Addenda to President's address: Security agencies outline plans to protect Singapore against threats

A "Camera In Operation" sign at the lift lobby of a block in Woodlands Drive.
A "Camera In Operation" sign at the lift lobby of a block in Woodlands Drive. PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

SINGAPORE - The Singapore Police Force will explore whether to install more surveillance cameras in HDB estates and other public areas to boost its ability to deter and detect criminal and terrorist threats, Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said.

The ongoing installation of such police cameras at all 10,000 HDB blocks and multi-storey carparks is also on track to being completed this year.

Measures like these, which make better use of technology, as well as strengthening people's preparedness and ability to respond to a crisis or terror attack, is a key theme of the plans outlined by three ministries and the Government agency overseeing national security matters on Monday in Addenda to the President's address.

 

These moves to step up Singapore's security come at a time when terror is a growing threat to the region.

In his ministry's Addendum, Mr Shanmugam identified identified terrorism, transnational and cybercrime as key challenges for his ministry, with traveller and cargo volumes rising even as Singapore's population continues to age.

"While our work will grow in load and complexity, there is a limit to how much we can grow the size of the Home Team, given Singapore's manpower constraints," he said.

"We will have to develop new operating models and concepts, and make better use of technology."

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said his ministry will also invest more in areas such as unmanned systems and robotics, while ensuring that the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) develops capabilities against a wider range of threats to national security, such as attacks to Singapore's online space.

"The operating environment for Mindef and the SAF is changing rapidly: technologies that used to be the domain of professional militaries are becoming cheaper and easier to obtain and used by less advanced militaries and non-state actors," said Dr Ng.

"As our economy and society rely more on technology that allows us to function with ease and efficiency, cyber criminals and attackers have more avenues to disrupt and destabilise Singapore."

Beyond its investments in hardware and capabilities, the Government will also look at ways to stregthen society's resilience, a "key ingredient" to national security, said Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean.

 

Mr Teo said the National Security Coordination Secretariat (NSCS) will continue to work with government agencies and community groups to develop a stronger understanding of the factors that determine how quickly the island can bounce back from a crisis, such as attitudes towards emergencies, social trust and family resilience.

 

The NSCS will also look at ways that social media can be better used in an emergency to quickly manage a situation and restore confidence and order, at a time when it can also be where rumours and disinformation are spread that may complicate matters.

 

"In the event of a crisis, it is not just the security agencies that will be called to respond," he said. "Our society as a whole will also be tested."

The NSCS will also work with agencies such as MHA, Mindef, the Infocomm and Media Development Authority and the Economic Development Board to develop practical solutions to cyber security challenges facing Singapore.

Both the SAF and the Home Team will also look at ways to improve the National Service experience, thus strengthening a cornerstone of Singapore's defence and security.

For instance, the SAF will expand on its Volunteer Corps initiative that gives women, first generation permanent residents and new citizens a way to contribute to the island's defence, while the Home Team intends to give its full-time national servicemen more leadership and specialist roles.

"By better leveraging their capabilities, we hope to make their NS experience more challenging, meaningful and satisfying," said Mr Shanmugam.

On the diplomatic front, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said Singapore will continue to work actively to enhance Asean integration, strengthen relationships with immediate neighbours such as Malaysia and Indonesia, and expand Singapore's international space through constructive particpation in forums like the United Nations and the World Trade Organisation.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will also expand Singapore's political relations and economic space in new emerging markets in Africa, Central Asia and Latin American, while also expanding its consular outreach as more Singaporeans travel and live abroad.

"With increasing occurrences of natural disasters and other emergencies, MFA will work closely with other government agencies and foreign governments to render consular assistance and ensure the safety of our Singaporeans abroad," said Dr Balakrishnan.