Speech by Mr. Louis Ng Kok Kwang, MP for Nee Soon GRC at the Second Reading of the Infrastructure Protection Bill [Bill No. 32/2017]
Sir, I stand in support of this Bill. Enhancement of security measures to buildings and provision of powers to security personnel to better protect Singapore’s infrastructure against security risks is timely, in light of the prevalence of indiscriminate terror attacks carried out globally.
Further, I applaud the initiative to rope in the business community as part of the shared effort to keep Singapore safe.
There are 2 clarifications I seek.
Powers of authorised officers
Firstly, Clause 22 describes the circumstances which allow the authorised officers of protected areas or places to use such force as is reasonably necessary, to remove any person or without warrant arrest a person who enters or is about to enter such protected areas or places.
These circumstances includes a catch-all provision prescribing if that person, in the opinion of the authorised officer does not have a good and lawful reason to enter to or be in that protected area or place, or is acting in a suspicious manner.
The presence of the global threat of terror is very real and the need to empower our officers is much needed. However, can the Minister clarify if these powers given to the authorised officer in Clause 22 are subject to guidelines?
I believe there are less concerns when these powers are given to police officers but there is concern that the Bill indicates that such powers can be given to a security officer. The training a police officer receives is very different from the training a security officer receives. Can the Minister provide further clarifications on the need to provide security officers with such powers?
In addition, there is now a stronger focus on the role of security officers in our fight against terrorism. Will MHA be devoting resources into developing this industry and reviewing and improving the training provided to these officers?
Costs to premises owners and developers
Secondly, I appreciate that ensuring security of Singapore’s infrastructure should be a joint responsibility. This duty ought to be shared by all, including businesses, premises owners and developers.
However, there have been concerns by building owners on rising operational costs when additional security measures have to be put in place.
There are less concerns for new buildings or those undergoing major renovations since they can factor such costs during the initial stages but more so when we issue directives and orders for existing buildings.
I do appreciate that this is necessary and perhaps the cost of not implementing such measures against terrorist attacks would be greater than the cost of installing CCTVs, deploying security officers and barriers.
But I hope Minister can address some of the public concerns with regard to the availability of grants in exceptional cases where the building owner is unable to afford the costs of implementing the Directives or Orders.
Sir, I applaud the efforts of the Ministry thus far with the SGSecure movement.
I also applaud their focus on the “Security-by-Design” process and I understand we are one of the first few countries in the world to legislate the need for such a process.
I believe it is important and necessary to include the entire community in efforts to keep Singapore safe. By working together, we can keep Singapore secure.
Sir, notwithstanding the above clarifications, I stand in support of this Bill.
Speech by Mr. Louis Ng Kok Kwang, MP for Nee Soon GRC at the Second Reading of the Audit (Amendment) Bill [Bill No. 33/2017]
Sir, I stand in support of this Bill. Enhancing the Auditor-General’s powers to ensure public accountability of public moneys is welcomed. I have just one clarification to seek.
Clarification on exclusion of common law privilege against self-incrimination
The new Section 6A states that an individual cannot rely on the common law privilege against self-incrimination to refuse to provide an explanation, information, document, record or answer a question required under Section 6.
This is subject to a carve-out that any such explanation, information, document, record or answer provided cannot be used as evidence against the individual in civil or criminal proceedings, and can only be used in proceedings for a Section 177 of the Penal Code or an offence relating to the falsity of the answer.
The Audit Act as it currently stands includes a broad obligation in Section 6(3) where an individual called upon for any explanation or information is “legally bound to furnish such explanation and information”.
On a literal plain reading, this suggests that Section 177 of the Penal Code would already apply if this Section 6(3) obligation was contravened by an individual, even without the amendment in this Bill.
On a comparative note, another legislation, which confers such a broad obligation, is the Prevention of Corruption Act. Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau officers have the power to require a person to “give any information on any subject” relating to corruption cases and the person so questioned is “legally bound to give that information”.
In the Prevention of Corruption Act, there is no specific provision excluding the common law privilege against self-incrimination.
In this context, given that such a broad obligation exists to compel an individual to furnish explanation and information, with the relevant penalty provision (Section 177 of Penal Code) already in place, can the Minister clarify the intent of specifically excluding the privilege against self-incrimination in this Bill?
I understand from the Explanatory Notes that this new Section 6A will help ensure the efficiency of the audit process is not diminished by the Auditor-General and his officers having to engage in time-consuming negotiations about the provision of privileged documents.
However, the nature of inquiries by the Auditor-General does have potentially wide and severe implications.
Can the Minister clarify how this new Section 6A will allow the Auditor-General to better carry out its primary work of ensuring public accountability of the Government to the Parliament, in the event that an explanation, information, document, record or answer obtained under this Section 6A does in fact raise concerns which ought to (in public’s interest) lead to civil or criminal prosecution?
Sir, notwithstanding the above clarification, I stand in support of the Bill.
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