The powers of the police occasionally need to be updated so that the authorities can respond effectively to terrorist attacks. Singapore has strengthened its capacity to confront terrorism through legislative means over the past two years. The Public Order Act was amended and the Infrastructure Protection Act enacted to enhance security at large events and critical buildings. Also, the police have developed new capabilities to respond to terrorist incidents.
However, there remained a gap in confronting the terrorist threat. It is this gap that the The Public Order and Safety (Special Powers) Bill, introduced in Parliament recently, aims to fill. After all, the Public Order (Preservation) Act was enacted way back in 1958. That provided special powers to the authorities to deal with large-scale public disorder, such as communal riots. But those powers cannot be used in situations where there is no public upheaval, even if there is a serious threat to public safety. An example would be the immediate aftermath of a terrorist attack, when the terrorists are being pursued but there is no massive public disorder. The Bill provides for special powers to be used in such situations.