Keeping Singapore safe & secure
In response to President Tony Tan Keng Yam's address on Friday, four ministries yesterday set out their plans for enhancing safety and security in Singapore. Linette Heng looks at the details
1. MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Singapore faces challenges such as terrorism from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and disputes in the East and South China Sea.
Furthermore, the global economic outlook is uncertain, although landmark initiatives such as the Asean Economic Community and Trans-Pacific Partnership offer promising prospects, said Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan.
Singapore will maintain its relevance by using Asean as a platform to engage key major powers at a regional level. Singapore will take on the role of Asean chair in 2018.
Beyond South-east Asia, Singapore will continue to maintain and strengthen ties with the US, China and other regional stakeholders.
To create overseas opportunities for Singaporeans, the Republic will expand its political and economic influence in new emerging markets in Africa, Central Asia, Latin America, Middle East, Russia and Turkey.
The Ministry will also expand Singapore's consular outreach by leveraging on modern technology and expanding its diplomatic network to ensure the safety of Singaporeans abroad, especially in light of the increasing occurrences of natural disasters and other emergencies.
Said Dr Balakrishnan: "Singapore must aspire to be an extraordinary nation by strengthening our bilateral, regional and international relations and our international standing.
"We must be cognizant of our vulnerabilities, yet constantly search for fresh opportunities to enhance our relevance and expand our political, economic and diplomatic space."
2. MINISTRY OF DEFENCE
Singapore faces an increasingly complex security landscape which requires a strong and credible defence, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen.
To illustrate, he cited two examples - countries in the region are modernising their militaries against a backdrop of growing nationalism, territorial disputes and threats from terrorism, as well as attacks in Sydney, Paris and Ankara over the past year.
Technology used by professional militaries are now cheaper and easier to obtain. This means that cyber criminals and attackers have more ways to disrupt and destabilise Singapore, which is heavily dependent on technology.
To guard against the wider range of threats, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) will make use of technologies such as unmanned systems and robotics. "Such technologies have the added benefit of greater precision while using less manpower, enabling the SAF to adapt to a shrinking workforce," Dr Ng said.
Initiatives that further support national servicemen (NSmen) will also be launched this year.
For instance, gifts will be given to active NSmen who are newly married or have babies. Basic life and personal accident insurance coverage will also be provided to NSmen.
Those who perform well during national service training will also be given vouchers.
The SAF Volunteer Corps will also be expanded.
An inaugural cohort of 226 volunteers completed their basic training last year and some have been deployed on landing ship tanks.
3. MINISTRY OF HOME AFFAIRS
Terrorism, cybercrime and transnational crime are serious threats to Singapore, said Minister for Home Affairs (MHA) K. Shanmugam.
To illustrate, it is estimated that about 1,000 South-east Asians have gone to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS and radicalised Singaporeans who were planning to stage "lone wolf" attacks have been detained.
Law enforcement agencies have detected the work of transnational syndicates which deal in drug trafficking and illegal bookmaking.
With Singapore's high Internet and mobile penetration rates, cybercrime has also been on the rise.
To deal with terrorism, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority will strengthen border security. Installation of police cameras at all HDB blocks and multi-storey carparks will also be completed by this year.
The Home Team has to deal with increasing demands amid manpower constraints. For example, emergency ambulance calls are increasing at a rate of 5 per cent a year, but it is not realistic to expand the Singapore Civil Defence Force's fleet and personnel at the same rate.
The Home Team will instead use data analytics to deploy resources to where it is most needed.
It will also step up efforts to recruit, develop and retain capable and committed staff.
MHA will also work on public education efforts. For instance, the Central Narcotics Bureau will expand its outreach to parents to get them involved in keeping their children away from drugs.
Given the transnational nature of crimes, MHA will deepen its cooperation and partnerships with international organisations such as Interpol, Asean and the United Nations.
Mr Shanmugam said: "The Home Team will maintain a high level of operational excellence and preparedness, even as we embark on our long-term transformation efforts. We will strengthen community resilience, and ensure that our society remains cohesive and united."
4.NATIONAL SECURITY COORDINATION SECRETARIAT (NSCS), PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICE
The NSCS' role is to look out for possible threats and work with relevant government agencies and stakeholders to ensure that Singapore is well prepared to handle these threats.
Some of its key initiatives include raising awareness on security issues and preparing the public for potential threats.
It will also examine how different infrastructures such as energy, water, health, infocomm and banking are interlinked, then identify and address potential vulnerabilities and danger areas that may arise from these interdependencies.
The NSCS has also identified social resilience as a key ingredient of national security and will work with government agencies and community groups to develop a stronger understanding of the factors that affect social resilience.
For instance, it noted that social media allows the rapid spread of information, but it can also lead to the sharing of unfounded rumours that can complicate the task of restoring order.
Lastly, the NSCS will work with various government agencies to research and develop practical solutions for cyber security and infocomm technology challenges.
Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who is also Coordinating Minister for National Security, said: "While we can never be certain of where the next security threat may emerge, we need to prepare ourselves and develop robust plans that can be adapted for different threat scenarios."