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New infrastructure protection laws to counter security threats in Singapore

  • Publish Date: Posted over 6 years ago
  • Author:by Alan Jarque

Recently in Singapore’s Parliament, a proposed infrastructure protection Bill was passed, paving the way for new laws, which will require some new buildings to absorb security measures into their designs.

The measures are part of Singapore's Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) counter-terrorism strategy, and come at a time when the city-state is facing its "highest" terror threat in recent years, as described by MHA's terrorism threat assessment report issued in June 2017.                    

Under the new law, buildings which house essential services, are iconic, or with high human traffic will have to ensure that there are adequate building security measures in place, given that they could be targeted by terrorists, with the intent of disrupting such services or inflicting mass casualties. Examples of buildings which the laws would likely apply to are the city-state’s Changi Airport and Sports Hub.

Such measures, which include video surveillance, security personnel, vehicle barriers, and strengthening the building against blast effects, will help deter and deny attackers, as well as minimise casualties and damage in an attack. Where possible, security measures should be incorporated at the building design stage as it is the more cost-efficient and effective way to secure a building,” said MHA in a media release last month, when Second Minister for Home Affairs Ms Josephine Teo first tabled the Bill for its First Reading.

To achieve its objectives, the Bill has two prongs of provisions; enhancing building security in Singapore and enhancing security powers to protect sensitive installations.

The Bill will allow MHA to designate selected new buildings as 'Special Developments', and selected existing buildings as 'Special Infrastructures'.

These buildings will need to address security risks as part of the building's design prior to being built or when they are about to be renovated. Before construction or renovations can begin, MHA's approval of the security plans for the buildings will need to be obtained. This requirement may apply to critical infrastructure providing essential services, and iconic or large commercial developments.

MHA will also be allowed to direct owners of selected buildings to put in place security measures, for example vehicle barriers or video surveillance, to guard against terrorist attacks, and can issue emergency orders to protect the building if a terrorist attack is assessed to be imminent.

The Bill will intensify the security of existing protected areas and places in Singapore for example military camps and immigration checkpoints by giving security personnel of these sensitive installations powers to deal with threats in the surrounding area. This includes powers to question suspicious persons and inspect their belongings or to require them to leave the area.

The Bill will also make unauthorised photography and videography of these protected locations an offence, to prevent surveillance by terrorists. Security personnel will be able to stop persons from taking photographs and videos, and take follow-up actions, such as examining and requiring deletion of the photos and videos.

In response to questions in parliament on the cost implications of its requirements, Ms Teo said that measures could cost 0.2 to 3 percent of total construction cost. For those who disregard the new laws, large fines can be expected. Owners or occupiers of developments who must submit a security plan to the authorities for approval before carrying out major construction works could be fined up to S$200,000 and be jailed up to two years for failing to do so.

The laws will entail other changes in due course: A Commissioner of Infrastructure Protection (a senior public servant from the MHA) will oversee the administration of the new laws.

In the meantime, there will be more training for security and auxiliary police officers, and engineers specialising in protective security, for which a new scheme will be launched in 2018.