Speech by Mr Chan Chun Sing at SGSecure Public Service Mobilisers Conference
Speech by Mr Chan Chun Sing, Minister for Education and Minister-in-charge of the Public Service, at SGSecure Public Service Mobilisers Conference, on 29 Sep 2023
MOS Sun Xueling,
Public Service Mobilisers,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good morning. Thank you for being here today. But more importantly, thank you for working hard behind the scenes.
Next phase of SGSecure
2. Two months ago, the next phase of SGSecure was announced, with a renewed focus on mobilising the community in our fight against terrorism.
3. Our new tagline is, “What’s Your Role?”. It calls on Singaporeans to discover the role we each can play in combating terrorism.
4. I will speak on two issues. First, equipping our workplaces, and second, engaging our youths.
5. Let me first start with equipping our workplaces.
In the Public Service
6. Many of you are here as Public Service Mobilisers – SGSecure champions of the Public Service. As mobilisers, your role is to keep your workplace safe, encourage and train your colleagues to be Prepared Citizens, who understand and are vigilant to the terror threat facing Singapore.
7. Let me give an example from the National Library Board (NLB) of what all of us can do.
8. Our libraries are open, community spaces that welcome people from all walks of life, all year round. But like many other places, the library would be considered a soft target in the eyes of terrorists.
9. For the safety of the library patrons, NLB equips their staff with knowledge on SGSecure and with emergency preparedness skills, and conducts table-top and ground deployment exercises.
10. One such exercise took place in July this year. NLB staff responded to a scenario of an arsonist setting fire to the library. Besides facilitating the safe evacuation of its patrons, NLB staff attended to the injured until further help arrived. The exercise allowed NLB staff to practise their roles, so that they are better prepared should a real incident happen.
11. NLB’s workplace readiness is only possible with the management’s support and the staff’s understanding of the importance of emergency preparedness, as well as the commitment and efforts of NLB’s mobilisers. You will hear more from NLB about their good practices later.
12. Today at this conference, like NLB has done, the Public Service will need to renew our commitment towards securing our workplaces against terrorism. As the biggest employer with many touchpoints with the community, our Service must lead by example. We can champion SGSecure initiatives – train our staff in SGSecure, encourage them to pick up emergency preparedness skills and to be effective SGSecure Responders, and keep our agencies’ contingency plans well-oiled.
13. This is one thing I want to emphasise for our officers. Very often, we talk about preparedness and we think about remediation – what happens after. That is important. But we must go beyond that. Part of our role is also to use our applied thinking process to see how we can design our premises to be more secure and yet public-friendly. And because of your experience in SGSecure work, your inputs to the upfront design and daily improvement to our processes, will be critical. These will send a strong message to potential terrorists that we mean business and we take it seriously.
14. So, I want all of you to remember your role. It is not just about remediation that we must do, and that we must do well; on the other hand, we must also think upstream on how we can better design our systems, processes, infrastructure and premises to be more secure, without losing the ability to engage the public in a positive way.
15. Always remember – for us, we have to get it right, first time, every time. On the other hand, the terrorists just need to get it right, one time, any time.
16. That said, we need to go beyond the Public Service.
Beyond the Public Service
17. In a survey conducted by MHA last year, 64% of the respondents reported that they know the emergency drills and procedures of their workplaces. This figure has increased from 49% in 2018.
18. However, when asked whether their workplaces are prepared to handle a terrorist incident in Singapore, 60% of the respondents agreed, which was the same as in 2018.
19. Certainly, more can and should be done to ready our workplaces for security incidents. Our ability to respond well in critical moments can make the difference between life and death during the incident, and help our workforce to rebound quickly and restore normalcy.
20. This is the other thing that I want to emphasise. In each and every incident that we are confronted with, beyond the remediation, how fast we can return to normalcy is most important. I would like to share with you what I have learned from one country in the Middle East, which is frequently faced with such challenges. They have an organising philosophy: whenever an incident happens, they must restore normalcy and return life to normal soonest possible.
21. Why? Because if we allow the terrorists to disrupt our lives and normalcy, then the terrorists have succeeded beyond what the terrorist act sought to achieve by killing people or harming lives. But if the terrorists know that, no matter what they do, we are determined to return life to normalcy as quickly as possible and we are able to do that, then we will remove or reduce the incentive and impetus for them to try to do this. If they ever succeed, it is bad enough. But if they succeed, and yet can continue to disrupt our lives for a long time, then they would have perhaps succeeded beyond their expectations.
22. So, our job is critical. Upstream, think of how to prevent; during the incident, think of how to mitigate, but very importantly, think of how we can restore normalcy as soon as possible.
23. The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has put in place the SGSecure@Workplaces programme since 2017, to raise awareness and increase preparedness against the terror threat at workplaces.
24. As of August 2023, there are close to 68,000 businesses with at least one SGSecure representative registered with MOM. These representatives champion SGSecure at the workplace. MOM must continue to grow this network – not only to grow the numbers, but also to deepen their knowledge in this area.
25. There are also about 100 Workplace Community Leaders, appointed to sensitise their respective business communities to terror threats during peacetime, and engage the ground during crises.
26. Resources and training are made available to both SGSecure representatives and Workplace Community Leaders, to help them build up the workplaces’ capabilities to respond to the terror threat. In the coming months, MOM will roll out training in more areas such as psychological first aid and crisis communications, which will be useful in the event of a security incident.
27. SGSecure elements have also been incorporated into the bizSAFE programme. As of August 2023, there are more than 31,000 businesses recognised under the bizSAFE framework. These businesses have conducted risk assessment of their workplace with regard to terror threats, and addressed these threats in their risk management plans.
28. MOM will continue to engage and encourage employers to register SGSecure representatives, keep up to date with SGSecure@Workplaces resources, and build up capabilities through training and exercises.
29. Employees can also do their part, by actively participating in SGSecure activities organised by their employer, picking up emergency preparedness skills, and signing up as SGSecure Responders.
30. Now, let me go on to the second part, which is about youth outreach.
31. Self radicalisation, particularly through online media, continues to be a growing concern for Singapore. Extremist groups are becoming increasingly skillful in using digital media to indoctrinate and recruit people.
32. In Singapore, self-radicalised individuals are getting younger. 11 out of 37 self-radicalised Singaporeans dealt with under the Internal Security Act since 2015, or almost one in three, were aged 20 or below. Five of these youths had planned to carry out attacks in Singapore. The youngest detainee was aged 15 at the point of detention.
33. The terrorism threat to Singapore remains high, and we cannot be complacent.
34. But in the recent survey by MHA, less than 40% of the respondents were willing to report loved ones, acquaintances and colleagues who exhibit radicalised behavior, to the authorities. They were concerned about making wrong allegations, and to inconvenience the authorities and others.
35. This is worrying, because our strongest defence against terrorism is our collective vigilance. They should not worry, and they should not have to worry, if they had wrongly perceived the threat, because the authorities will investigate thoroughly first before deciding whether to act. And as the cliché goes, it is better to be safe, than sorry. Some of the times we report suspicious behaviour may turn out not to be true, but sometimes it could be true. And every case that we fail to report could lead to a serious incident.
36. More can and should be done to raise awareness about online radicalisation and to inoculate our youths.
37. Our schools present a valuable platform for us to do so.
38. In recent years, the Internal Security Department (ISD) has worked closely with the Ministry of Education (MOE) to intensify outreach to students, educators and other school staff.
39. For example, by 2024, all junior colleges would have conducted the ISD-facilitated Counter-Radicalisation Workshops for student ambassadors, which aims to raise awareness of the threat of terrorism and online radicalisation. There are also plans to pilot this workshop for upper secondary student ambassadors in 2024.
40. Outside the school, community partners such as the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) and the Inter-Agency Aftercare Group (ACG) have also been conducting outreach.
41. Among others, there are assembly talks, youth forums, and visits to the RRG Resource & Counselling Centre to sensitise the public, especially youths, to the terrorism threat and strengthen our community resilience.
42. Engaging our youths is not just a responsibility of ISD and MOE, or even RRG. We need the whole community, including our workplaces, to step up, to reach out and to sensitise our people to the threats.
43. We can protect our youths and colleagues from going down the slippery slope of radicalisation if we are all familiar with the signs – the tell-tale signs – and are willing to alert the authorities when we pick up something.
44. If you see something, encourage your colleagues to report it, because time is of the essence as it might lead to something more serious than you can imagine.
Encouraging action from all
45. Everyone of us has a responsibility to keep our country safe, and everyone has a role. We can all sign up as an SGSecure Responder. And I hope that you also encourage others to sign up for this, so that collectively, we can maintain our vigilance and know how to better respond in an emergency.
46. Our fellow public officer, Jeremy Ang, the Principal of Commonwealth Secondary School, had one such moment. He is here with us today.
47. On a morning during this year’s March school holidays, Jeremy woke up to his usual alarm at 5.30am. He had just turned the alarm off when his phone sounded again, alerting him to a cardiac arrest case through the SCDF MyResponder app.
48. Jeremy rushed to the neighbouring block to attend to the victim, an elderly man. Along the way, he collected the AED from the lift lobby of the block. Together with another Responder, they performed CPR and administered the AED on the victim. They managed to resuscitate the victim, with the help of SCDF medical responders who arrived subsequently.
49. Fortunately for the elderly gentleman, Jeremy had attended regular refresher First Aid and CPR/AED training over the past decade, and registered himself on the MyResponder app. Because of his preparedness, Jeremy saved a fellow Singaporean.
50. As a school principal, Jeremy strongly supports the SGsecure programmes in his school and shares his experiences with colleagues and students during their CPR/AED training, encouraging them to also join the Responders network.
51. We have close to 145,000 Responders in the community today. We hope to grow this pool further, and we would like to encourage everyone to join the scheme.
New Series of SGSecure Roadshows
52. Today, we will be rolling out a new series of SGSecure Roadshows as well.
53. At the roadshows, attendees can participate in interactive digital gameplay, as they discover their roles in countering terrorism. These include identifying signs of radicalisation as a True Friend, spotting fake news as a Fact-Checker, or being calm and caring for others as a Uniter.
54. The first roadshow of the new series will be held next door at the Funan, and I encourage everyone to visit the roadshow.
55. Let me conclude. For us to stay safe, all of us need to stay vigilant. For us to stay vigilant, it will only get harder and harder for every day of peace that we enjoy. Your role is important. And I hope, that through your role, through your example, more of our colleagues will join and become part of this community of vigilance. Only so can we keep Singapore safe.
56. And if anybody is thinking of doing harm to Singapore, the first thing that they will look out for is whether we are complacent. So long as we are not complacent, we buy ourselves the first line of insurance. But having said that, we fully understand that even if we are not complacent, even if we do our best in our preparedness and training, one day, there might still be an incident. And if that incident ever happens, we must make sure we know how to respond immediately. We must make sure that we can restore normalcy as soon as possible, to deny any terrorist the chance to disrupt our lives and make us lose our confidence going forward.
57. On that note, I thank you all for your service to the nation. May you continue to work together with us, with MHA, ISD, and all agencies, to build that community of vigilance. Thank you very much.