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Tighter security rules to be introduced for buildings, events: Desmond Lee

SINGAPORE: Businesses will have to adopt certain measures to guard against security threats in a bid to boost public safety, as the Government announced its intent to amend laws to this effect this year.

Speaking during his ministry’s Committee of Supply debate on Friday (Mar 3), Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs Desmond Lee said the Public Order Act will be amended, to require certain events to put in place security measures. The Government will also introduce a Bill to enact a new Infrastructure Protection Act.

A Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) spokesperson said the Act may require building owners to adopt additional protective measures in the event of heightened threats, such as implementing bag checks.

“Currently, critical infrastructure undergo a security review process at the design stage. Necessary security measures which take into account the security risks are then incorporated into the design and construction of the building. A similar review would be required for new, large-scale commercial developments,” the spokesperson said.

GOVERNMENT MINDFUL OF IMPACT ON BUSINESSES

Mr Lee noted that in putting together the new requirements, the Government is mindful of the potential impact on businesses. And it will take a “practical approach” in order to keep the cost of such measures reasonable.

He said: “This is a cost which terrorism has imposed on society as a whole. The Government has borne a significant share of this cost. Communities have been roped in to play their part through SGSecure.

“And we seek the business community’s understanding that these measures are necessary as a shared effort to keep Singapore and Singaporeans safe.”

Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam had told Channel NewsAsia on Wednesday (Mar 1) that there are plans to introduce two new laws this year that will require building owners and event organisers to follow tighter security rules.

ENSURING SAFETY AND SECURITY A “SHARED RESPONSIBILITY”

In his speech, Mr Lee stressed that ensuring Singapore’s safety and security continues to be a shared responsibility between the Home Team and the public. The Home Team includes the police, Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), Immigration and Checkpoints Authority, Singapore Prisons Service and the Central Narcotics Bureau.

Hence, MHA has stepped up efforts to strengthen partnerships between the Home Team and the community. Mr Lee said one example of this is SCDF’s Save-a-Life initiative, where members of the public are trained to provide an initial response to out-of-hospital cardiac arrest cases. He gave an update on their efforts.

So far, about 2,000 residents have been trained in CPR-AED skills under the initiative. In the coming years, they hope to train more than 24,000 residents, or 300 per constituency.

More AEDs will also be installed across Singapore, he said. Currently, there are close to 460 AEDs installed in eight constituencies. By 2019, there will be one AED for every two HDB blocks in all constituencies.

He also encouraged more people to download and use the SCDF’s myResponder mobile app. The app alerts its users if there is a report of somebody suffering from cardiac arrest nearby.

Mr Lee added that the private security industry is also another important partner in ensuring Singapore’s safety and security.

He said MHA will work with tripartite partners to develop an Industry Transformation Map for the industry, with a strong focus on innovation and technology, as well as upgrading of jobs and skills.

ON FOREIGNERS AS AUXILIARY POLICE OFFICERS

Mr Lee also addressed concerns raised by Workers’ Party Member of Parliament Sylvia Lim on having foreigners as auxiliary police officers.

He said that it has not been possible for the Auxiliary Police Forces to recruit only Singaporeans due to a limited supply.

They have decided to allow the recruitment of foreigners after carefully considering the options, he added. “They are properly screened to ensure that they are suitable for security work,” he said. “We also make careful assessments with regard to where they are deployed, and this is reviewed from time to time.”

“We have not heard a more effective proposal.”

Mr Lee stressed that the Government’s priority is still to increase the number of Singaporean auxiliary police officers. They are employed on better terms than foreigners and also enjoy better career prospects, he said.

Mr Lee also addressed Ms Lim’s concerns about foreign auxiliary police officers bearing arms.

“Anytime we give weapons to people, there is a risk,” he said, adding that there have been “isolated cases” of both local and foreign auxiliary police officers misusing their arms.

“But we have to arm our officers with weapons, if the risk assessment and operational needs so require, so that they can protect our installations,” he added. “Not doing so may compromise our security even more.”

“And we have to recognise and manage the risks through screening, training and supervision, whether it is an auxiliary police officer of Singaporean or foreign origin who is equipped with arms.”

MHA RAMPING UP TECHNOLOGY USE “‘ACROSS ALL SPECTRUMS”

Mr Lee also added that MHA is ramping up its use of technology across the whole spectrum of its operations. For example, it has already begun to deploy Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), or drones, to support SPF’s and SCDF’s operations.

He added that SCDF used the technology during last week’s Tuas fire. “After the fire was extinguished, the UAV was used to locate hotspots in the large area, which were otherwise out of sight from the firefighters,” he said.  “This allowed SCDF to act quickly and prevent the hotspots from re-igniting the fire.”



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