Josephine Teo on Posspa concerns
Second Minister for Home Affairs Josephine Teo also addressed these concerns about the Public Order and Safety (Special Powers) Bill, or Posspa, during the debate:
SAFEGUARDS AGAINST ABUSE OF POWERS
This month, six civil society groups raised concerns about the Bill's "wide-reaching police powers", including use of lethal force and stopping communications during terror incidents and peaceful protests.
Mrs Teo pointed to the Bill's "two-tier unlocking mechanism" as a means to prevent potential abuse of Posspa.
She said Posspa's special powers will not kick in immediately, even if activated by the home affairs minister. Each power has to be unlocked by the commissioner of police (CP) "only as and when deemed necessary".
The duration of each activation order is capped at one month, after which the minister must make a new order if he sees a need for it.
On Nominated MP Kok Heng Leun's call for a procedure of accountability from the minister and CP in using the powers, Mrs Teo said Posspa is designed for serious incidents where authorities have to "race against time" and cannot afford to put rescue operations on hold.
QUESTIONING PEOPLE AND ENTERING PREMISES
Mrs Teo said the need to work fast also justified the enhanced police powers to question people and enter their premises.
She said: "...Police need to be able to obtain information quickly in order to deal with the incident. These enhanced powers make it clear that individuals have an onus to comply."
MOBILISING CIVILIANS IN SERIOUS INCIDENTS
Mrs Teo said Posspa will allow civilians, such as private security officers, to be activated to help in a serious incident.
But they are not obliged to do so and will have limited powers that exclude use of lethal force.
Mrs Teo cited an example of these civilians helping to evacuate a mall during an attack.
Replying to MPs such as Mr Ang Wei Neng (Jurong GRC)who were concerned about their safety, she said the police will consider the suitability of the task before seeking their help.
"The volunteers will not be assigned tasks that will put them in harm's way or which they are quite incapable of performing," she said.- HARIZ BAHARUDIN