Speech by Mr. Louis Ng Kok Kwang, MP for Nee Soon GRC at the Second Reading of the Terrorism (Suppression of Misuse of Radioactive Material) Bill [Bill No. 21/2017] Introduction
Madam, as noted by Ms. Karen Tan, our Permanent Representative to the UN, the threat of non-state actors gaining access to nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons is becoming an increasingly real threat.
This Bill strengthens Singapore’s position alongside other countries in the international fight against terrorism, in particular, nuclear terrorism.
I will be making some suggestions and raising two areas for clarification on the proposed provisions, as well as concerns on Singapore’s efforts in combating terror threats involving chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive (CBRNE) materials.
Possession or making a Convention device to compel someone to do or refrain from doing any act
Under Section 6(1)(b)(iii) and Section 7(1)(b)(iii), the use of radioactive material and Convention device, and the use or damage of a nuclear facility is an offence if a person does so to compel any person, international organisation, or government to do or refrain from doing any act.
However, this limb is missing from section 4(b) and section 5(b) on possession and manufacture. I would like to seek clarification on this.
It is plausible that a person’s intention in the possession or manufacture of these devices is not to cause death or injury to persons, or damage to property or environment, but instead to compel individuals and governments to act in certain ways.
For instance, in the October 2001 US anthrax attacks, letters containing anthrax spores were mailed to reporters and political figures. The intention of the senior scientist at the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases who did so was not to kill or sicken anyone, but to enhance the proﬁle of his anthrax work, to improve his own standing among colleagues, and to stimulate funding for biodefense by inducing fear in the population and inﬂuencing government policy.
Given the similar risk of potentially lethal consequences, should we also make possession and manufacture an offence where the intention is to influence others to act in a certain way?
Use of inducement in demand
Next, the proposed Section 9 makes it an offence to demand another person to make available to the offender or to give the offender access to any radioactive material, Convention device, or nuclear facility.
However, it is only an offence if the demand is made by the use of force or by threats. It is conceivable that these individuals may induce others to act through the promise of reward or gratification. Should the scope of the Section be widened to cover such scenarios?
Extra-territoriality of Section 11
I also note that Section 11 outlines the extra-territorial nature of nuclear terrorism offences, stating that any person outside of Singapore committing an act which “if committed in Singapore, would constitute a nuclear terrorism offence”, would be deemed to have contravene the law. I would like to ask if this is consistent with other terrorism offences as well?
Strengthening CBRNE defense – security of facilities and regulation of material for commercial sales
This Bill will help to bring our legislative regime in line with international law on nuclear terrorism. Nuclear terrorism is but one element of CBRNE threats.
In addressing other aspects of wider CBRNE threats, Singapore has signed and ratified the Biological Weapons Convention and the Chemical Weapons Convention. Domestically, the Chemical Weapons (Prohibition) Act, Biological Agents and Toxins Act, and Strategic Goods (Control) Act are some of the legislation passed to prevent access of non-state actors to CBRNE materials and to criminalise abuse of these hazardous materials.
Whilst strengthening our legislative framework, are we also doing enough to address security risks for facilities that hold dual-use materials which could be exploited or repurposed for terrorist usage?
Although Singapore does not have significant nuclear material or facilities, it is relatively easy to weaponise chemical, biological, radiological, or explosive materials.
All cases of theft of nuclear materials that have occurred overseas where the circumstances of the theft are known were perpetrated either by insiders or with the help of insiders.
As such, in addition to the physical security of facilities holding CBRNE materials, are there also measures in place to address insider threats which may arise from the radicalisation of personnel working in sensitive areas involving contact with CBRNE material?
Madam, I welcome this move to combat nuclear terrorism, and would further urge that stronger measures be taken to strengthen our CBRNE defence by putting hazardous materials beyond the hands of would-be terrorists.