Pink Dot, held at Hong Lim Park May 16, 2009 in Singapore

MHA: Amendments to Public Order Bill to strengthen protection for large-scale events against security threats

Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has introduced the Public Order (Amendment) Bill for First Reading in Parliament today, which seeks to strengthen the protection for large-scale events against security threats and prevent foreigners from using Singapore as a platform to promote political causes.

The Public Order Act (POA) was enacted in 2009 and last amended in 2015.

The POA regulates assemblies and processions in public places and provides powers to preserve public order and safety at special event areas and public places.

According to the Ministry, recent terror attacks across the world and in our region have targeted events with large crowds. Therefore, in light of this, it has reviewed the security framework for large-scale events to deter and prevent such attacks.

MHA stressed that this Bill will amend the POA to require organisers of events with large crowds, as well as events which are assessed to be at higher risk, to put in place adequate security measures.

"These measures will help protect events against terror attacks or public order incidents," it said.

"The Bill will also amend the POA to prevent foreigners from using assemblies and processions in Singapore to promote political causes," it added.

The key proposed amendments for event security are summarised below:

Special Events

All event organisers will be required to notify the Police if they reasonably expect more than the following number of persons to attend the event, which is 5,000 persons at any point in time for public events or 10,000 persons at any point in time for private events.

MHA stated that event organisers must notify the Police at least 28 days before the event is held. It will be an offence if the organisers had not notified the Police before the stipulated timeframe.

The Commissioner of Police will then decide if an event is to be declared a Special Event, by assessing the potential risk of a terror attack or public order incident and to avoid disruptions to the event.

MHA said that events that are expected to attract large crowds, or assessed to be at higher risk of a terror attack or a public order incident, will generally be declared Special Events. This assessment will take into consideration factors such as the profile of the event and the attendees, and the prevailing threat situation.

"The Police will issue directions to the event organiser to ensure appropriate security measures are in place," the Ministry said.

Event Security Measures

Once an event is declared to be a Special Event, MHA stressed that organisers should work with the Police to determine the security measures required. These measures will largely be similar to those that are already put in place for most large events today unless the risk assessment requires further measures.

The Police will then provide guidelines to ensure that the requirements are clear and consistent. Examples of such security measures include placing barricades, engaging security officers, or conducting bag checks.

MHA notes that it will be an offence if the organisers do not implement the security measures as required by the Police. In such circumstances, the Police can put in place the necessary security measures and recover the costs of doing so from the organisers.

Enhanced Security Special Events

The Minister for Home Affairs said that it will continue to declare events of national and international significance, such as the National Day Parade, as Enhanced Security Special Events. Additional conditions on participants and members of the public in and around the Enhanced Security Special Event area may be imposed, which is similar to the existing Special Events Security provisions of the POA.

Prevent Foreigners from using Singapore to Promote Political Causes

According to MHA, the Bill will also provide the Commissioner of Police with powers to reject permit applications for assemblies or processions involving foreigners using such events for political ends, which will help prevent Singapore from being used as a platform by foreigners to further political causes.