Speech by Mr. Louis Ng Kok Kwang, MP for Nee Soon GRC at the Second Reading of the Immigration (Amendment) Bill [Bill No. 46/2017]
Sir, while I understand the overriding security necessity of responding swiftly to incidents at the checkpoints, allowing ICA officers to exercise certain Police powers are an expansion of executive powers, which should be done cautiously.
We should thus closely scrutinise the powers this Bill gives to ICA officers to ensure that there is a sound basis and sufficient checks for each extension of power.
As was noted in MHA’s press release on the Bill, the intention of giving ICA officers such powers is to enable them to respond to incidents and contain situations before police officers arrive. The powers that are granted to ICA officers should be constrained insofar as they are necessary for that purpose.
Powers of examination under s 51AA
The amendments will give ICA officers the power to take statements from persons who appear to be acquainted with the facts and circumstances of relevant offences.
The language of Section 51AA(6) and (7) is similar to Section 22 of the Criminal Procedure Code which allows the police to take long statements.
Unlike Section 23 of the CPC, the amendments do not expressly require persons being questioned to be given notice that choosing to remain silent may have a bad effect on their case in court. Can I clarify whether adverse inferences can be drawn from a statement taken under Section 51AA(5) should the person choose to remain silent?
If so, is there a duty to inform the person being examined of their privilege against self-incrimination under Section 51AA(6) and does the failure to inform the person of their right to remain silent affect the admissibility of the statement or the ability to draw adverse inferences from the statement?
Laypersons may not know that they have such a right and it seems only fair that they should be informed of this right if the privilege against self-incrimination is to have any substance. The right to remain silent under Section 51AA(5) would be very weak in practice if there is no need to inform an individual of their right to do so. It is those who are ignorant of the law and the most vulnerable who would suffer the most.
Further, Section 51AA(7) sets out requirements, which are intended to be procedural safeguards for the person’s whose statement is taken. Will a failure to comply with the requirements under Section 51AA(7) affect the admissibility of the statement?
Checks on exercise of police powers by ICA officers
Next, the exercise of police powers are governed by the CPC and the Police General Orders issued by the Commissioner of Police. Will rules or guidelines similar to the PGO be issued for ICA officers?
Period of detention
Lastly, is it necessary for ICA officers to be given the power to detain a person for up to 24 hours under Section 51AA(12) before handing them over to a police officer?
As highlighted earlier, these powers are only transitory in that they are intended for ICA officers to be able to contain the situation until the police arrive. In line with the spirit of unifying the command and control structure that underlies the Integrated Checkpoints Command concept, surely closer coordination between the police and ICA officers could be expected in responding to incidents.
Sir, notwithstanding the above clarifications, I stand in support of this Bill.