MP for Nee Soon GRC
Speech on Public Order and Safety (Special Powers) Bill
1. I rise in support of the bill.
2. It is important to note that this is not the 1st time the law enforcers have been given special powers to deal with security threats.
3. The POPA was enacted in 1958 to provide police with the special powers to deal with large-scale communal riots, which was the key threat back then.
4. However, much of the powers in that Act are no longer adequate to deal with today’s threats. The threat of terrorism comes in multiple and complex ways, which requires swift and decisive action from our enforcement and security agencies.
5. In today’s volatile and high security threat environment around the world, it is necessary for our enforcement agencies to be equipped with the necessary powers to thwart or avert an impending threat or to deal with an occurred threat to minimize
impact and investigate effectively.
6. As such, I support the Bill that is designed to protect our safety and security. At the same time, I hope that the government can provide clarity on several issues.
Justification for Broad Measures
7. To justify the broad measures, I am glad that minister has given several examples from recent terrorist attacks highlighting why the current laws are inadequate to deal with it.
Broad Principles for Security Agencies
8. When the broad base law is in place, sound and reasonable judgments by our enforcement officers is needed. And these judgment, within any enforcement agencies, are enforced through internal guidelines.
9. I recognise that it may not serve our interest to publish internal guidelines, which could potentially be exploited by terrorists.
10. Nevertheless, I am heartened that the government has articulated the broad principles that will govern the internal guideline, especially on:
a. The application of lethal force,
b. The 2-tier unlocking process of the powers in the law
c. The need by the commissioner to unlock individual powers based on the situation.
11. The need to articulate these broad principles were originally a concern for me, and I wanted to flag them out in my speech. I am glad that the Minister has provided a clear explanation of these broad principles.
Limiting Communication During Incidents
12. Next, I also wanted to touch on the limitations on communications in the event of a terrorist incident. It makes sense not to have information posted online through public or open channels, be it mainstream media or social media.
13. I appreciate Minister MHA clarified that victims of terrorism attacks are not prohibited from sending information to security agencies of their situations.
14. But I would like the ministry to clarify whether sharing with friends and family on closed networks is also forbidden. Perhaps not video, but text messages indicating that there is an attack.
15. During a crisis, we all want to make sure that our immediate loved ones are safe, and stay out of any possible danger zones. So a furry of messages within closed networks can be expected.
16. Some would also argue that if this information does not spill over to public networks, the risk of the terrorists getting wind of getting useful information will be limited.
17. Lastly, I hope the government will invest in more efforts to share this aspect of the law with our people. Perhaps we can remind Singaporeans at the onset of any serious terrorist incident when the law is put in force.
18. This is because, while a limitation on communication is necessary, this provision goes against the initial instinct of many people to share such news with others, including their loved ones.
19. Thank you.