidin Rasheed, Ms Juliet Liu, Mr John Lim, Dr Noor Huda Ismail, Mr Sujadi Siswo, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

       

    2. Thank you for inviting me to join you for this film premiere.

                                                      

    3. I would firstly like to congratulate Dr Noor Huda and his team for producing this film, and thank Humanity Matters for organising this film premiere. I am delighted to see so many friends and familiar faces in the audience here this evening.

       

    4. Having read the synopsis of the film, I look forward to watching it together with you, so that we can gain further perspectives on the process of radicalisation. I think we can all say that most of us will not be very familiar with how it happens, so there is great appeal in terms of wanting to find out.

       

      Threat of Terrorism and Radicalisation Remain

       

    5. In peaceful Singapore, we can easily be lulled into thinking that radicalisation is a problem that only happens elsewhere, which we can read and watch about with some detachment. Through the busy-ness of our lives and other domestic concerns, news of such grotesque events may even have lost their ability to shock.

       

    6. Last month, there were multiple terror attacks in France, most notably, the beheading of French teacher Samuel Paty, and a knife attack in Nice, I believe in a church, which killed three people. Earlier this month, there was the shooting in Vienna that killed four people and injured at least 15 others, and an explosion in Jeddah targeting French interests, which resulted in at least three injuries. All made the international headlines. But if you listen, observe conversations, frankly they did not really become key topics of discussion at home.

       

    7. In fact, the threats are closer than they appear. In Southeast Asia, ISIS and Al-Qaeda affiliated groups continue to operate and remain active, and they continue to spread their ideologies online. In Indonesia, some ISIS supporters have incited violence against France and French nationals, over France’s response to the terror attacks.

       

    8. We in Singapore must never assume we can ever be immune to the threat of radicalisation and terrorism. We believe so at our own peril. Just two days ago, we announced that the Internal Security Department investigated 37 individuals, 14 of them Singaporeans, in the wake of the recent terror attacks in France. They were inciting violence and stoking communal unrest, or made derogatory remarks against Muslims. 16 foreigners have had to be repatriated. Investigations into the remaining 21 individuals, including a radicalised Bangladeshi worker arrested under the Internal Security Act, are still ongoing. Just to be clear, a vast majority of work-pass holders in Singapore present no such problems or inclinations, but there were the few that did. Much like in the local community.

       

    9. Since 2015, we have ourselves dealt with 29 radicalised Singaporeans under the Internal Security Act. Many of them were influenced by extremist online materials. Each one of them had the potential to do great harm, not just to themselves but to our communities.

       

    10. To illustrate, in January this year, we detained a 17-year-old Singaporean for supporting ISIS.

       

    11. He was first investigated in 2017, after he posted defaced images of President Halimah Yacob on social media, and called on ISIS to behead her for supporting Singapore, which he viewed as an infidel state. He was only 15 years old at that time.

       

    12. He had been radicalised by a foreign online contact who introduced him to pro-ISIS social media groups. He eventually came to support ISIS and believed that it was a powerful group that was fighting for Islam and its use of violence against its opponents was justified.

       

    13. Working with community partners and his family, we tried very hard to steer him away from this radical path by arranging religious counselling sessions for him and collaborating with his parents to guide him and monitor his activities. Still he persisted with viewing pro-ISIS online content, such was the attraction for him, and remained a staunch supporter of ISIS, even willing to undertake activities if called upon to do so. We therefore had no choice but to detain him.

       

    14. It is absolutely important to stress, and I want to make sure this comes across clearly, that radicalisation is not limited to any religion or ethnic group. It is so important to stress this. Radicalisation is a poison that can seep wherever there are cracks in society of a communal nature.

       

    15. Everyone will remember the Christchurch shootings last year. The shooter, Brenton Tarrant, was an extremist, right wing terrorist who made elaborate plans to attack the Muslim community. On 15 March, he opened fire in two mosques in Christchurch, killing 51 innocent people – one of whom was the husband and father of a Singaporean family.

       

    16. What causes people to go down the path to radicalisation, and what can we, as a society, do to prevent this?

       

      Factors that Influence the Risks of Radicalisation

       

    17. Even as we learn more, two factors are clearly significant.

       

    18. One, environmental influences. These include family and community networks, as well as the internet and social media.

       

    19. Social media, in particular, has had an outsized role. It allows for the creation of large echo chambers, where similar views are reinforced and amplified, impervious to balancing views. So, you keep hearing people saying the same thing until they become truth because you hear no other views being expressed in these echo chambers. This has enabled pro-terrorist social media groups to spread and entrench their extremist ideologies farther and wider, where their supporters can amplify these messages in their various communities, including in Singapore.

       

    20. This threat has also increased with Covid-19 as people spend more time online, and have less opportunity for face-to-face social interactions, where we see each other as part of the human race, that we are more alike than different. Those interactions are now at risk. Terrorist groups are using this opening to push out more online content to attract more followers.

       

    21. The second factor has to do with the individuals themselves, their psychological and emotional state, which may be influenced by past traumatic experiences. Some of the radicalised Singaporean youths suffered from personal issues such as domestic violence and disputes, which increased their susceptibility to extremist causes. For example, one youth was faced with familial conflicts and difficulties in his studies. To cope, he fantasised about being a Mujahid or holy warrior to break out of his grim daily reality. Coping through fantasy is nothing unusual, all of us had experienced doing so, you take yourselves out of the present circumstance. But in his case, it had a really frightening dimension to it.

       

    22. Both these factors, social, environmental and individual factors, they are closely related and reinforce each other.

       

      Countermeasures

       

    23. There is no silver bullet to tackle the threat of radicalisation. The whole of society must come together, to counter the risks and avoid the most dire consequences. Let me put forward three suggestions how we can do so.

       

    24. First, we must make every effort to deepen cross-religious and cross-cultural understanding and interactions. That is the one basic thing that is essential, we must get right.

       

    25. By any measure, Singapore today enjoys a high level of racial and religious harmony. This is, however, not a state of nature. Developments elsewhere can spill over, such as the increase in violence committed in the name of religion. Domestic issues can also be exploited, to foment dissatisfaction and incite disharmony.

       

    26. On its part, the Government will continue to strive for fairness in its dealings with the different races and religions, and to take firm enforcement action against hate speech. But the Government’s actions alone will not be enough. Our efforts as individuals and communities, to mix with each other, understand, appreciate and defend our multi-cultural way of life, are essential to integration. Where we believe change to be necessary, we also need the wisdom and patience to build consensus through engagement.

       

    27. Second, a holistic approach is necessary to counter radicalisation and re-integrate those who may have been led astray.These include community-led efforts by the Religious Rehabilitation Group and the Inter-agency Aftercare Group, which cover psychological, social and religious rehabilitation. These efforts unravel the individual’s extremist beliefs, mitigate against further negative environmental influences, and creates a supportive network for a person’s re-integration into society.

       

    28. Third, we should continue to be vigilant against signs of radicalisation. If we observe family members, friends or colleagues displaying signs such as idolising, showing support or sympathising with terrorists and their causes, displaying insignia or symbols associated with terrorist groups, or trying to influence others to support terrorist causes, we should report them to the authorities early. This is no doubt a very difficult decision because it involves those who are close to us. But it is by taking action early, that we can stem the radicalisation, and save the individuals from harming themselves or others.

       

      Conclusion  

       

    29. To conclude, while there are those like the protagonist in the film we are about to watch who successfully escaped the dangers of radicalisation, there are many more who remain on the battlefields in Syria or under the stranglehold of their extremist beliefs. And it is literally a stranglehold, once it sets in, it is very hard to get rid of it.

       

    30. We need to continue to work together as one society, to prevent radicalisation, to counter and to rehabilitate.

       

    31. Once again, I would like to thank Humanity Matters, Dr Noor Huda and his team from the Institute of International Peace Building, and the panel speakers for organising this session. Have a great evening. Thank you.

     

  • Wed, 25 Nov 2020 16:00:00 +0000: 14th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crime (AMMTC) – Country Statement by Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law - Ministry of Home Affairs Newsroom

    Chairman and AMMTC Leader of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,

    Your Excellency General To Lam,

    Excellencies and Distinguished Delegates,

    Ladies and Gentlemen,


    INTRODUCTION

    1. A very good morning to all of you.

       

    2. First, let me start off by expressing our deepest appreciation to the Vietnamese Government, and Your Excellency General To Lam, as Chair, for your commitment to host this virtual 14th AMMTC Plenary under circumstances which are very challenging. Second, let me express our deepest condolences to our Malaysian counterparts, and the family of the police officer who unfortunately passed away in an anti-smuggling operation near the border, and we wish speedy recovery to the other injured officer.

       

    3. As with the 20th SOMTC, which was held earlier this year in September, we think that it is excellent that ASEAN Member States (AMS)’ have decided to hold our meetings. It shows a collective sense of purpose that we have to continue strengthening cooperation within ASEAN, to combat transnational crime and ensure a safer region for our people.

       

    4. Governments in our region and around the world have focused on responses to Covid-19 to protect public health, to promote economic recovery, and criminals are of course, seeking to exploit this situation.

       

    5. At the recent SOMTC, most AMS reported an increase in transnational crimes since COVID-19 started, and colleagues here have shared your experiences too. We have to give our very strong support to our law enforcement agencies, and we have to robustly respond at the national level, as well as regionally. And AMMTC is a key platform in ASEAN to drive our regional efforts to tackle transnational crime, including against the challenges that have been brought about by the COVID-19 situation.

       

    6. For Singapore, transnational crimes are of significant concern and, in particular, they fall in three areas - cybercrime, illicit drugs and terrorism.


      CYBERCRIME

       

    7. Let me start with cybercrime. COVID-19 has brought about a serious growth in cybercrime.

       

    8. In Singapore, a significant increase in online scams has been reported. People are working from home, staying at home more, they are carrying out more online transactions during this period.

       

    9. To deal with this, Singapore’s National Crime Prevention Council recently launched a mobile application, called ScamShield, to try and filter scam calls and messages. But online scams are often committed by syndicates operating from outside the borders. That is why transnational co-operation is vital.

    10. In this context, I express my deepest appreciation to the Royal Malaysia Police for working with us to cripple two separate syndicates in February and May this year. They were responsible for several cases of phone scams and Internet love scams targeting victims in Singapore.

       

    11. As the ASEAN Lead Shepherd for Cybercrime, Singapore led the establishment of the ASEAN Cyber Capability Desk in 2018, which is now known as the ASEAN Cybercrime Operations Desk or “ASEAN Desk”. It published the first cyberthreat assessment of our region in February 2020, which is a major milestone in its development.

       

    12. ASEAN Desk plans to undertake this threat assessment every year to help our region stay on top of the latest developments and trends, and we thank INTERPOL and the AMS for your contributions to this inaugural assessment and urge continued support for this excellent initiative.

       

    13. I am pleased to share that in January 2020, ASEAN Desk led two successful operations targeted at crypto-jacking and web scammers, and supported by private sector partners.

       

    14. The success of joint operations demonstrates the importance of close cooperation and coordination.

       

    15. Overall, ASEAN Desk advanced professional development of our law enforcement officers, facilitated information exchange and enhanced joint regional operations. We express our appreciation to Vietnam and Brunei for seconding officers to the Desk, and for the Philippines’ interest in doing the same.

       

    16. Singapore has seconded officers to ASEAN Desk and we strongly encourage remaining AMS to do so. It would greatly enhance national and regional capabilities to tackle cybercrime threats.

       

    17. Looking ahead, ASEAN Desk is working on several promising initiatives.

       

    18. First, establishing a secure virtual collaboration platform to promote knowledge exchange on cybercrime issues, with law enforcement agencies and private entities.

       

    19. Second, developing a regional coordination framework to drive intelligence-led, coordinated operations.

       

    20. Finally, organising virtual training for First Responders from AMS on the collection, handling and preservation of digital evidence and enhancing investigation abilities in Darknet and Crypto Investigations.

       

      ILLICIT DRUGS / TRAFFICKING

       

    21. Let me now move to my second point which relates to drugs.

       

    22. Trafficking of illicit drugs increased during this COVID-19 pandemic. About two weeks ago, Singapore’s drug authorities seized almost S$2 million worth of drugs including 14 kilograms of heroin – our largest single haul in nearly twenty years.

       

    23. Despite strict travel restrictions and border closures, movement of illicit drugs persisted through alternative channels, like drones, mail and couriers, and other ways.

       

    24. We have noted drug traffickers and syndicates using what we would call “novel” smuggling methods, hiding substances inside coconuts, papayas and so on.

       

    25. And globally, a growing number of countries are adopting more liberal perspectives on drugs, which is, I think a matter of serious concern for ASEAN. It threatens our drug-free stance.

       

    26. World Health Organisation Expert Committee on Drug Dependence issued 6 recommendations on rescheduling of cannabis and cannabis-related substances

       

    27. Singapore rejects all the six recommendations due to the potential implications that these recommendations would have on public health and public safety.

       

    28. We are very concerned that some of the recommendations are not anchored on scientific evidence.

       

    29. The acceptance of these recommendations at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) meeting on 2 December, would send the wrong signal to the general public that cannabis is no longer seen to be a harmful drug.

       

    30. We strongly urge all ASEAN member states (AMS) to stand united in our vision of a drug-free ASEAN.

       

    31. And we urge Thailand as the only voting member of the CND from ASEAN to vote against all the six recommendations at the CND Reconvened Session in December.

       

       

      TERRORISM

    32. Let me now turn to my third point which relates to the threat of terrorism and extremism that persisted during the COVID-19 pandemic, and we must continue to remain vigilant.

       

      Regional cooperation and close collaboration with our strategic partners, such as INTERPOL remain as important as ever.

       

    33. INTERPOL’s Regional Counter-Terrorism Node (RCTN) for Asia and South Pacific facilitates intelligence sharing and cooperation within ASEAN to enhance counter-terrorism efforts.

       

    34. We urge AMS to second officers to the RCTN to build strong personal and institutional links, to enhance information sharing and to strengthen ASEAN’s collective defence against the persistent threat of terrorism.


      CONCLUSION

       

    35. In conclusion, Chairman and members, ASEAN must remain united to deal with evolving emerging threats, in the current and post pandemic world.

       

    36. Let us continue to work closely together to ensure a safer and more secure ASEAN.

       

    37. Thank you.
  • Mon, 23 Nov 2020 16:00:00 +0000: 16th Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) Seminar - Speech by Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law - Ministry of Home Affairs Newsroom

    My Parliamentary colleague, Mohammad Faishal Ibrahim

    Co-Chairmen of the RRG

    Ustaz Ali Haji Mohd [who could not join us today]

    Ustaz Mohd Hasbi Hassan

    Mufti Dr Nazirudin Mohd Nasir

    Previous Mufti Dr Fatris Bakaram

    Chief Executive MUIS, Mr Esa Masood

    RRG Members


    INTRODUCTION

    1.        Good afternoon. I am happy to be able to join you here today at your 16th RRG seminar.

    2.       Many of you, including both co-chairs, Ustaz Ali and Ustaz Hasbi, have been with the RRG right from the beginning, 17 years ago.

    3.        In these 17 years, RRG has been an extremely strong, influential, important voice for both religious tolerance as well as strong religious beliefs, and standing firm against violence and terrorism.

    4.        This year’s format is obviously different. We are all living in a new normal. Dr Ali spoke about vaccination in the new normal – it applies to the rest of life as well. I am heartened to see that many people are still taking part, whether in-person or over Zoom. Thank you for your good work.


    CURRENT SECURITY LANDSCAPE

    5.        Today I want to share some important points with you. Since the last RRG retreat in March 2019, the shape and nature of the terrorism threat has changed. ISIS has lost much of its physical territory – in fact, almost all of its physical territory, in Syria and Iraq – and a number of its leaders, including Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, have been killed.

    6.        But, the threat of ISIS remains. It is now a covert network with over 10,000 fighters. It still has over 10,000 fighters in Syria and Iraq, and they continue attacks. ISIS is taking advantage of the geopolitical unrest and weak governance in many of the conflict zones. The unfortunate thing about all of this, is that the people who suffer most, most of the people that ISIS kills, are fellow Muslims – more than 90 percent, children, women.

    7.        Its propaganda on social media continues to radicalise and inspire attacks around the world, including here in Southeast Asia.

    8.        There have been sustained counter-terrorism efforts in this region and that has led to a moderation, a slight reduction, in the number of attacks.

    9.        But, the terrorists in this region are adapting. They are going low-tech, adapting, changing their modus. For example, they use knives, they use lesser known explosives, and they are tapping on alternative funding sources for their operations.

    10.        We have all seen, and the spate of attacks in France and Austria tells us, that the threat of terrorism hasn’t gone away.

    11.        French teacher Samuel Paty’s head was cut off by an 18-year-old Chechen teenager. He had shown his classroom students, when they were discussing freedom of speech, cartoons that were put out by Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine. You know that Charlie Hebdo, as a result of attacks of which there were several attacks on Charlie Hebdo, people died.

    12.        French President Macron issued a statement paying tribute to Paty and defending the right in France to publish such cartoons. He made a very strong speech, covering many different aspects.

    13.        That speech then got a very strong counter reaction from Muslims around the world, and some described the actions of France as Islamophobic.

    14.        Jihadists have jumped on it. They’ve called on followers to attack French interests, and to attack anyone who insults Islam and the way they define as insulting Islam.

    15.        As a result, there were then follow-up attacks. There were attacks in Nice, Lyon and in Vienna, Austria. It shows that when jihadists make such calls, there are people who will follow, and a few others, and more terror.

    16.        We all have said, we all know, jihadists don’t represent Islam. You have people like that in every religion who will resort to violence. It is not a problem with any particular religion, but you will always have people like this. The question is how we deal with them.

    17.        What has happened in France has restarted the debate on what freedom of expression means, how much you can say, and what is the boundary between free expression and your obligation not to offend someone’s religion.

    18.        In France, secularism, the French call it Laicite. It means that the government will not intervene in religious matters or stop publications that attack religions.

    19.        Freedom of speech is quite absolute to the extent that it even includes the right to blaspheme, which means you can publish anything that is offensive to any religion.

    20.        This didn’t happen overnight.

    21.        If you go back some centuries, several hundred years to the Middle Ages, the Church was extremely powerful. If a clergyman was walking on the streets and if you didn’t kneel and pay homage, you could be whipped, you could be arrested. The Church could get you arrested if it felt that you were a threat or you were contradicting the Church. It had a tremendous influence, the most important influence, in people’s lives and in the countries’ politics.

    22.        But over the centuries, with the Renaissance, with the assertion of nationhood, with the Kings asserting themselves, the balance shifted.

    23.        Along the way, but not before there were several religious wars between the Protestants and Catholics, and between the Kings and the Churches, and of course the French revolution, between the 17th and 20th Centuries, the principles of separation of State and Religion, and the secularity of the State, developed.

    24.        Post-World War, that became a stronger principle. At the same time, France, along with some other countries, faced greater immigration post-Second World War.

    25.        There are two principles worth noting about the French experience. One, the French State, the establishment, assumed that the new immigrants will accept the French way of looking at freedom of speech and that they will also accept the French approach to secularity, meaning you could say what you like about any religion and the State will not intervene. They expected that all the new immigrants will accept that.

    26.        The Government and the State did not engage in any active efforts to integrate the new immigrants, to see how their values can be integrated with the French approach, nor did they look at whether the French approach needed to be reconsidered and recalibrated in the light of the changing population. The French simply assumed that everyone will accept its traditional values.

    27.        And Laicite meant that the State couldn’t actually intervene, or seriously interact with different religions. They left the religions to themselves, and they couldn’t help bring people together, mould a common viewpoint, while protecting freedom of religion. Something like MHA interacting with RRG to promote uniformity, to promote unity, to promote a better understanding of religion, would not be acceptable in France, because that means the State is getting involved. But, it’s very difficult without the State getting involved. The State doesn’t tell people what to believe in – that must be for religious leaders – but the State has resources that can be brought in to help, to assist.

    28.        What is the result when the State takes a hands-off approach and if we took a hands-off approach? You have publications like Charlie Hebdo, which publish repulsive, highly offensive cartoons and articles on religions, in the name of free speech.

    29.        And the French expect all religions to accept this.

    30.        The French, we can understand, they are shaped by their own tradition, their own history. For them, this is new, they don’t realise it.

    31.        But looking at it as an outsider, you can also see and understand. Some will say that if you insult my religion, I am not going to stand by and say this is your right to free speech.

    32.        I’m not going to accept that free speech means that you can give offence to my religion. They published these images – I’ve only chosen the ones they published about Catholics – and you can see how offensive it is. They published similar ones about Islam with the Prophet, and for Islam, even publishing images of the Prophet is not acceptable. So, you can imagine, what would the Catholics do all these years? They try to sue Charlie Hebdo, they go to the Courts, they say this is bad, you shouldn’t be doing this about religion. And the Courts rule differently, depends, but free speech. If you did this in Singapore, we would arrest you, but in the French case, they say this is free speech, and therefore we shouldn’t intervene.

    33.        So, you can imagine when they publish something like this about Muslims, or Islam, or any other religion – and they publish about all religions – you can imagine how offensive it is. I’m not showing the ones on Islam here. So, France will have to find a way to bridge this gulf between its principles of Laicite and Freedom, and the expectations and beliefs of its people who don’t accept that their religions should be offensively caricatured.


    SINGAPORE’S APPROACH

    34.        Every now and then, we get debates in Singapore – why is the Government not allowing free speech, why is the Government so protective or so defensive when it comes to race and religion? This is why we are defensive when it comes to race and religion. Because if we take a hands-off approach, then people will say since the Government won’t do something, I will do something, and people are going to be upset with each other. The national harmony will be affected, and the majority of people will be affected. Some groups will be saying yes, free speech, it’s ok, I don’t get offended, you can say what you like about the Prophet, the Pope, or God. But many other people would feel offended. So that is why we take a different approach.

    35.        We take a secular approach, so, when the Government looks at policies, we are secular. We don’t favour any particular religion, and we guarantee freedom of religion. We are secular, France is secular; we guarantee freedom of religion, France guarantees freedom of religion. But how we achieve it, is different. France says that they prefer to achieve it by taking a hands-off approach; we are interventionist, we intervene.

    36.        Because we take the position, that the right to speak freely goes with the duty to act responsibly, the two must go together.

    37.        And, as a secular Government, we are neutral in the treatment of all religions.

    38.        We also do not allow any religion to be attacked or insulted by anybody else, whether majority or minority. Same rules.

    39.        We guarantee freedom of religion, the right of every person to practice his or her religious beliefs, and we protect everyone, majority or minority, from any threats, hate speech or violence.

    40.        That is the assurance one gets in Singapore. It is also what we need to do to make sure that we preserve racial and religious harmony in Singapore.

    41.        Therefore, the Charlie Hebdo types of cartoons will not be allowed in Singapore, whether they are about Catholicism or Protestants or Islam or Hindus. Free speech for us stops at the boundary of giving offence to religion. There is a fence, and that fence protects religious sensitivities. The Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, if they were here, they would have been told to stop. If they didn’t stop, ISD would visit them, and they would have been arrested.

    42.        We believe that we can build a multi-religious, multi-racial society, based on trust, and only by taking a firm stance against hate speech, and dealing with all communities equally and fairly.

    43.        We have laws designed to ensure racial and religious harmony in Singapore. We update them regularly to make sure that they are relevant and effective as times change.

    44.        Many of you might know that we amended the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act (MRHA) last year.

    45.        One key amendment is that the Minister can issue Restraining Orders to take effect immediately, removing the requirement for a 14-day notice period, because when it was introduced several decades ago, you had to give 14 days’ notice. But today, if you give 14 days’ notice, it goes around the world several times before 14 minutes are up. With social media and the Internet, a 14-day notice period doesn’t work anymore.

    46.        Another key amendment we said, we’ve been noticing foreign groups intervening, using religion, not just in Singapore, but in many other countries. We didn’t want to wait until that happened here, so we made amendments to the MRHA to say that foreign actors should not be exploiting our religious groups, imposing their values here. Let Singapore Muslims, Singapore Christians, Singapore Hindus decide for themselves. You can adapt the religious beliefs, but foreigners shouldn’t intervene actively in the way we do it.

    47.        Religious groups are now required to report all donations they receive from overseas, and we have rules. It doesn’t prevent foreign leadership of our organisations, but we have rules restricting the number of foreigners who can be in committees in charge of religious institutions. There is a limit to what we can do, but the committees and societies in Singapore, the churches and the mosques in Singapore, who are the committee members, the number. We can have some foreigners, but there will be a limit on the number.

    48.        The Government can also issue a Restraining Order against religious groups to prohibit donations, or change the leadership, if we assess that foreigners are heavily influencing those groups.

    49.        In contrast to France, we maintain secularity, we guarantee freedom of religion, by putting a limit to free speech. We’ll say it cannot be used to attack religion and actively intervene to put in policies which promote religious harmony. And, I’m sharing this because France has been in the news, the French approach has been in the news, and in Singapore, the constant debate is about freedom of speech and the limits. So, we understand why 40 to 50 years ago, our first generation of leaders decided on these principles which are still valid. Now, that’s my first point – to contrast the French approach to our approach, so that everyone can understand.


    ENHANCED SECURITY MEASURES ADOPTED IN RESPONSE TO DEVELOPMENTS IN FRANCE

    50.        Second, what has happened because of the events in France? We have had to ramp up our security in Singapore to prevent copycat attacks.

    51.        The Police have increased ground presence.

    52.        ISD has also stepped up monitoring of radicals, flush out potential radicals.

    53.        There have been many radical calls since the events in France, as I said earlier. As a result, we have picked up 16 Bangladeshis and 1 Malaysian in the last few weeks.

    54.        One of them is a construction worker from Bangladesh, Ahmed Faysal. Quite a serious situation. He has been arrested under the Internal Security Act (ISA), for suspected radicalisation and involvement in terrorism.

    55.        ISD’s preliminary investigations show that he became radicalised online and he wanted to take part in armed jihad overseas.

    56.        He bought knives and blades which we recovered from him, you can see that in the pictures. He specifically wanted to go back to Bangladesh and kill Hindu Police officers. He also actively shared jihadist propaganda on his social media accounts. The Commercial Affairs Department is also investigating him for possible terrorism financing offences. He is under detention by ISD.

    57.        The other 15 Bangladeshis that were picked up, they were in the process of becoming radicalised. They were stoking anti-French sentiments, and that is serious because one of the privileges of being in Singapore is that any one of you can go out there and walk and not worry that somebody is going to come and attack you. That is one of the privileges. But tomorrow, if a French man were to get attacked on the streets – and it doesn’t matter whether he is a French man, and whether you like him or not – if he gets attacked, your sense of security will also be affected, because people can be knifed on the streets. We can’t (simply) say this is against France. Not in Singapore. They made inflammatory comments, they incited violence and could have become dangerous. ISD picked them up early, and we have sent all of them back to Bangladesh.

    58.        Likewise, for the Malaysian, we picked him up and sent him back.

    59.        Faysal, as I’ve said, is under detention.

    60.        This is what we call a zero tolerance approach. That is my second message.


    IMPORTANCE OF RRG’S ROLE

    61.        Third, I have said this before, and I will repeat it. The Government cannot do this alone. We need the community to come in. Only the community can protect itself. Community leaders can protect the community from extremism and terrorism. It takes a whole-of-society effort.

    62.        We need calm, credible and authoritative voices to lower temperatures, and to drown out and reduce hate speech.

    63.        After the attack in France, the RRG for example, came out quickly and issued a statement to condemn the acts of violence. It called on everyone not to play into the hands of extremists, and not to allow these acts to damage our social harmony.

    64.        In your individual capacities as asatizah, some of you also posted on your personal social media accounts to remind the community on the need to practise mutual respect, love and compassion.

    65.        Those sorts of strong and clear responses are important in setting the tone for our community. And this is something that the Government also welcomes, that shows that our community, our Singaporean community, is different. These strong and clear responses are important in setting the tone for our community.

    66.        During this COVID-19 pandemic, RRG’s work on the counter-ideology front is especially important.

    67.        Supporters of terrorist groups are always quick to capitalise on these changes, on the feeling that people are economically disadvantaged. When people have less money, these terror appeals become more attractive, and they are always looking to see how they can make it more violent.

    68.        Groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda actually framed the COVID-19 pandemic as divine retribution against the West. It is actually affecting all of us, but they have framed it as God’s retribution against the West. Others are using it to pit an “us vs them” mentality.

    69.        There is no shortage of these sorts of propaganda online, and at the same time, more and more of our people are spending their time online to stay connected with friends or connected to work. RRG’s work is becoming even more important online.

    70.        I am heartened that RRG has intensified the efforts to reach out to the community online.

    71.        RRG has published more than 60 articles and 30 online lectures, including a Ramadan lecture series and very interestingly, a number of animation videos which have been put out through various social media platforms.

    72.        It is also good that it has continued with its 5th run of the Awareness Programme for Youth (APY), all in the midst of the pandemic. I think the 10 participants are there appearing on Zoom. Thank you to them, and thank you to you for doing this. (Note: The 10 participants appeared over Zoom at this juncture.)

    73.       
    Since there is no formal graduation ceremony, I will take this opportunity to congratulate the 10 participants on their successful completion of the programme. Let’s give them a round of applause.

    74.        I hope that you will be able to contribute back to society and continue to be the voice of peace and harmony, especially amongst our young people. We look forward to much from you.


    LOOKING AHEAD

    75.        The hybrid format adopted for this retreat shows the new normal that we are all adjusting to.

    76.        The launch of a virtual 360-degree tour of the Resource and Counselling Centre (RCC) today, reflects this spirit of innovation.

    77.        RRG, has in recent discussions with MUIS and Warees, agreed on an expansion plan for the RCC.

    78.        That is a very important milestone. I thank Muis for engaging with those discussions with RRG. The expanded RCC will become a cornerstone upon which we can anchor our counter-ideology efforts. It can also be a platform to galvanise Singaporeans to be united in the fight against terrorism.

    79.        Let me conclude by thanking each one of you for the extremely important and good work that has been done, that each of you are doing, and how important it is.

    80.        Thank you very much.

  • Mon, 23 Nov 2020 16:00:00 +0000: Home Team Remains Vigilant Against the Threat of Terrorism - Ministry of Home Affairs Newsroom

    1.     Since the re-publication of caricatures depicting Prophet Muhammad by French magazine Charlie Hebdo on 1 Sep 2020, there has been a spate of terrorist attacks in France, including the beheading of French teacher Samuel Paty in a Paris suburb. There have also been attacks against French/Western interests elsewhere, such as in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and Vienna, Austria. In addition, a palpable anti-France climate has developed in several countries, as seen in large protests and calls for boycotts, as well as an uptick in terrorist rhetoric online.

    2.     In view of the deteriorating security situation, the Home Team has been on heightened alert since early September, and had also stepped up its security activities to pre-empt copycat attacks in Singapore.


    ISD’s investigations into 37 individuals

    3.     As part of the heightened security posture, the Internal Security Department (ISD) has ramped up counter-terrorism investigations into suspicious activity, suspected radicalised individuals and/or persons whose conduct could threaten Singapore’s communal harmony. As at 24 Nov 2020, investigations into 37 individuals have been initiated, some jointly with SPF.

    4.     These individuals had attracted security attention for suspected radical inclinations, or for making comments which incite violence, or stoke communal unrest. The majority had inter alia, supported the beheading of Samuel Paty, and the subsequent attacks in France and elsewhere, or incited violence against France or French President Emmanuel Macron for the French government’s defence of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons. A few had made derogatory remarks against Muslims.

    5.     While a handful had commented on the same discussion threads on social media, the majority of the cases are not connected to each other. To date, there is no indication that any of these individuals had been planning any attacks or protests in Singapore.

    6.     Of the 37 individuals, 14 are Singaporeans and 23 are foreigners:

    a.     The 14 Singaporeans comprise 10 males and four females, and are aged between 19 and 62 years old. Most of them had, in response to the recent terror attacks in France, made social media postings which incited violence or stoked communal unrest. Investigations into the 14 Singaporeans are ongoing.

    b.     As for the 23 foreigners, 16 of them have been repatriated following the completion of ISD’s investigations into them. The 16 repatriated foreigners comprise a Malaysian, who was found to be radicalised and harboured the intention to travel to Syria or Palestine to partake in armed violence, and 15 Bangladeshis, most of whom were working in the construction industry who, in response to the recent terror attacks in France, had made social media postings which incited violence or stoked communal unrest. Investigations into the remaining seven foreigners are still ongoing.


    Arrest under ISA

    7.     One foreigner under investigation is 26-year-old Bangladeshi, Ahmed Faysal (Faysal; see Annex A for his photograph). On 2 Nov 2020, Faysal was arrested under the Internal Security Act for investigations into his terrorism-related activities. While he is not linked to the incidents in France, ISD’s preliminary investigations showed that he was radicalised and harboured the intention to undertake armed violence in support of his religion. Faysal had been working as a construction worker in Singapore since early 2017, and became radicalised in 2018 after imbibing online propaganda on ISIS. He was attracted to ISIS’ goal of establishing an Islamic caliphate in Syria and wanted to travel there to fight alongside ISIS against the Syrian government. He believed that he would be a martyr if he died while doing so.

    8.     In mid-2019, Faysal shifted his allegiance to Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), another militant group fighting to establish an Islamic caliphate in Syria. He donated funds to a Syria-based organisation on the understanding that his donations would benefit the HTS’ cause in Syria. Faysal also actively shared propaganda promoting armed violence on social media using accounts created under fictitious names. Apart from ISIS and HTS, Faysal had also expressed support for other terrorist groups including the Al-Qaeda and Somalia-based Al-Shabaab.

    9.     Faysal believed that Muslims are duty-bound to engage in armed jihad to help fellow Muslims who are oppressed. Apart from Syria, he was also willing to travel to Kashmir to fight against the perceived enemies of Islam. To prepare himself for armed jihad, Faysal watched firearms-related videos online. He even bought foldable knives in Singapore, which he claimed he would use for attacks against Hindus in Bangladesh (see Annex B for images of the knives). Investigations thus far have not surfaced any indication that Faysal intended to carry out any acts of violence in Singapore.


    Need for continued vigilance

    10.     These recent developments in Europe and in Singapore remind us that the threat of terrorism is still alive, notwithstanding the military defeat of ISIS and the dismantling of its self-declared caliphate in Syria and Iraq. The Home Team remains vigilant and will not hesitate to take firm action against any individual who advocates violence.

    11.     The Singapore Police Force (SPF) and the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority have enhanced their security measures and patrols.

    12.     The community too, plays an important role in ensuring that Singapore remains safe and secure. Family, friends and colleagues are often best placed to notice changes in behaviour that could point to someone being radicalised by extremist ideology. Members of the public who suspect that a person has been radicalised, or is engaging in terrorism-related activities, should promptly call the ISD Counter-Terrorism Centre hotline 1800-2626-473 (1800-2626-ISD).

    13.     We urge the community to stay alert to suspicious items and individuals, and inform the authorities by calling 999, sending an SMS to 71999 or using the “Report” function in the SGSecure app. Members of the public are also encouraged to familiarise themselves with SGSecure advisories such as “Run, Hide, Tell” and “Press, Tie, Tell”. These advisories provide important information on what to do in the event of a terror attack, and how to render first aid to those around you.



    Annexes (169 kb, .pdf)
  • Tue, 10 Nov 2020 16:00:00 +0000: 21 Members of Unregistered Local Chapter of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony Arrested Under the Societies Act - Ministry of Home Affairs Newsroom
    1. Nine men, aged between 22 and 31, and 12 women, aged between 21 and 49, were arrested by Police officers from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) on 9 November 2020, for allegedly being members of an unlawful society under Section 14(3) of the Societies Act, Chapter 311.

       

    2. Preliminary investigations revealed that they had allegedly re-engaged in activities connected to the unregistered local chapter of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony (SCJ), which is based in South Korea.

       

    3. Another group of nine women, aged between 22 and 52, and two men, aged 23 and 36, are assisting the Police with the ongoing investigations.

       

    4. Founded by South Korean national Lee Man-Hee (Lee) in 1984, SCJ has attracted accusations of being a cult in several countries due to its unorthodox teachings. Based on testimonies of former members, Lee has claimed to be the second coming of Christ, who would bring 144,000 people to Heaven with him on the Day of Judgement. He has also claimed to be the only person who can interpret the Bible, and SCJ allegedly regards all other churches and pastors as belonging to Satan. SCJ teaches that it is acceptable to use deceit and lies if it serves God’s purposes. It has been accused of infiltrating and disrupting established Korean churches by using deception and secrecy to trick people into becoming involved with them.

       

    5. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had earlier investigated the local SCJ chapter’s activities in February 2020, for using deceptive recruitment methods, similar to the SCJ in South Korea, to exert a controlling influence over Christian youths and young adults in Singapore, and to conceal its existence from family members and non-SCJ contacts.

       

    6. Arising from these investigations, five South Korean nationals who were identified to have held key positions in the local chapter were repatriated in February 2020 and the group’s front entities were dissolved. Members of the local chapter were issued warnings to cease further involvement in SCJ activities, or face further action from the authorities. In spite of the actions taken, the local SCJ chapter has resumed its activities covertly, under the direction of its South Korean parent chapter. As such, CID is investigating members of the local SCJ chapter for potential offences under the Societies Act.

       

    7. Anyone convicted of being a member of an unlawful society under Section 14(3) of the Societies Act, Chapter 311, is liable to be sentenced to imprisonment for up to 3 years or a fine of up to $5,000, or both.  

       

    8. MHA will not allow members of unlawful societies or persons associated with them to threaten Singapore’s public safety, peace and good order.
  • Thu, 05 Nov 2020 16:00:00 +0000: Selected Nightlife Businesses to Reopen under Pilots; Government Announces Measures for Nightlife Businesses to Pivot or Exit the Industry - Ministry of Home Affairs Newsroom
    1. The Multi-Ministry Taskforce announced on 20 October 2020 that bars, pubs, nightclubs, discotheques and karaoke lounges (collectively “nightlife establishments”) will not be permitted to reopen in their original form for some time, as the nature of their activities poses a high risk of COVID-19 transmission.

    2. The Government has been in close consultation with the nightlife industry to understand their concerns and has agreed to allow a limited number of nightlife establishments to reopen as pilots with stringent safe management measures (SMMs).

    3. Even if the pilots turn out well, it is expected that the nightlife industry will not resume operations in their original form for a considerable period. The Government has thus worked out an assistance package to help nightlife establishments pivot to permissible activities or exit the industry.


      Pilot reopening of selected nightlife establishments with stringent SMMs
    4. The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) and the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) are working with various nightlife business associations to identify a small number of nightlife establishments to participate in the pilots. The pilots aim to establish the viability and robustness of stringent SMMs that will be required to be put in place, and the nightlife industry’s ability to comply with them, before the Government considers allowing any further resumption of nightlife businesses.

    5. Participating establishments must adopt stringent SMMs, including:

      a.  Ensuring that all customers wear masks at all times except while eating and drinking (i.e. mask must be worn by customers on the dance floor or while singing);

      b.  Alcohol cannot be sold, served or consumed after 10.30pm;

      c.  Ensuring that all customers entering karaoke lounges and nightclubs had tested negative for COVID-19[1] 24 hours prior to end of the activity at the nightlife establishment; and

      d.  CCTVs must be deployed and activated at all times, to cover all parts of the common areas and rooms used for the activities. Recordings must be stored for at least 28 days, for regular reviews by the enforcement agencies to check for compliance with SMMs.

    6. The pilot for pubs and bars will commence by December 2020 and last for a period of two months. As karaoke lounges and nightclubs will be required to ensure that all customers entering their premises had tested negative for COVID-19 within a 24-hour timeframe prior to the end of the activity, their pilots will commence only by January 2021 to allow the establishments more time to make the necessary preparations. The pilots for karaoke lounges and nightclubs will last longer, for a period of three months, as more time is required to assess the readiness of the industry to reopen, in view of the much higher risks and the more stringent SMMs required in these settings.

    7. Establishments involved in the pilots must comply with the prescribed SMMs at all times. Establishments found to have breached them will face penalties under the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Act 2020, and may be removed from the pilot. Enforcement agencies will monitor participating establishments’ and their customers’ compliance with the SMMs to assess if it will be safe to allow the industry to resume limited operations after the pilot or remain closed. In the event of a COVID-19 cluster at these establishments, we may suspend or terminate the pilots.



      Supporting nightlife establishments to pivot their businesses to permissible activities

    8. Nightlife establishments are not participating in the pilots may opt to pivot to other permissible activities, such as Food & Beverage (F&B) operations. MTI has worked with regulatory agencies, including the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and the Singapore Food Agency (SFA), to simplify the application process for nightlife establishments looking to pivot to F&B operations (see Advisory Note at https://covid.gobusiness.gov.sg/faq). Applications to pivot to alternative commercial uses apart from F&B, such as offices or gyms, will also be assessed by the relevant agencies on a case-by-case basis.

    9. From now till 31 March 2021, nightlife establishments that wish to pivot to other permissible activities may apply for a grant of up to $50,000 from Enterprise Singapore (ESG) to defray qualifying costs incurred during the pivoting process, such as equipment and third-party consultancy costs. ESG is prepared to extend this support to nightlife establishments which had taken the initiative to change their business activity earlier on a case-by-case basis.



      Supporting nightlife establishments intending to exit the industry

    10. The Government will also increase support for nightlife establishments exiting the industry. From now till 31 March 2021, firms can apply to ESG for an ex-gratia payment of $30,000 to defray the costs of the cessation of business. For employees who are retrenched as a result of the cessation, employers should honour retrenchment benefit contractually provided for, or follow the retrenchment benefit norms as stipulated within the Tripartite Advisory on Managing Excess Manpower and Responsible Retrenchment. For any retrenchment benefit paid to local employees, employers can also seek financial support to defray one month of salary[2] paid to each employee. We will also continue to work with industry partners to assist affected employees to seek alternative employment.

    11. Nightlife establishments will only be eligible for either one of the financial support packages described above – either to pivot their business or exit the industry. Interested operators should first reach out to the Singapore Nightlife Business Association (SNBA) at helpdesk@snba.org.sg for more information on the financial support packages and how to apply for them. Upon receipt of either one of the financial support package, the firm will not be allowed to participate in the pilot programme nor any subsequent resumption of nightlife operations for at least 12 months[3].



      Other available support

    12. Firms that meet the eligibility criteria[4] may also tap on the Ministry of Law’s Simplified Insolvency Programme, which will help them restructure their debts or wind up their company. Sole proprietors and partnerships may tap on the Sole Proprietors and Partnerships (SPP) scheme[5] to restructure their business debts.

    13. Several businesses may be faced with substantial obligations from contracts entered into before the COVID-19 pandemic. The Ministry of Law has introduced a legislative Re-Align Framework under the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Act to allow businesses which have experienced a substantial change in circumstances due to COVID-19, to renegotiate certain prescribed contracts with their counterparties, failing which they may be able to terminate the contract. For more details, please visit go.gov.sg/re-align.

    14. The SNBA is working closely with MTI and ESG to provide support for the nightlife industry. Firms are strongly advised to reach out to SNBA, who will be able to provide guidance to nightlife establishments on their next steps, at helpdesk@snba.org.sg.
     


    [1] Either through a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test or an Antigen Rapid Test (ART).


    [2] The retrenchment benefit support is up to one-month wage for each retrenched local employee, capped at the nightlife industry median monthly wage of $3,000 per local employee.


    [3] Firms that choose to pivot but did not take up ESG’s financial support package will be allowed to revert to their original business activity if the last approved use (i.e. nightlife establishment) of the premises concerned is allowed to operate under the prevailing COVID-19 regulations, and the premises are not located within exclusion areas where the temporary conversion will not apply. For more details, please refer to the advisory note on pivoting process at https://covid.gobusiness.gov.sg/faq.


    [4] To be eligible for the Simplified Insolvency Programme, which is expected to be rolled out in January 2021, the firm must be a micro and small company, i.e. with annual revenue of less than $1 million and $10 million respectively. It must also fulfil the following criteria: total amount of liabilities ≤S$2m, number of employees ≤30; number of creditors ≤50; and for simplified winding up only, cap of $50,000 on realisable unencumbered assets.


    [5] The SPP scheme, open for applications since 2 November 2020, is administered by Credit Counselling Singapore, with the support of the Association of Banks in Singapore, Monetary Authority of Singapore, Enterprise Singapore (ESG) and the Participating Financial Institutions under the ESG loan schemes. For more information, please visit https://www.ccs.org.sg/biz-debt-management/spp.

  • Tue, 03 Nov 2020 16:07:00 +0000: In Response to Parliamentary Motion on the Criminal Justice System - Speech by Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law - Ministry of Home Affairs Newsroom

    1. Let me start by trying to deal with some of the points that have been raised.

     

    2. I thank Ms Lim and Ms He for recognising that the criminal justice system taken in totality works well. They're not saying the system is broken, or ineffective, and that Singapore is a safe place to raise children, and the justice system has been instrumental in achieving that, and that our justice system enjoys good reputation. And I think that various indices were cited. 

     

    3. So let me try and deal with specific points but let me start off by saying the speeches I've heard particularly from the Workers’ Party. I'll come back to Mr Leong Mun Wai.

     

    4. I would say with the Workers’ Party, the points made – we are on the same page, in many ways we are pushing at an open door. It is not that any of these principles are new, or in some way, not thought of or that we are opposed to them. I think in large measure, from the speeches that I heard, you are setting out positions of principle, which we have no problems with, but sitting on the front bench here, we also have to decide how to implement it, and how to pay for it. And so therein comes some of the implementation issues. If I may say, actually the very first point I will take illustrates that very well. Legally, I think, Ms Lim, Ms He Ting Ru and maybe Mr Dennis Tan talked about the importance of legal aid, particularly for the poor.

     

    5. We can't be more agreed on this. Of course we want legal aid for the poor. We do have legal aid for the poor. As I said, CLAS covers 25 per cent of resident households or is intended to.

     

    6. I explained why I don't want to make legal aid mandatory. I explained to you by reference to the UK example that the moment you make it mandatory, then what happens? People game the system too. And people game the system in this way. They will not be able to find lawyers who can do it for the fee that the state is prepared to pay or an extraordinarily exorbitant fee is required on lawyers who do not come forward. 

     

    7. And because you can't find a lawyer to handle the case, therefore the case gets postponed. I give you real-life examples from a first-class jurisdiction, UK, so this is not a figment of anyone's imagination. So you have got to deal with that. I think, rather than going the same paths that others have gone and gotten into minefields, we should try and make it work. I will also share with you -, the experience of Australia and New Zealand. New South Wales, Australia, offers a fully government-funded public defender scheme. Two third of its are cases outsourced to private lawyers. Government expenditure on criminal legal aid has seen a 50 per cent increase from 2015 to 2019. Every time I show these figures my finance minister gives me a look. When enhanced CLAS in 2014, we were not in a very difficult budgetary position. But we were all projecting for a time when we would be in a difficult budgetary position. I didn't want to get into a situation where we will just be required to write bigger and bigger checks, without taking into account public interest. 

     

    8. The reason why any Member here with a child who is ten years old, would dare to let their child take public transport, is because of our law and order system. That is a very precious privilege. It is a privilege. Every lady in this room will be able to take public transport at any time of the day and night. That is a fundamental human right. You will not be able to exercise that in any comparable city anywhere in the world.

     

    9. There is a reason for all of that. That's because cases get dealt with properly, crime is low. We have kept crime low at a relatively low cost to the taxpayer. But I accept we must also help the poor when it comes to legal aid for criminal cases. 

     

    10. But let me tell you about the Australian example. The case of Lloyd Raynay. He was an experienced lawyer accused of murdering his wife received legal aid in 2013. The cost to take taxpayers of his defense was around $2.3 million. Do you believe that that person should get legal aid at that cost in Singapore? I don't think you do. We should move away from absolutist positions to say "How can we make it work?", because we are both on the same side on this argument. 

     

    11. Paul Cohrs was accused of murdering his mother and brother in 2018, close to $1.5 million in assets. He was offered legal aid, because his assets were frozen. Court cases get delayed - I'm talking about Australia now - because lawyers refused to take on legal aid cases. Legal aid rates were considered inadequate; cases being adjourned, victims and witnesses having to endure a long wait for justice and preparation by prosecutors and police wasted. In 2016 court cases against alleged murderers of underworld figures, Pasquale Barbaro and Mehmet Yilmaz, put off for more than one year because legal aid rates were inadequate for suitable lawyers to take on the lengthy and complex case. The Government introduced reforms in 2020 to ensure more sustainable legal aid budgets, including changes in fee structures. They introduced fixed lump sum payments for less serious criminal matters, and guess what, the legal industry opposed it.

     

    12. New Zealand - fully government-funded Public Defender Scheme. The total costs rising by 62 per cent from 101 million in 2006 -2007 to 164 million in 2018- 2019. So there was an independent review of the system in 2009, led by a senior public civil servant concluded the system was open to abuse, including lawyers who game the system. I'm not suggesting that lawyers will necessarily game the system, but you have these experiences elsewhere and you got to be careful about it.

     

    13. They delayed plea or change pleas partway through the process, maximised legal aid payments, lawyers who demanded or accepted top up payments from clients.  To curb the bill, they expanded the Public Defender Scheme but that was also opposed by the Bar.

     

    14. We thankfully have a relationship with the Bar which is more constructive. They do pro bono through CLAS. I have said that we are now considering how we can set up a Public Defender's Office, which will not be, which would be sustainable. So, in principle, there is no issue. The question is: how do you implement it?

     

    15. Second, I think there was a question of bail. I think Ms Lim wondered if the Bail Court was comatose or still in existence. It is functioning, live and kicking. It's in the State Courts, Court 4A undertakes a role of Bail Court; it handles the grant of, or review of bail. The court aims to ensure that the bail reviews are dealt with expeditiously, minimise the time spent by accused persons and remand and balance against the need to ensure that the accused persons attend court or are available when investigations are required.

     

    16. Since 2018, we are increasing the number of persons in remand who are being released on reduced bail, with e-tagging, because we can use technology. So between January and July, more than 180 accused persons have been released on reduced bail with etagging. In 2018, I think some members will recall that the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) was amended to specifically provide for e-tagging. The Police are generally prepared to consider allowing personal bond in more cases. Again on the bail issue, I don't think we are at divergence here.

     

    17. Three, on people who can't afford to pay fines. I think the situation that Ms Lim highlighted was that some people run up a series of regulatory offences, and then they find themselves unable to pay, and then have to turn up to Court for these matters.

     

    18. This is where it is a tough issue when it comes to this, because in principle, you have the laws, you need to enforce them. I think everybody agrees that you need to enforce them. If you have laws and you have fines that can be imposed, but if people can break the rules - it can be as simple as parking, if people can park without having to pay the fines, and fines will not be collected, then you know the system will slowly break down. So, we can't have that right? So, we have to impose the fines.

     

    19. There are a group of people we all feel sympathetic towards, because they cannot pay. And the fact that they cannot pay the fines then leads them on to other situations which sort of snowball, and we really don't want that. I think that is a situation where other kinds of safety nets will have to come and try and help them. This is where MSF comes in, the local MP comes in, situations like that. But where the agencies come across this, some agencies may be able to handle it. But you know, generally, the agencies are not best placed to go and make distinctions between people – “Okay, you can pay the fine. You can’t pay the fine”. I think we will very soon have a system that's dysfunctional. I think that sort of intervention has got to be a intervention from outside of the regulatory agency. But in principle, we agree that there must be ways to try and find these people help.

     

    20. Ms Lim also talked about AGC sometimes - I am sure this is based on what the Criminal Bar has said, because they've said this to me too, that officers sometimes prefer the most serious charge. I would put it this way. I think in Parliament when we debate like this, it is going to be general statements. If you say they shouldn't put the most serious charges, of course I agree.  We also agree that neither Parliament nor the Ministry of Law should be directing agency on what charges are appropriate. I think the starting point is what the Attorney-General has said in the opening of legal year, which is that the DPPs ought to be told, and have been told, that they are ministers of justice. They need to take an overview on this, and they need to approach this with fairness. And the Attorney-General and the Deputy Attorney-General have regular discussions. The Criminal Bar, these are issues they can deal with.

     

    21. Recording of statements, again, I think the starting point is the same. We must get accurate statements. It must be fair to the person being interviewed. It must be something that the person who is interviewed can understand. I don't think it's going to be possible, you know, the Police are not going to be able to do it, record it in the language the witness speaks. But fairness must be there. We need to have the right interpreter and we must emphasise to the investigation officers that, look, it is not a question of getting down and putting it in the way that you want. It has to be what the person is saying, and this is a constant endeavour. I'm sure Ms Lim has, I'm sure others have, I have, we have all come across situations where lawyers tell us, “Well, the statement has been taken in a way that is not quite accurate”. They say that. I think you’ve got to discount some of it, because it is seen from a defense perspective, but it has happened too. This is something, as I said this, the golden standard would be if we can have video recording. But in my Ministerial Statement I explained, I explained the difficulties that we are having. It is not that we don't want to do it. Actually, doing it would help the Police, it is protective of the Police. But we can't do it, we can't expand it, because of the specific resource constraints that I spoke about.

     

    22. There was a question on level of legal training of investigation officers. I think the Police officers who take on the investigation officer role do take some legal modules on investigative powers, drafting on charges, statement of facts. They understand the Evidence Act, burden of proof, presumptions, general law, general training for trial preparation. None of that is going to make them a lawyer and I think, again, the real answer is, what one of the Members asked me earlier - how quickly can we put the AGC and Police officers together early in the investigations, so that there is that legal guidance.

     

    23. It is a serious resource issue in terms of the size of the AGC, and the small size of the Police investigation officers is small. To try and put them together to deal with these thousands of cases is not going to be easy.

     

    24. Ms Lim said something which I heartily agree with, that the specific Police investigation officer in Ms Liyani’s case does not become a scapegoat. I'll start out by saying that we don't scapegoat people. But when I come to Parliament, I cannot shy away from saying what has happened. In my original statement I actually said, I am personally very sympathetic to the investigation officer. The Police were very uncomfortable with that because they take the disciplinary inquiry seriously and their view was that if the Minister says that, then it creates difficulties for them. But I am very sympathetic to the investigation officer, because you know, we are all looking at this with hindsight and with a huge amount of like a microscope, day by day. So, I do say poor chap, but rules are rules. And he was there, he didn't do it for five weeks. There are certain consequences. He is in an unfortunate situation, but I entirely agree.

     

    25. Ms Lim also asked about installment payments or fines. I said it in the House here. I think we should try, when people have difficulties in making payments, to allow them to pay in installments. The difficulty again is to distinguish between who can afford and who cannot afford. We don't want to go down the route of setting up another mechanism and have more resources to go and check that. But subject to that, I have given directions earlier this year to the Police to consider in which areas we can go, for possibility of installment payments on fines. 

     

    26. There were some points about young people, what sort of assistance they get when the Police interview them, amongst others. Actually, for those who haven't been following closely our criminal justice system and our system of imprisonment or incarceration, there has been a sea change in approach.

     

    27. Today for example, Prisons tags themselves as Captains of Lives. They are no longer prison wardens. When people come in, the statistics show that there is a high likelihood of recidivism when they go out. They're going to come back again. So, our task is to actually be with them and make sure that, as much as possible, that they don't come back. So, we do a lot of intervention when they are in there. We actually want to go early upstream. Don't even let them become prisoners, don't even let them get into trouble. What can we do upstream? We want to look, as much as possible, for people who infringe or who have committed some offence. We want to see how we can move them away from the penal system to a more guidance programme for rehabilitation. 

     

    28. So, the primary focus, if I can use one word to describe our system today, it is to focus on rehabilitation. Which is why very significant changes on drug users, first and second time drug users, were put through legislation and Parliament agreed with it.

     

    29. For young people, we have a diversionary program for those who commit minor offences. In the past four years, four to 500 Guidance Programme cases a year. Completion rate has been about 80 to 90 per cent. We also have a Guidance Programme for young offenders who commit less serious sexual offences, like, you know, possession of obscene films and so on. We give them an Adolescence Sexuality Treatment. Streetwise Programme is a voluntary program for wayward young people. Then, we have an Enhanced Streetwise Programme. For those involved in minor gang related offences, they are sent to these programs. 

     

    30. So our approach today is first, we try and prevent them from getting into prison. Second, if they commit some offence, as far as possible, we put them in different tracks. We do psychological assessment. Even if they have to serve time, then we see whether they have to serve the full time or whether they can be put through different programs, and then put in halfway houses, to the extent possible. Of course, depending on the nature of the offence. So that's been the approach, and if members are interested, we can give them a specific, more in-depth briefing. But there has been a very significant change in approach here. 

     

    31. Ms Lim talked about victims in specific cases, a couple of cases. I think, Ms Lim and Ms He Ting Ru would accept that I don't know the facts. I don't know why, specifically the matter was not proceeded with. All I know from what has been said in Parliament is that the Police and AGC or AGC advised that it cannot be proceeded with. Beyond that, I don't know anything else and I can't comment on it. There are always two sides to every story, and we will have to ask AGC why it didn't proceed.

     

    32. Ms He said that defense lawyers face unequal access to witnesses and evidence. Again, in principle, I agree there should be fair access. What is fair, how do you detail what is fair - there might be a difference of views. It wasn't quite clear to me what exactly she said, but I'm setting out the matter of principle here. On access to counsel, I've dealt with earlier. Ms He Ting Ru also talked about compensation for miscarriage of justice. I think, you know, in principle, if it's a vexatious case, if it should never have been brought, compensation ought to be paid. But on a regular basis, if every case, the State loses, you've got to pay compensation, then I think I would take a different approach and take a different view. I do think that would create a chilling effect on prosecution, but I don't think that's what Ms He was suggesting. 

     

    33. Mr Dennis Tan expressed his concern about the young and the poor. I say for the record, we are all concerned, and that Mr Dennis Tan is not the only one is concerned. I think his concern is legitimate, but we are all concerned.

     

    34. He also spoke about judicial training and he spoke about rotation between the different parts of the legal service. I have given a very full answer and I said that these matters are dealt with by various boards, headed by the Chief Justice. He decides, together with his board, and there is I described the personnel boards for judges and personnel boards for legal service officers.

     

    35. Mr Tan also spoke about qualifications of judicial officers. These are matters for legal service commission they will take into account. I told you about the judicial personnel board, they will deal with it and choose. I think he got some of his facts wrong. The point he made about one year for magistrates and three years for district judges. That is only possible when the Chief Justice is of the opinion that the person is suitable. Otherwise the normal is three years for magistrates and seven years for this district judges. In the state courts today, we have 55 judicial officers who hear criminal cases. All our qualified persons for at least seven years, but I stand corrected. These are the figures that have been given to me. If it is inaccurate in any way, I will let Mr Dennis Tan know. The training of judicial officers, again, I agree with Mr Tan. It is already being done as he will probably know. Singapore Judicial College, and Mr Tan agrees that this is a good development. 

     

    36. Mr Pritam Singh talks about disclosure. Setting up statutory framework on what needs to be disclosed. I think specific on Kadar, Mr Singh would recall that I told this House, that it is good in principle case, and should be followed. Mr Singh doesn't recall but that is what I said. So, the Government is absolutely aligned with Mr Singh on this point. Looking at the setting out the disclosure requirements in statute. I am happy to tell him that knowing that he is going to raise it today, we have been discussing it since early this year. Internally, and it started with Ministry of Home Affairs. It is being discussed we want to look at. I think it is unsatisfactory that it's left as a common law principle. So we are going to put it out in statute - what is appropriate what is fair, how do you framework it, which are the cases and principles you take in. It is being discussed with various stakeholders. We haven't discussed with the Bar yet. I think we have discussed with the Supreme Court -  I cannot remember specifically. But it's been something that we have been discussing since early this year. The small event of COVID has put many of these things out of kilter. So a little bit more time is being taken.

     

    37. Mr. Singh also talked about how do counsel discuss relevance and non-relevance. I think all I can say to him is that AGC officers have an overarching duty as ministers of justice. Mr Singh and I cannot be telling them what to disclose and what not to disclose. But the principles are clear. Again, as I have said we will put it out in statutory form. So he's pushing at an open door on this

     

    38. Ms Lim talked about seeking more means for seeking compensation. I think she knows 2010 we amended the CPC to require courts to actively consider. This is because we felt that while we had given the courts the power to order compensation, we didn't see enough cases where compensation was being awarded. So I actually decided that we had to go further. So in 2018, the law was further amended. Now, the courts are required to give reasons if compensation is not awarded when it has a power to do so. So, that requires an active consideration. Victims are there in a criminal case rather than requiring the victim to start the proceedings, decide that and there how much money it should be paid. If for some reason you think that no money ought to be paid, you set out your reasons. So victims will be able to participate in the process by making submissions. It is really meant for simpler cases. The criminal courts are not equipped to deal with complex hearings, which are dealt with by civil courts.

     

    39. We also should be careful about dragging out proceedings, because there isn't there is a knock-on effect on the courts ability to deal with other cases. The courts have also been empowered to order compensation to the dependents of a person whose death was caused by an offence, for example for bereavement and funeral expenses. 

     

    40. So those are the points I wanted to cover there are other points which I'm sure some other colleagues will cover. 

     

    41. But coming back to Mr Leong on the Committee of Inquiry. I think he will recall the earlier exchange. He has agreed that there was no issue he could identify, and there was no need for a Committee of Inquiry, or a Commission for Inquiry. But now he has reversed himself and says, I suppose the an hour or so in between has helped him to recall why he wanted it in the first place. 

     

    42. Mr Leong, let me put it this way. You are quite wrong in saying this is an internal review by agencies. Let me explain. First, it has gone through a very public process with detailed cross examination, and examination and a minute forensic examination of all the issues.  Every possible issue relating to Police and AGC and the evidence has been dealt with in great detail in public and cross examination and in submissions. So what is it that you want from a review that hasn't been publicly set out? 

     

    43. Then you have a High Court judge who sets out his judgment and has set out what he said were the issues. So you got a judgment from a High Court setting out, this is where I felt that police were lacking and this is where I think the AGC was lacking. Right, so we have that process, which is, I think it would accept an independent process.

     

    44. Next, as regards to AGC – they will go for another disciplinary tribunal (DT). The officers will give account of what they did and it will be dealt with by the DT. If the DT feels that there is a case to answer and it needs to be referred it goes up to the court of three judges, or the DT dismisses. Whatever it is, that is another independent inquiry. So that deals with the AGC part of your requirement for the Committee of Inquiry. 

     

    45. Then there are the Police, three specific issues were identified - translation and two other issues. I've dealt with them, the three issues. 

     

    46. So, I think you see the duties of Members of Parliament is not to repeat whatever is outside, but to apply our mind. Take whatever feedback there is, crystallise it, apply it to the facts, listen to the arguments on the other side, and then say: “Yes, I see all this. Now I will tell you what it is.” If you ask for a Commission of Inquiry, it is because you are not happy with something.  You feel that there is a reasonable basis for having an inquiry into something. So, you need to tell us which part of this requires further inquiry. I will answer your other points, but perhaps I can invite you to answer that.