Infrastructure Protection Bill – Speech by Sylvia Lim


(Delivered in Parliament on 2 October 2017)


This Bill seeks to protect selected areas and buildings against security risks.  These threats are not merely terrorism-related but include threats from crime and accidents.  It goes without saying that appropriate security measures can safeguard lives and property, and minimize disruptions to essential services. Thus, this Bill should be supported.

Having said that, it should also be borne in mind that we should also not go overboard and have the country in perpetual lock-down mode.   We must be able to go about our daily activities efficiently.  If we cannot live normal lives, the terrorists have already won.

The Bill has several Parts.  While I am in general support of the Bill, I have some queries and concerns to raise.


Part 3 Protected Areas & Protected Places

The Bill repeals the current Protected Areas and Protected Places Act, and re-enacts the same provisions but includes some new provisions.  At the same time, the maximum fines for offences have increased drastically, from $1,000 to $20,000.  I assume that this is due to the heightened security environment and also inflation over the years, but I would like Minister’s clarification on this.

Clause 29 introduces a new provision to make it an offence to take photographs or videos of protected areas and protected places.  While it is perfectly reasonable to prohibit such actions inside or above the protected area or protected place, the section makes it an offence to take a photograph or make a recording from outside the protected area and protected place.   Is it reasonable to punish someone taking a picture from outside, when he is standing in a public area, and the photo is simply capturing what is already visible publicly?  Maps available on the internet, such as Google Earth, already show such information publicly anyway.


Part 4 Special Developments and Special Infrastructures

This Bill introduces new provisions that certain developments and buildings will be required to have security plans approved by the new Commissioner for Infrastructure Protection.

What constitutes a “special development” or a “special infrastructure”?  According to MHA’s press release dated 11 Sep 2017, and Minister’s speech earlier, these would be buildings which “house essential services, are iconic, or with high human traffic”.   Clause 34 states that the Minister will be the one designating “special developments” and “special infrastructures” that need to comply with the Act.  Could there be further elaboration on the types and extent of buildings that would be designated?  For instance, will all shopping malls be designated?  What about hospitals?  As for HDB estates, Clause 2 of the Act states that Town Councils would be considered owners of common property for the purpose of this Act.  What part of HDB estates would be deemed “special infrastructures”?

As far as developments are concerned, the intention is to have security embedded into the facility at the design stage.  Clause 35 makes it clear that key structural works cannot commence until the security plan is approved.  From a security management perspective, such early emplacement of security concerns is recommended as it is likely to achieve better outcomes.  At the design stage, security professionals can work with architects, engineers and facility owners to ensure that security features do not disrupt the overall building aesthetics or the facility’s operational needs.

Clauses 33 provides that the security plans must be prepared by a person approved by the Commissioner for Infrastructure Protection in connection with those specified works.  I would like to know whether it is intended that the Commissioner pre-approve a list of security practitioners who would be acceptable, or would the Commissioner be open to case-by-case approvals of security consultants depending on the project or building at hand?  Will the Commissioner accept a security professional who is an employee of the owner or occupier?

Clauses 37 and 44 talk about amendments to approved security plans.  The amendments can be initiated either by the building owner or the Commissioner for Infrastructure Protection.  In other words, after the Commissioner has approved the security plan, he can change his mind some time later and require additional measures to be included.  What if the new measures result in wasted costs e.g. require undoing systems or structures already put in?  It seems that, under Clause 80, the owner has to bear such wasted costs.  Whether Clause 80 is fair will depend on why the amendment to the plan at a later stage was needed.  If the amendment was due to the negligence of the authorities in the first approval, should the owner be forced to bear the additional cost?