Home Team and SAF to ramp up anti-terrorism efforts

Minister for Home Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam stated in Parliament on 6 April that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) would be stepping up its counter-terrorism efforts in the wake of recent attacks in major cities. This include strengthening Singapore’s Home Team as well as utilising video cameras installed in public areas to detect any suspicious behaviour.

Mr Shanmugam acknowledged that manpower is a concern and that due to the fewer youths entering Singapore’s workforce, recruitment has slowed in recent years. While the Singapore Police Force (SPF) aims to boost recruitment to bring in new faces, it also hopes to retain its existing senior officers. In order to do so, Member of Parliament (MP) for Tampines GRC Mr Desmond Choo called for the retirement age for Home Team officers to be raised from 55 to 62 years old, stating that the officers “polish their craft over time and it gets better with age.”

Officers in the SPF as well as those in other Home Team departments in investigation and special operations will see increased opportunities for career development in the near future.

Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Amrin Amin also stated that the Home Team would work with National Servicemen (NSmen) and Full-Time National Servicemen (NSFs) to establish a new Protective Security Command (ProCom). ProCom will be tasked with protecting critical infrastructure in national emergency situations.

Besides refinements in manpower, Mr Shanmugam also highlighted an increased focus on using technology to combat potential terror threats. He announced that Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) data and public transport cameras will be used to monitor movements of any suspicious individuals. There will also be an increase in video cameras installed in public areas as part of a new PolCam 2.0 programme.

One day after Mr Shanmugam’s announcements, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen followed up with plans for the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) to step up patrolling efforts in public areas. Currently, SAF patrols are limited to Changi Airport, Jurong Island and Sembawang Wharves.

During its counter-terrorism training, Dr Ng stated that the SAF would focus on urban and city landscapes. There are plans for the firepower of special forces troops as well as the manpower in the SAF’s Cyber Defence Operations Hub to be increased.

Dr Ng also said that joint response plans for the SAF and Home Team to collaborate on anti-terror measures are currently being reviewed.

Mr Shanmugam stressed that these measures aimed to combat terrorism as a whole, and were not targeting any single race, ethnicity or religion. This was in response to MP for Jurong GRC Ms Rahayu Mahzam’s voicing concerns regarding Islamophobia creeping into the Singapore community. Mr Shanmugam emphasised that any anti-terror messaging put forth by the Government would be done with sensitivity in order to “protect the multiracial and multi-religious soul of Singapore.”