DPM Teo says checkpoint barriers to be checked daily, explains failure

To ensure that the barriers function properly, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority will replace all hydraulic components in its security barriers, and will also now conduct daily checks on them, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean on Monday in Parliament.

Get the full story from The Straits Times.

Speech by Mr Teo Chee Hean, Deputy Prime Minister, Coordinating Minister for National Security and Minister for Home Affairs, at Parliamentary Sitting:

On 8 March 2014 at about 4pm, a Malaysian driver, after having cleared Singapore immigration, drove his Singapore-registered car to the secondary clearance area for security checks.

When an Auxiliary Police Officer (APO) was inspecting the boot of the car, the driver suddenly got into the car and drove off. The APO immediately pressed the alarm, which triggered the activation of the security barrier.

The car's progress was stopped by the barrier. Several officers at the scene responded to the alarm, and an APO was injured in the process of stopping the car from leaving.

However, the driver persisted in trying to drive across the security barrier. He managed to force his car over the security barrier and exited the checkpoint.

Police confirmed the identity of the driver within 15 minutes of the incident and activated an island-wide search for the driver and vehicle. Taxi drivers were also asked to look out for the car.

Meanwhile, Police continued to establish and follow leads to precisely locate the driver and the car. Police steadily closed the ring around the driver and subsequently arrested him 5 hours after the incident.

His car was separately recovered at another location prior to the arrest. He has been charged in court for offences under the Penal Code and Vandalism Act. He is also being investigated for contraband goods smuggling and other offences under the Customs Act.

Our investigations revealed that the security barrier initially stopped the car, but failed to stop the car from leaving because hydraulic fluid leaked from one of the cylinder seals for raising and maintaining the position of the security barrier.

The security barriers are checked and serviced every three months, and the last servicing was done on 18 February 2014.

ICA is replacing the hydraulic components in all the security barriers, and is also conducting daily checks to ensure that the security barriers are functioning properly.

Madam Speaker, this was the second incident in two months in which a car had successfully breached Woodlands Checkpoint.

After the first incident on 17 Jan 2014, various immediate measures were implemented to strengthen the security at Woodlands Checkpoint, including tightening the coordination between ICA and Police, improving the response protocols and conducting drills and exercises to validate the response plans and enhancing the supervision of the APOs.

Other measures such as installation of additional CCTVs and enhanced security barriers are being expedited.

ICA and Police will also be deploying mobile crash barriers and tracking vehicles as additional lines of defence to stop suspect vehicles from fleeing the checkpoint and apprehending all such suspects.

The two breaches show the scale and complexity of the checkpoint operations. This requires a team of officers able to carry out robust and effective measures to prevent and deal with a wide range of threats, including attempts to get through the primary or subsequent layers of security at our checkpoints.

At the same time, our land checkpoints have to facilitate the swift and secure clearance of people and goods. Finding the right balance is not easy.

A Ministry-level review committee, chaired by Senior Deputy Secretary Khoo Boon Hui and comprising senior representatives from ICA, Police, ISD and other Home Team agencies, has been formed to comprehensively review the security measures at our checkpoints and identify any systemic issues and rectify them.

The committee has updated me on the progress of the review, including enhanced security measures already undertaken, and the need for interim arrangements while wider systems are further improved.

MHA views each and every single security breach seriously. If there are gaps and failings in our security regime, be they structural, systemic or individual, we must quickly and thoroughly address them.

Commissioner ICA and the other relevant Home Team Department heads have given their full commitment to take concrete actions at all levels to quickly put right any weaknesses, and implement measures to ensure that our border security is tight and effective to keep out all threats.

MHA HQ will give them our full support.