Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Law passed to boost security at large events: Public Order (Amendment) Bill 2017

Organisers have to consult police on security as part of changes in response to terror threat
By Danson Cheong, The Straits Times, 4 Apr 2017

Organisers of large-scale public events are required to inform the police at least 28 days before they are held, under a new law passed by Parliament yesterday.

The organisers also have to put in place stringent security measures the police deem necessary.

The event can be cancelled, postponed or moved to other venues if the security is severely inadequate or a terror threat is imminent.

These are among the wide-ranging powers accorded to the police by the amended Public Order Act, in a move to better protect Singaporeans at a time when the terror threat is at its highest in the region and terror groups are going for soft targets such as concerts and football matches.

Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam, in launching the two-hour debate on the changes, noted that the police now work with event organisers on a voluntary basis on such security measures.

While most organisers are cooperative, "the time has come to give the police the powers to require such measures", he said.

Hence, it is mandatory for organisers to consult the police on security needs for public events that draw crowds of more than 5,000, and private events where the crowd size is projected to exceed 10,000.

The police will make an assessment, following which the commissioner of police can declare the event a "special event" if there is a risk of a terror attack or public order incident. The organisers will then be directed to put in place security measures, said Mr Shanmugam.

The measures include placing anti-vehicle barricades, engaging armed auxiliary police officers and carrying out bag checks on those attending.

Organisers that fail to notify the police if they expect large crowds can be fined up to $20,000, jailed for up to a year, or given both punishments.

Noting how terrorists are focusing more on "soft targets", such as in the Nice truck attack during the French national day celebrations last July, Mr Shanmugam said: "When there is a risk of a potential terrorist attack at an event... it's really in the public interest that the Government does something about it, that the necessary security measures are taken. Otherwise, we are putting lives at risk."

About 200 public events attracting crowds of 5,000 or more are held in Singapore each year, with many of these security measures in place, he said. The changes will raise costs for event organisers. But it is a cost that terrorists have imposed on the whole of society, and which the Government and taxpayers are already paying, he added.

The changes to the Act also give the police commissioner the power to reject applications for public assemblies and processions involving foreigners with a political agenda.

Nominated MP Kok Heng Leun argued that the change could stifle political discourse as public forums with foreign experts could fall within its ambit.

Mr Shanmugam said events will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

"The Government's position has always been that foreigners and foreign entities should not import their politics into Singapore nor should they interfere in our domestic politics, especially on issues of a political or controversial nature," he said.









Singaporeans can fight a cause without foreign aid: Shanmugam
By Danson Cheong, The Straits Times, 4 Apr 2017

Have faith in Singaporeans' ability to fight a cause without foreign help, Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said with a smile yesterday, when a member of the House took issue with a change in the Public Order Act.

Nominated MP Kok Heng Leun protested against giving the police commissioner the power to reject applications for public assemblies and processions involving foreigners with a political agenda.

He said this would include a broad swathe of civil society events, ranging from public panel discussions involving foreign experts on animal abuse to a public lecture on health policy by a foreign expert.

He asked if the changes to the law could be made clear to ensure such events, which do not have public order or safety concerns, are free from "unnecessary scrutiny".

Otherwise, he suggested, the amendment would curtail "active citizenry" or participation in Singaporean civil society.

Mr Shanmugam responded with a smile: "I wonder if we are moving like ships in the dark (at) sea - the Bill says one thing and Mr Kok's speech pretty much has nothing to do with the Bill."

The minister said Singapore civil society groups should not "just hope for foreign involvement in organising events".

"Why don't we have confidence that our people can organise and take part in civic activities?"

He cited the example of Pink Dot, the annual rally held at Speakers' Corner to support the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

Pink Dot organisers have reportedly already raised for the July event about 70per cent of what was collected last year. And the money came entirely from local companies.

In the past, foreign companies formed the majority of its sponsors, but last October, the Home Affairs Ministry said only local entities can sponsor, promote or get their employees to participate in events at Speakers' Corner.

Pointing out that the Government took no position on LGBT issues, Mr Shanmugam said the matter was one for "Singaporeans, Singapore companies and Singapore entities to discuss without involvement of foreign culture wars".

The amendments to the Act were not relevant to encouraging the local political discourse that Mr Kok spoke about, he added.

The Government, however, needed to ensure that foreigners did not take Singapore's public space for granted to advocate political causes.

Mr Kok and Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC) also asked whether the police commissioner would have the institutional competence to decide if an event served a "political end", and whether the police's political neutrality would be compromised in making these decisions.

Mr Shanmugam said any attempt to define whether an event was political or not would run into "shades of complexity".

"All you will end up doing is creating alleyways and byways in which your definition will be made useless and you will be made a laughing stock," he said.

To drive home his point, he described four hypothetical events and wondered aloud: Do you think we should agree to such events?

• Malaysians financing and encouraging Singaporeans to take part in an event calling for syariah law to be imposed

• Foreign Christian groups organising an event with locals, calling for an anti-LGBT rally

• Myanmar Buddhists organising an event here with local Buddhists to protest against the Rohingya issue in Myanmar

• Hindus from India financing an animal welfare event in Singapore protesting against the sale of beef here.

Said Mr Shanmugam: "Singaporeans organising protests is one thing; foreign-financed, foreign-participated protests are a completely different ball game. We have been successful by being very firm about that, let's not change the rules."





Protecting the public from terror

The new normal: Tighter security
Police will soon have powers to mandate tighter security measures at mass events to protect people from terror attacks. Insight looks at why these are critical.
By Danson Cheong, The Sunday Times, 9 Apr 2017

Communications executive Dax Lim, 29, has been a Coldplay fan since he was a teenager.

So when the British rock band performed at the National Stadium on Saturday just over a week ago, Mr Lim got tickets and trooped down to the venue with his wife.

There, along with the 50,000 other concert-goers, they had their tickets scanned and bags checked by security personnel before being allowed to enter the stadium. Despite the huge numbers, the whole process took only about 15 minutes.

Mass checks like these will be a way of life as Singapore moves to put in place measures to combat the terror threat - which is at its highest level in recent times.

Recent attacks overseas have shown that there is a need to urgently step up security where soft targets are concerned. Consider the recent attacks - on Westminster Bridge in London last month, where an attacker mowed down pedestrians with a car; and just last week when a suicide bomber carried out an attack on the metro in St Petersburg, Russia.

And here, just last Sunday, an unattended bag at Hougang MRT station sparked a bomb scare and left people on edge after the authorities closed the station and issued public alerts to stay away.

The 39-year-old man who left the bag there, which was later found to contain household items, was arrested for causing a public nuisance. But the issue underscores the vulnerability of soft targets here.

That is why last Monday, Parliament passed changes to the Public Order Act, giving powers to the police to direct event organisers to put in place security measures such as bag and body checks, anti-vehicle barricades or even the presence of armed auxiliary police officers.

The changes to the Public Order Act will step up security at large-scale events, which are major soft targets.

Later this year, a new Infrastructure Protection Act will also be introduced to ensure selected key buildings have enough protection. It will require new, large-scale commercial buildings to go through a review during the design stage to determine what security measures are needed.

But will beefing up security measures help stave off a terror attack? Insight takes a look at the issue.

CHANGING MODUS OPERANDI

Terrorist attacks worldwide are on the rise.

In a report last week charting the risk of terrorism and political violence, global risk management company Aon said there was a 14 per cent increase in such attacks worldwide last year.

Singapore's terrorism and political violence risk level was also raised from "negligible" to "low" in light of recent arrests of purported extremists in the country, and the Indonesian authorities' reported disruption last year of a terrorist plot to attack the island.

Mr Julian Taylor, Aon Risk Solutions' head of crisis management in Asia, says he expects a further increase in terrorist activity in Asia this year, partly driven by Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters returning to the region from the Middle East.

He also points out that attacks are becoming more diverse, with terrorists moving away from "large-scale bomb attacks towards highly motivated individuals or groups using hand-held weapons or vehicles".

This is clear from attacks last year - notably, the Nice truck attack during French national day celebrations last July, when an attacker mowed down festival-goers with a cargo truck, killing 86.

Dr Rohan Gunaratna, head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, says terrorists are no longer interested in negotiating, but instead want to cause maximum casualties.

He says: "There is a new threat landscape and unless Singapore upgrades and updates its legislation, it will not be able to control the spread of extremism and terrorism."

The Government has said repeatedly that an attack in Singapore is not a question of whether it will take place, but when it will happen.

One way the Government is trying to head off a possible strike is by passing laws such as the amendments to the Public Order Act, and the upcoming Infrastructure Protection Act.

Said Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam in Parliament last week: "When there is a risk of a potential terrorist attack at an event... it's really in the public interest that the Government does something about it, that the necessary security measures are taken. Otherwise, we are putting lives at risk."

What this would mean is that greater inconvenience - such as bag and body checks and greater surveillance - at events, and even in the course of daily living could be a way of life in future, and the public would have to come to terms with this.

As it stands, there is room for improvement. Mr Lim, who was at the Coldplay concert, said there could have been tighter security and crowd control outside the stadium.

Concert organiser Live Nation Lushington says it conducted bag checks, deployed auxiliary police, private and venue security, uniformed and plainclothes policemen, and used CCTV cameras and scanners.

"With the new law, we will place greater emphasis on event safety," says the company's managing director, Mr Michael Roche.

BUILDING RESILIENCE

Having said that, it is not possible to totally secure all aspects of daily life.

Mr Shanmugam pointed this out in a speech at Milipol Asia-Pacific 2017, a homeland security conference held last week, when he said "you cannot turn the city into a garrison".

What can be done, then, is to teach citizens to be more resilient, and how they can react when faced with a terror attack, says Professor Alexander Siedschlag, who chairs the Pennsylvania State University's homeland security programme in the United States.

Incidents such as the Orlando nightclub shooting, where a lone gunman killed 49 people, have led the authorities in the US to teach citizens basic triage, such as how to staunch bleeding wounds, so that they can better respond to "active shooter" incidents, he adds.

"We can't harden nightclubs to the point where nobody can get in and nobody can dance," he says.

Other things that are important include terrorism awareness programmes that tell people to be vigilant for suspicious characters and unattended bags, and how to identify potential threats, says Mr Andrin Raj, South-east Asia regional director for the International Association for Counter-Terrorism and Security Professionals.

In many ways this is already being done here. The SGSecure national movement seeks to sensitise, train and mobilise Singaporeans in preventing terrorism and dealing with its aftermath.

One of its goals is to reach out to one million households to educate people on what to do in an attack and encourage them to learn how to use emergency equipment.

There are signs that it is having an effect - the SGSecure mobile app has been downloaded to 380,000 mobile devices since it was launched six months ago.

This app was put into action last Sunday when the bomb scare happened in Hougang. Members of the public told The Sunday Times they stayed away and went to investigate only after the "all-clear" was broadcast on the app.

Mr Shanmugam said last week at Milipol that this was proof there was "general sensitisation" to the possibility of an attack.

And it is only when society is aware of the threat, that people can do their bit.

Says Mr Raj: "Fighting terror is not just the Government's responsibility - it is everyone's responsibility. You might not be able to stop an attack, but you could help mitigate the risk or the damage."





Lessons from the Bataclan attacks
By Danson Cheong, The Sunday Times, 9 Apr 2017

At about 10pm on the night of Nov 13, 2015, Chief Superintendent Dimitri Kalinine received a call at home. There had been a shooting at the Bataclan theatre and seven officers from his police unit were on the scene.

He did not know it then, but Paris was in the middle of a series of near-simultaneous attacks that would leave 130 people dead and hundreds more injured.

Earlier, three suicide bombers struck the Stade de France stadium where a football match was going on, and a series of mass shootings took place at cafes in the 11th arrondisement of the city.

Fortunately, mass carnage was avoided at the stadium, after a security guard found a suicide vest on one of the bombers. All three detonated the explosives outside the stadium where there were far fewer people. They killed one person.

The bloodiest scenes unfolded at the Bataclan, where three attackers stormed the concert venue and killed 90 people.

That night, worried about his officers and what was happening, Mr Kalinine, the Paris Prefecture Police's third arrondisement (administrative district) central commissioner, sped to the scene.

"There was confusion reigning on the radio. It was difficult to understand what was happening in France, in Paris, at that time," he recalled.

Mr Kalinine, along with other French security officers, recounted what happened on that fateful night during the Milipol Asia-Pacific 2017, a homeland security conference held at the Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre last week.

His men were among the first security forces on site, he said. They had been called over by the theatre's security guard while they were handling a traffic accident nearby, and found themselves at the Bataclan "just as the terrorists began their carnage".

His officers, who had only 9mm pistols and light bulletproof vests, found themselves hopelessly outgunned by the attackers who were using Kalashnikov assault rifles.

"Frightened by the violence of the scene and the metallic noise of the Kalashnikovs, they put themselves behind their vehicle, while the door of the theatre closed," he said.

All they could do then was to try and provide emergency care to those fleeing the theatre.

"All the victims they had tried to rescue died - their wounds caused by assault rifles were too serious and they lost too much blood to be saved," he said.

Mr Kalinine arrived a few minutes after a senior officer from the anti-crime branch and his driver, entered the theatre and shot at one of the gunmen, who then blew himself up.

That enabled the massacre to stop, he said.

Soon after, special forces began entering the theatre.

Chief Superintendent Eric Gigou, deputy head of the anti-terrorism unit of the police special forces, said his officers knew that the attackers were using hostages as human shields.

"When you are on the ground, you have to solve two crises: Save people from the terrorists and, at the same time, save people who are wounded and injured," he said.

As the special forces team advanced, Mr Kalinine and his officers moved casualties out of the theatre behind them, pulling out street fences to use as makeshift stretchers.

At that time, firefighters and rescue personnel had been instructed to stay away as they were unarmed and not wearing bulletproof vests, said Mr Kalinine.

It was gruesome work that lasted about two hours.

"The scenes of war we have seen have all permanently marked us. We won't forget seeing things such as mobile phones still vibrating on dead people," said Mr Kalinine.

Eventually, he and his officers were told to leave the theatre as the special forces made their final assault on a room on the second floor, where the two attackers were holed up with hostages.

Special forces officers entered the room and advanced behind a metal shield, which was hit by 27 bullets.

They managed to shoot one attacker and the second one blew himself up.

FRONTLINE OPERATIONS EVOLVE

The siege of the Bataclan was over, but lessons from that night have changed how French security forces operate, said officials.

For starters, frontline officers - the everyday police conducting patrols on the ground - have been equipped with assault rifles, ballistic helmets and heavy bulletproof vests and shields.

These officers, who are likely to be the first responders in any attack, have also been trained to handle such incidents, added Mr Kalinine.

The key is to react quickly when an attack happens to minimise casualties, said Mr Gigou.

Singapore is also doing something similar. First responders from the police are made up of trained officers from patrol units known as the Ground Response Force and Emergency Response Teams (ERTs), and they are trained in counter-assault skills.

The ERTs are crack troops equipped with HK-MP5 submachine guns and mounted on motorcycles so that they can be anywhere on the island in minutes.

After the attacks, the French government also developed a smartphone app that can inform members of the public and advise them on what to do when there is a terror strike. This is similar to the SGSecure app that the Singapore Government has developed.

Mr Herve Tourmente, deputy director at the Directorate General of Civil Security and Crisis Management, said civil rescuers will also play a bigger role.

They have been trained and equipped with helmets and bulletproof vests, so that they can take care of victims as close to the action as possible, he said.

"A new operational doctrine has been implemented and the services are now training," he said.




Related
Public Order (Amendment) Bill 2017
Transcript of Second Reading Speech of Public Order (Amendment) Bill 2017 by Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs & Minister for Law

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