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Singapore’s Security
- Crisis Management
What are some examples of Singapore dealing with crises?
It is a known fact that Singapore has good crisis management. Singapore had been
able to get through many different crises and most recently, Singapore had to overcome
the Covid-19 crisis.
Before the virus even hit Singapore, Singapore already had a pandemic response plan
that was developed back from the 2003 SARS outbreak. This meant that Singapore had
experience in preventing a virus outbreak and as such, Singapore was well prepared.
For example, testing regimes were up and running by the time the first case was
confirmed on January 23. Labs were in place for the first case of coronavirus, such that
soon after the first case, every lab in every public hospital laboratory was capable of
doing tests. These meant that Singapore wasted no time in their battle against the battle
of the virus, helping control it.
Furthermore, a network of health clinics with expertise in treating respiratory illnesses
were set up early such that by mid-February, about 900 clinics were in operation. These
clinics act as the first point of contact for people with flu-like symptoms, taking the
pressure off the hospitals and stopping them from becoming a source of infection
Contact tracing, where once a person has tested positive, health ministry workers begin
detailed tracking of that person's recent movements; where they have been and who
they have come into contact with. The officials then track down the people who have
had contact with the infected person and are referred to early medical assessment. This
allows for the identification of the contacts of a case early on before they developed
symptoms, hence breaking the chain of transmission. However, contact tracing led to
people being worried that there is an imposition on civil liberties and worry about the
uses that governments might put that to. This was then soon addressed by the
Singapore also had to deal with the 2008 financial crisis. Headlined by the collapse of
American investment bank Lehman Brothers in September 2008. By the third quarter of
2008, the banking crisis in the United States (US) and its ripple effects had greatly
stressed the Singapore economy, causing it to be the first country in East Asia to
succumb to recession. It was hailed as Singapore’s worst ever recession.
To help Singapore businesses and workers cope with the economic downturn, the
government pledged S$2.9 billion in November 2008 and a further S$20.5 billion
Resilience Package(focus is on keeping employment levels as high as possible while
minimizing business failures) in January 2009.
How well did Singapore fare in these episodes?
Singapore has a relatively low number of coronavirus cases(59869) and many were
discharged (59,731). Furthermore, there was a low number of deaths(29).
As such, Singapore did well against the virus.
The Singapore economy weathered the financial storm better than feared with Prime
Minister Lee Hsien Loong announcing in August 2009 that “the worst is over for the
Singapore economy” and that “the eye of the storm has passed”. In November, the
Ministry of Trade and Industry declared that the recession was effectively over and
projected a growth forecast of between three and five percent in 2010. The economic
figures achieved in 2010 defied gloomy predictions made the year before when the
recession was in full steam.
Social Harmony
What are some major threats to Singapore’s social harmony, and how are they
Some of the major threats to Singapore’s social harmony are the resurgence of identity
politics worldwide which rejects diversity and co-existence with others; the Internet
allowing hate speech and incitement to spread further and faster; and religiously
motivated terrorist groups continuing to sow discord. Firstly, online falsehoods, if left
unchecked, have the potential to chip away at, destabilize and ultimately destroy the
social harmony Singapore has painstakingly nurtured over the past few decades,
particularly between different races and religions. Dr Mathews, a researcher into issues
related to social cohesion, made this point in his written and oral representations to the
Select Committee tasked to look into the problem of deliberate online falsehoods. Citing
research and surveys, Dr Mathews explained that the existence of harmonious
relationships between the different communities in Singapore does not mean that there
are no misperceptions or prejudices about different groups in the population. Society, he
said, is still not race-blind, and differences still matter in how people perceive and
interact with each other at the workplace, and in social settings. He cited a local
example of how a website The Real Singapore had spread a story about a Filipino
family complaining about Singaporeans who played music loudly during the Thaipusam
religious festival. “I personally witnessed just how quickly netizens took to this story and
without questioning the veracity of facts, made comments maligning Filipinos,” he said
in his written representation.
One of the ways that the government has chosen to manage this is the introduction of
the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act, also known as POFMA.
POFMA seeks to prevent the electronic communication of falsehoods as well as to
safeguard against the use of online platforms for the communication of such falsehoods.
It also puts in place various measures to counteract the effects of such communication
and to prevent the misuse of online accounts and bots
Do you think these management strategies are effective?
Without intervention, these falsehoods could have spread unchecked, caused public
panic and reduced public confidence in Singapore’s efforts to combat COVID-19
The use of POFMA clarified the facts quickly and required corrections to be placed
alongside the posts at their source, for example, on intermediary platforms like
Facebook and HardwareZone.
On the other hand, it is true that POFMA hands the government a disproportionate
amount of power, with little accountability about what is or isn’t deemed “in the public
interest” to take action on. The threshold for intervention remains very low, without any
need to demonstrate clear incitement to harm or violence before a government minister
issues orders under the law. People also question whether fake news can be rectified
via other means unlike POFMA which could potentially defund platforms or lead to
excessive censorship.
There are also platforms whereby POFMA is unable to take effect, for example the
closed or encrypted chat apps like WhatsApp. There’s little the government can do to
address the endlessly forwarded messages in our family chat groups.
National service
What is the justification for national service?
The need for National Service (NS) became clear when Singapore gained
independence in 1965 looking back at how easily the japanese conquered our tiny
island nation. It was first instituted in 1967 to help build Singapore's military forces soon
after its independence. However, It would not have been possible to raise a regular
force of a sufficient size to protect this island state given our small population.Therefore,
for over 50 years, NS has evolved into a national institution that is well accepted and a
part of our way of life. As the bedrock of our fighting force and national security, NS
remains critical for Singapore’s continued survival and success. A strong defence
underpins the peace and prosperity we enjoy by safeguarding Singapore’s
independence and sovereignty
How has NS evolved?
An ns servicemen’s roles have also expanded. Beyond protecting Singapore from
armed conflicts, our servicemen are now involved in countering terrorism, dealing with
the aftermath of natural disasters and tackling health epidemics. In 1975, the first intake
of Police full-time National Servicemen was enlisted and deployed for peacetime and
emergency functions. The SCDF enlisted its first intake of NSFs in 1981 to provide
emergency services to the nation during peacetime and crises. Today, the changing
roles of our servicemen reflect the need for NS to evolve and keep pace with the
changes in our society as well as our threat environment.
What are some of the recent debates surrounding National Service (e.g. training
safety issues, perceived unequal opportunities for Muslims, etc.)?
The accident that led to NS reservist and actor Aloysius Pang’s death was the result of
safety lapses by Pang and the other personnel who were with him in a Singapore
Self-Propelled Howitzer (SSPH) at the time, a committee of inquiry (COI) has
Pang was crushed by the gun barrel of the SSPH that he was working in, during
Exercise Thunder Warrior at Waiouru Training Area in New Zealand. He died of his
injuries days later.
Another less known case, was when a Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) officer was
charged on Friday (Oct 25) in relation to the death last year of full-time national
serviceman (NSF) Liu Kai, who was driving a Land Rover commanded by him.
Regular serviceman Ong Lin Jie, 28, a captain, was charged with doing a rash act
causing death.
Court documents say he had allegedly failed to keep a safety distance of 30m between
the Land Rover and a Bionix Infantry Fighting Vehicle, which had reversed and mounted
the driver's side of the Land Rover during a training exercise at Murai Urban Training
Facility on Nov 3.
Corporal First Class (CFC) Liu, 22, a transport operator from SAF's Transport Hub
West, died after the Land Rover he was driving was mounted by the Bionix despite
repeated commands by the rear guide to stop the Bionix.
Emerging threats to national security
What are some recent cases of extremism and self-radicalisation in Singapore and how
is Singapore countering these threats? Have they been effective?
A 16-year-old Singaporean had hatched a plan to attack the Assyafaah Mosque along
Admiralty Lane and Yusof Ishak Mosque in Woodlands on March 15 with a machete.
The date is the second anniversary of when Australian white supremacist Brenton
Tarrant livestreamed the massacre of more than 50 Muslims at mosques in the New
Zealand city of Christchurch. In giving more details of the case on Wednesday night,
ISD said that it was online exposure to extremist materials that contributed to his
self-radicalisation. The 16-year-old S’porean who made ‘detailed plans’ to attack 2
mosques in Woodlands detained under ISAHe was influenced by Tarrant’s livestream
video of an attack at a mosque in Christchurch and his manifesto, as well as
propaganda videos put out by terrorist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The
teenager was arrested in November last year and detained under the Internal Security
On his rehabilitation, ISD said: “As with other terrorism-related youth cases dealt with
under the Internal Security Act in recent years, a mentor will be assigned to him, to
motivate him to focus on his rehabilitation, studies and family, and guide him towards
pro-social behaviours.”
What is the Internal Security Act?
The Internal Security Act of Singapore is a statute that grants the executive power to
enforce preventive detention, prevent subversion, suppress organized violence against
persons and property, and do other things incidental to the internal security of
Between January and March 2019, one Singaporean was issued with an Order of
Detention (OD) under the Internal Security Act (ISA), while another two were issued
with Restriction Orders (RO) under the ISA for their involvement in terrorism-related
conduct. Separately, in March and June 2019, four Singaporeans were released from
detention with restrictions, and the RO issued against one Singaporean was allowed to
lapse. The four had shown good progress in their rehabilitation and were assessed to
no longer pose a security threat that required preventive detention. Abd Rahim’s
detention was suspended with a Suspension Direction (SD)[1] in March 2019. Asyrani
was released on a RO when his OD expired in March 2019, while Izzah and Khairul
were released on ROs when their ODs expired in June 2019.
What are some recent cases of fake news and how is Singapore countering this threat?
Have they been effective?
6 in 10 of the participants in a local study have received fake news about COVID-19 on
social media. Social media was cited as the preferred source of information on the
outbreak for the public, and the most prevalent channels used to share COVID-19
information are messaging platforms, which include WhatsApp, Telegram and Facebook
These were some of the findings released on Thursday (May 21) as part of an ongoing
study by the National Centre of Infectious Diseases (NCID) on the Singapore
population’s knowledge, risk perception and behaviour during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Protection From Online Falsehoods And Manipulation Act (POFMA)
What is it?
● Introduced in 2019 in response to surge of fake news
● Under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act, correction
directions will be issued to party responsible - these directions do not require the
online falsehood to be removed but require recipients to post a correction notice
and a link to the facts alongside a false statement. In more serious cases, a stop
communication or disabling direction may be used.
What are some concerns regarding it?
One of the key concerns was that it could chill free speech and give too much power to
ministers as arbiters of truth. The Workers' Party (WP) had opposed the Bill, arguing
that the Executive should not be the first to decide what is false.
What did it do?
On 26 Jan 2020, a thread on the popular HardwareZone forum popped up with the title:
Singapore Reports First Death From New Virus. A 66-year-old man had died after
developing severe pneumonia. (First coronavirus death only happened in March). The
next day Health Minister Gan Kim Yong issued a general correction order under POFMA
to SPH Magazines, which runs HardwareZone.