Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my pleasure to be here this morning. A very warm welcome to all our friends from Afghanistan who are here to participate in this first training programme on the “Total Approach for Illicit Drug Control” organised by the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) and sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs under the Singapore Cooperation Programme. It is our pleasure to share knowledge and experience with you.
Global drug trends
2 The trafficking and abuse of Amphetamine-Type Stimulants (ATS) such as ‘Ecstasy’ and Methamphetamine have become a major global concern. The main drug threat Singapore faces today is the trafficking and abuse of synthetic drugs such as ATS, Erimin-5 or Nimetazepam, and Ketamine.
3 However, amidst the threat posed by ATS, many countries continue to grapple with the problems caused by plant-based drugs such as cannabis, cocaine and opiates. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), in its 2005 World Drug Report, notes that opiates, notably heroin, continue to be one of the main problem drugs at the global level, with more people being treated for opiates abuse than for any other substance in 2003.
4 In Afghanistan, poppy cultivation and opiates production and trafficking are among the main challenges that the government has to tackle. The UN report recognized that the Afghan government is stepping up enforcement action against those involved in the opium business.
Need for collective effort in war against drugs
5 While countries may have different approaches towards tackling their domestic drug problems, the global nature of the drug scourge makes it critical for countries to share experiences and learn from one another where possible so as to deal with the drug problem more effectively.
6 In this interconnected global community, the infrastructure and transportation system set up to facilitate trade has made it easier for drug trafficking. Illicit drugs can reach any region or country. Citizens of any country can be recruited as drug couriers and pushers. Drug traffickers are also using more ingenious methods of concealment to escape detection by border authorities.
7 To keep up with the dynamic drug landscape, international cooperation among countries in law enforcement and training is not an option but a necessity if we want to outwit the drug criminals.
Singapore’s anti-drug approach
8 No illicit drugs are produced in Singapore. They are smuggled into the country. While we do not face the problem of poppy cultivation, we had to deal with the serious problem of abuse of poppy-based drugs such as opium in the early nineteenth century till the 1940s, and heroin from the early 1970s.
9 Singapore was still a developing country in the early years of our independence when we were hit by the burgeoning heroin problem. Heroin not only threatened the health of those addicted to the drug, it corroded their sense of responsibility towards their family and society. The heroin scourge was indeed a bane on the nation’s development.
10 Drug abuse is no different from a disease and if uncontained, its spread will have a detrimental impact on the country. To control the worsening heroin situation, the Singapore government took an uncompromising stand against drug trafficking and abuse. As drugs were smuggled into Singapore and the demand for heroin was high because of its addictive nature, it was imperative to cut both supply and demand simultaneously.
11 Hence, in 1994, the Singapore government adopted a comprehensive multi-pronged approach which consisted of tough legislation setting out clearly severe punishment, rigorous anti-drug enforcement, a high-profile preventive drug education, a compulsory treatment and rehabilitation regime for drug abusers, and continued aftercare for ex-drug abusers to re-integrate into society.
12 Today, drug offenders are deterred by the stiff penalties we have put in place against drug traffickers and recalcitrant drug abusers. CNB conducts island-wide raids and operations regularly to round up drug abusers and pushers and to cripple drug trafficking and syndicated activities. Intensive public education efforts have also led to a high level of awareness on the adverse effects of drugs.
13 In 1994, we arrested almost 6000 heroin abusers. Last year, the number of heroin abusers was only 62. Although Singapore has not completely wiped out heroin abuse, we are now up against a new threat in the form of synthetic drugs. Even though we have seen a sharp decline in abusers arrested over the past few years, we note that synthetic drugs have replaced heroin as the most abused drugs in Singapore since 2003.
14 Singapore continues to tackle the synthetic drug abuse problem resolutely through our holistic anti-drug approach that was used against heroin, never once letting up on our rigorous efforts in cutting the supply and demand for illicit drugs. Our efforts against synthetic drug abuse have borne fruit, with the number of synthetic drug abusers on the decline.
15 It is important that governments garner public support and rally the community in fighting the drug menace. The positive results Singapore has achieved in controlling the local drug situation would not be possible without the efforts of the community at large. We had the community’s unwavering support for the tough policies against drugs as well as selfless contributions from organizations in the rehabilitation and reintegration of former drug abusers. All these made it possible for Singapore to draw closer to her aim of being a drug-free country.
Rise to the challenge
16 In Singapore, we have fought the drug menace for the past ten years. We have succeeded in breaking the back of the heroin problem, which had its roots in the early 1970s. We remain vigilant against changes in the drug scene as the challenge remains, but in new forms. We are happy to share our experience in the fight against drugs.