Parliament: Police force can't do well if politics, policies not right, says Shanmugam

Minister of Home Affairs K. Shanmugam said that safety and security is not just the responsibility of law enforcers.
Minister of Home Affairs K. Shanmugam said that safety and security is not just the responsibility of law enforcers. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Singapore's security forces can only be as strong as the Government in power, said Minister for Home Affairs K. Shanmugam on Monday (March 2), as he drew on lessons around the world to show that proper governance underpins peace and order.

Street protests flared up around the world last year, erupting into violence in places like Hong Kong, Santiago in Chile, and Lebanon, and MPs asked in Parliament on Monday what Singapore has learnt from them.

Responding, Mr Shanmugam said it is critical to get the fundamental politics and policies right, because if they are unsound, no amount of policing can turn the situation around.

To this end, government leaders must be attuned to people's needs, create a fair and honest system, be accountable to the public and develop policies based on sound principles, he added.

Mr Christopher de Souza (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC), citing global risk consultancy Maplecroft, said it is estimated that nearly 40 per cent of the world's 195 countries will experience civil unrest this year, while Mr Gan Thiam Poh (Ang Mo Kio GRC) said protests in Hong Kong had caused social rifts and hurt the economy.

They asked if the Home Team is prepared to prevent such unrest in Singapore.

Mr Shanmugam said that safety and security is not just the responsibility of law enforcers.

The Home Team, he added, cannot do well unless it operates in a well-governed, functioning society. "You can have the best police force in the world, (but) you cannot deal with riots unless other things (are) taken care of as well."

Referring to Hong Kong, which saw seven months of streets protests last year, he said a public order crisis was never just about security.

 
 

Underlying it is whether the social, economic and political structures deliver good governance, and how people feel about the fairness of the system and society, he added.

"If the majority of the people feel it's a fair system, they have opportunities, and the... system is set up to help the largest majority possible, the people will have faith and those who want to break the law will be a minority," he added.

"If a significant proportion feel the system is fundamentally unfair and that it is set up to benefit a few at the expense of the majority... then no amount of strict policing and strict laws are going to keep people off the streets."