Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today's ceremony is a special one. We salute volunteers like all of you who have committed time and energy to fight the drug menace in the Malay Community. Today, we also salute the late Enche Harun Ghani who has been a strong warrior and champion in this fight.
2. We are all deeply saddened by the demise of Mr Harun Ghani. To me, he was a friend and comrade who has made immense contributions to stamping out drug abuse in Singapore, especially amongst members of the Malay-Muslim community. As Political Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs between 1989 and 2001, Harun and I fought this fight together. I know he fought it well, with every ounce of his strength and rich ground experience. Indeed, when I joined the Home Affairs Ministry in 1993 as Parliamentary Secretary and was tasked to coordinate our fight against drugs, he was to me, like he was to many of you, my chegu. I valued his inputs.
3. For many years, the Malay community had battled the scourge of drugs. Since 1988, Malays had formed the majority of local abusers arrested. But, the good news is that Malay abusers arrested have decreased steadily over the years, from 3086 in 1995 to just 177 in 2004 - a more than 17-fold decline!
4. Our co-ordinated and comprehensive approach encompassing creative preventive education, vigorous enforcement, tough laws, and effective rehabilitation and aftercare have brought this about. It was in the area of rehabilitation where Harun Ghani totally and selflessly dedicated himself and created a big impact on the ground.
Mr Harun Ghani's Contributions
5. As all of us know, drugs not only destroy the abuser but also exact a heavy toll on his family. As the abuser's health and self-worth slip away, the family suffers as relations become strained. Violence and other drug-related problems then plague the family. With more families affected this way, society is negatively impacted as well. Enche Harun Ghani knew that and initiated 'meet the family' sessions with the abusers' families. He recognised that family support was key to successful rehabilitation and in his own unique way adapted the "Meet the People session" or "MPS" approach to a drug setting. That's innovation for you! And Harun was like that: in his own quiet way, always thinking of new ways to help drug abusers whowere struggling to kick the habit!
6. Enche Harun Ghani was a tireless worker on the ground. Distance and place was no bar to him. Where there was someone to be counselled and helped, he would be there. Hence, Harun went to coffeeshops and DRCs to encourage and spur on ex-abusers, to instil hope and confidence in them. He cared for them so much that he thought nothing of dipping into his own pocket to help them financially, whenever that was needed.
7. Harun was also instrumental in helping to set up our Muslim Halfway Houses. He provided guidance in the management and administration of these Halfway Houses, and helped them secure financial contributions. You are gathered here today to acknowledge that you owe our chegu a mountain of gratitude.
8 Harun may have passed on but the legacy he leaves behind in many changed and transformed lives will live on forever. We have lost a dear comrade in our war against drug abuse. But, we will always remember him as a caring chegu, a dear friend, a tireless worker and for me, an esteemed colleague, both in our battles against drug abuse, as well as in supporting the rise of local football.
9 I will carry with me two enduring images of Harun. The first is of him attending anti-drug events even when he was not well, after he had stepped down as Political Secretary. The second is of him at Bishan stadium a few months ago, despite his illness, to cheer on his favourite SLeague team, Home United Football Club, of which he was a passionate Advisor. At a more personal level, I always appreciated his personal touch in sending a kueh lapis cake to me and my wife when Chinese New Year came around when we were colleagues at MHA. Such was his love and concern for fellow Singaporeans, not just Malays but other races as well.
Muslim Halfway Houses
10. Enche Harun will rest in peace. But for us who remain behind, we must not let up in our fight against drug abuse. Many of you are involved in the work of Halfway Houses. I know that the challenges faced by Halfway Houses are daunting. Besides striving to provide the inmates with personalised care and a conducive environment to help them regain their self-worth and confidence,you have to overcome the prejudices of family and community.
11. Halfway Houses not only look after the physical needs of the residents by providing food and shelter, they also cater to the residents' emotional and spiritual needs through counselling, spiritual guidance and other programmes. In this way, self?worth and self-esteem are restored. I commend the good work that you have done in making the entire process of rehabilitation complete.
12. Halfway houses are part of a "rehabilitation eco-system" that we have created over the years. Today, under the ambit of CARE Network, our rehabilitation efforts are weaved seamlessly into a focused and integrated framework which engages the community in rehabilitation, co-ordinates member agencies' activities and develops innovative rehabilitation initiatives for reforming offenders. The Malay Halfway Houses form an integral component of this eco-system.
Volunteers Involved in Preventive Drug Education
13. I take a moment now to recognise the efforts of preventive drug education practitioners who are here with us today. The vast improvement in the drug situation in the Malay community is due, in no small part, to your efforts in Preventive Drug Education. Indeed, to effectively reduce the drug problem, we must prevent people from starting to abuse drugs in the first place. The old adage 'prevention is better than cure' is especially relevantin the national effort to control the drug abuse problem.
14. Central Narcotics Bureau is the lead agency for preventive drug education. It needs people at the grassroots, people like you who work directly with youths, to complement its existing efforts at spreading the anti-drug message. By incorporating and disseminating the anti-drug message in mosques and in activities like Taman Bacaan's 'Youth Ambassador Scheme' and Mendaki's 'Youth-In-Action' programme, you internalise in youths a resolve to steer clear of drugs.
15. Engaging in preventive drug education is a great challenge. The hard work that you put in will only bear fruits years later when our young grow up and face up to the challenges of life without succumbing to drugs. I am therefore encouraged that you continue to toil and press on even though the fruits of your labour may not be quickly apparent. But have no doubts at all - the stable and improved drug situation in the community today is due in no small part to your efforts as well.
16. In an ever-changing world, we constantly face fresh challenges, be they new types of drugs, or new settings where drugs are abused, or a new generation of youths with different values. Hence, we must never let up in our fight against drugs. Yes, the drug situation has improved tremendously over the years, but we must never become complacent. The Government is determined to make Singapore drug-free and will press on with its zero-tolerance approachagainst drug abuse.
17. With your selfless contribution and continued support to our total anti -drugs efforts spearheaded by CNB, Prisons and SCORE, I am confident that the Malay community will be able to keep the drug problem amongst its members well under control.
18. Thank You