Parliamentary Questions for the Minister for Home Affairs

Hazel Asks the Home Affairs Minister

Rationale for Planned Expansion by Five Times of Woodlands Checkpoint

7 May 2024

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for Home Affairs with regard to the planned expansion of Woodlands Checkpoint (a) why does the checkpoint need to be expanded by five times its current size when the number of daily travellers is only expected to increase between 33% to 40% by 2050; and (b) what is the expected increase in daily travellers who are Malaysian work pass holders.

Mr K Shanmugam: The current Woodlands Checkpoint (WCP) has been in operation since 1999. Over the years, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) has implemented various measures to increase clearance efficiency, from automated lanes to dynamic conversion of clearance lanes from one mode of conveyance to another. However, the extent to which ICA has been able to implement these measures and the ability to implement more measures to enhance clearance efficiency, are limited by existing land and infrastructure constraints.

Compounding this situation is that the traveller and conveyance volume at WCP has grown sharply, beyond original projections. Today, WCP clears 300,000 travellers per day and as many as 340,000 on long weekends and public holidays. This is a huge increase from 230,000 daily travellers in 2000. Pre-COVID-19, the annual conveyance volume passing through WCP was already about 43 million in 2019, far surpassing the design capacity of 35 million. The frequent congestion within WCP and spillover onto the surrounding local roads are evident of the severe strains on the checkpoint and that the current infrastructure is not capable of handling even the current volumes.

ICA’s projected 400,000 travellers per day by 2050, a 74 percent increase from 2000 and 33 percent from today, will apply even greater pressure on WCP. The actual increases have outstripped ICA’s projections. If nothing is done, the travel time for vehicular traffic could increase by more than 60 to 70 percent during peak periods by 2050, from today.

A major redevelopment and expansion of WCP is, therefore, needed to solve the chronic congestion. The objective is to improve, and not simply maintain, traveller experience. Singaporeans deserve that. And we must also cater for additional buffers on top of our projections, to future-proof WCP even beyond 2050. This is to avoid frequent and reactive infrastructural adjustments which are costly and disruptive to checkpoint operations and, ultimately, travellers.

ICA has conducted extensive feasibility and technical studies to determine the optimal amount of land needed for the expanded WCP to improve the current situation and meet projected future traffic demands and evolving security needs. For example, we need more land and space to be able to move security checks of arriving vehicles further away from the town areas, so that if something untoward unhappens, there is less impact on Singaporeans and the rest of the checkpoint.

The additional space we will get through the expansion of WCP will also provide more holding areas to better contain traffic queues within the checkpoint, to reduce congestion spillover onto the surrounding local roads and inconveniencing Singaporeans who live and work in the vicinity. In addition, the redeveloped WCP will have more automated lanes, including for cars, to reduce ICA’s manpower needs, which is a very serious constraint.

ICA’s studies and redevelopment plans have been informed by projections derived from overall travel demand data and not on the basis of specific traveller groups.

Suicides and Financial Stresses

3 April 2024

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for Home Affairs (a) whether he has any information on the reasons for the increase in suicides among persons aged 60 and above; and (b) how many of these suicides are linked to debt from gambling, medical fees or living expenses.

Mr K Shanmugam: The Ministry of Home Affairs does not track the reasons for suicides.

Time Taken to Investigate Road Accidents

5 February 2024

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for Home Affairs what is the duration of time taken by the Traffic Police at the 5th, 50th and 95th percentiles to complete investigations into traffic accidents.

Mr K Shanmugam: The Traffic Police does not track the data that the Member requested. The time taken would depend on many factors, such as the number of vehicles involved and availability of witnesses. Each case could differ significantly.

Enforcement Using Data from ERP 2.0

6 November 2023

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for Home Affairs (a) whether the Singapore Police Force (SPF) will be allowed to access the transaction and road traffic data collected by the next-generation ERP system for investigations under the Criminal Procedure Code 2010; and (b) if so, what are the specific types of data that SPF will be able to access.

Ms Hany Soh asked the Minister for Home Affairs whether the Ministry has any plans to employ the ERP 2.0 system which was announced on 23 October 2023 for enforcement purposes, such as against speeding and other traffic-related offences.

Mr K Shanmugam: The position has been made clear several times, including in this House and during the Committee of Supply debates in 2016. [Please refer to “Committee of Supply – Head P (Ministry of Home Affairs)”, Official Report, 6 April 2016, Vol 94, Issue 13, Budget section.]

Police Officers Charged for Offences

18 September 2023

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for Home Affairs in respect of the two Police Officers charged in Court on 11 August 2023 for criminal breach of trust-related offences (a) what are the dates on which the investigations of these two officers commenced; and (b) what are the dates on which their salaries were cut and by how much.

Mr K Shanmugam: Two Police Officers, Mohamed Bin Mohamed Jalil and Mohamad Danial Bin Mohamad Nazali were charged on 11 August 2023 for criminal breach of trust by a public servant.

Investigations had commenced on 13 July 2020 for Mohamed Bin Mohamed Jalil and 17 October 2020 for Mohamad Danial Bin Mohamad Nazali.

Mohamed Bin Mohamed Jalil has been interdicted since 16 July 2020 and Mohamad Danial Bin Mohamad Nazali since 22 October 2020. They were interdicted on half-pay, consistent with how other Police Officers in a similar situation have been dealt with.

Naming of People Under Investigation

20 March 2023

Ms Hazel Poa (Non-Constituency Member): I thank the Minister for his reply. The Minister mentioned that the Disciplinary Tribunal (DT) and the Court of Three Judges have found them guilty of lying under oath. But exactly what lies these are, were not mentioned. Can the Minister share with us what exactly are the lies they were found to have said?

Secondly, there is much chatter that the investigation and the timing of the release of this information is linked to the interview with Bloomberg where Mr Lee Hsien Yang actually said that he might consider running for President. Would the Minister like to clarify on the situation?

Mr K Shanmugam: On the first point as to exactly what the lies were, I would invite the Member to read the Disciplinary Tribunal’s judgment and the Court of Three Judges’ judgment. The relevant extracts are also in Senior Minister Teo’s answer as an Annex. When we give answers in Parliament, we expect Members to read them, and I do not think we want to waste Parliament’s time with me going through that again.

On the second point, can I invite the Member to make it clear? Is the Member suggesting that there is a connection between the Bloomberg interview and the disclosure in Parliament? Because we do not repeat rumours from outside. Is the Member suggesting that? I would like to know that before I answer.

Ms Hazel Poa: No, I am not suggesting that, but I am aware that there are such speculations going on and it is quite prevalent. So, I am merely asking if the Minister would like to take this opportunity to clarify.

Mr K Shanmugam: If that is not being suggested, then I would ask, Sir, through you, that the Member withdraw that part of her question and I would answer the rest of the question.

Mr Speaker: Are there any further questions, Ms Hazel Poa? There are many rumours swirling about outside on many other issues. We do not necessarily bring them in.

Ms Hazel Poa: If that is the situation, then I would withdraw the question.

Mr K Shanmugam: You do not have to withdraw the question; I will answer the question.

I am trying to now recall, but my recollection is that the Bloomberg interview came after the answer given by Senior Minister Teo. And therefore, even the prescience of this Government could not have foretold that Mr Lee Hsien Yang was going to give such an interview. I stand corrected, but that is my recollection of the sequence of events.

And if a question is asked in Parliament, we answer. The debate for us is, I have explained the reasons why the answer was given. No one took issue when I disclosed that Mr Liew was being investigated. I assume that everyone accepted the principle and I have explained how that principle applies here. If anyone challenges us on that, I am prepared to debate. But the principle is the same.

Singaporeans Participating in Foreign Wars

5 April 2022

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for Home Affairs what is the reason for making it illegal for Singaporeans to participate in wars of other countries.

Mr K Shanmugam: Under section 125 of the Penal Code 1871, it is an offence for a Singaporean to wage, attempt to wage, or abet the waging of, war against the government of any power in alliance or at peace with the Singapore Government.

Singaporeans’ participation in such wars can affect Singapore’s national interests in different ways, depending on the nature of the conflict. One impact is that such involvement could be misconstrued as Singapore’s participation, or taking sides, in the war.

We also do not want Singapore Citizens to engage in violence, except in defence of Singapore. Those who participate in wars of other countries may also pose a threat to national security upon their return to Singapore, depending on the nature of the conflict.

Singaporeans who wish to help Ukrainians can do so in several ways. For instance, they may donate to legitimate organisations, such as the Singapore Red Cross, that have been raising funds for humanitarian aid to support affected communities in Ukraine.

Section 377A of Penal Code

4 April 2022

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for Home Affairs following the Court of Appeal’s ruling on retaining section 377A of the Penal Code (a) what are the Government’s indicators to monitor whether society is ready for its repeal; and (b) how are these indicators monitored.

Mr K Shanmugam: This is an issue that should not be viewed solely on the basis of discrete indicators. The Government is speaking with diverse groups of Singaporeans to better understand their viewpoints. We will consider them carefully and assess the best way forward.

Ms Hazel Poa has informed Parliament that she and her Party do not have a position on whether section 377A should be retained or abolished.

Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act

13 September 2021

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for Home Affairs when will the amendments to the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act passed in 2019 come into operation.

Mr K Shanmugam: Since the passing of the amendments to the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act (MRHA) in October 2019, MHA has been working on developing the systems and processes that will facilitate the required disclosures and reporting by religious groups. We have also been conducting user testing on the new systems. We are working towards operationalising the amendments to the MRHA by early 2022.