Law mooted to boost security at iconic or strategic buildings

The Infrastructure Protection Bill, if approved, will allow MHA to designate new buildings as "special developments", and existing buildings as "special infrastructures".
The Infrastructure Protection Bill, if approved, will allow MHA to designate new buildings as "special developments", and existing buildings as "special infrastructures".PHOTO: ST FILE

A new law will require iconic, strategic or large buildings that could be targeted by terrorists to adopt enhanced security measures.

The Infrastructure Protection Bill, if approved, will allow the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to designate new buildings as "special developments", and existing buildings as "special infrastructures".

Such new buildings must integrate security measures as part of their design before they are constructed, while the existing buildings have to put these measures in place when they are renovated.

These buildings will include those that house essential services, have high human traffic or are iconic landmarks, which could be targeted by terrorists aiming to inflict mass casualties.

The security measures that could be required include video surveillance, security personnel, vehicle barriers or measures to strengthen the building against blast effects.

The proposed law was introduced in Parliament yesterday by Second Minister for Home Affairs Josephine Teo, and will be debated at the next sitting.

It comes as militant outfits have repeatedly flagged targets in Singapore, including the Singapore Exchange, a port and Marina Bay Sands. The new law will "deter and deny attackers, as well as minimise casualties and damage in an attack", said MHA.

Incorporating these security elements in the design stage, before the building is erected, is the "more cost-efficient and effective way" to secure a location, it said.

The ministry will also be given powers to direct selected buildings to put security measures in place. For instance, if a terrorist attack is deemed imminent, "emergency orders" can be issued to close part of a building or require additional security measures to be deployed.

Meanwhile, a commissioner for infrastructure protection will be appointed to approve security plans for buildings before their construction or renovation.

The new Bill will also give security personnel at sensitive installations - such as military camps and immigration checkpoints - powers to deal with threats in their vicinity.

"This will include powers to question suspicious persons and inspect their belongings, and to require them to leave the area," said MHA.

It will also be illegal to take photos or videos of these installations without authorisation, a move that could prevent surveillance by terrorists. Security personnel will be able to stop people from doing so, and will have powers to examine footage and have it deleted.

Currently, sensitive installations come under the Protected Areas and Protected Places Act. This law, in place since 1959, will be repealed and relevant provisions incorporated into the new Bill.

Security experts yesterday said the new Bill is timely in the light of the current terror threat. A Certis Cisco spokesman said the Bill is a "practical approach" to address the safety and security needs of critical infrastructure and key assets.

Dr Kumar Ramakrishna of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies said that while the Bill strengthens Singapore's capacity to deal with the terror threat, the Government has to educate the business community that the additional costs of security measures are worth investing in.

"In a climate where the extremist threat is increasing, people want to do business with businesses that have designed security into their operations. It gives them a competitive edge," he said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 12, 2017, with the headline 'Law mooted to boost security at iconic or strategic buildings'. Print Edition | Subscribe