Dr Loo Choon Yong, President of SANA
Heads and representatives of SANA's partners and affiliates
Ladies and gentlemen
It gives me great pleasure to join you this morning for the opening ceremony of the new office of the Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association or SANA. This is the first time in SANA's history that it is operating in a purpose-built premises. SANA's first three premises, at Rumah Miskin, Scotts Road and then Orchard Boulevard, were all used premises. As a result, there were constraints on the number of activities that SANA could organise on its premises.
2. Moving into this new office marks a new chapter for SANA. I am also especially glad to learn that four important organisations are housed under one roof in this community building. With the co-location of the People's Association, Neighbourhood Police Centre, SingHealth Polyclinic and SANA, all of you can share resources, work together on activities and programmes which can be of benefit to all your target groups. At the very least, co-location helps put the communal facilities to maximal use. I hope that this new premises would enable SANA to operate even more effectively and provide more space for SANA's activities.
SANA's Contribution to the Fight Against Drugs
3 The battle against drugs is an on-going one. Despite the improving drug situation in Singapore, the scourge of drug abuse remains a danger we must never be complacent about. Certainly so long as drug trafficking in the world continues to be an active and lucrative criminal business, the threat of drugs to our society remains.
4 Founded in 1972, SANA has been in the anti-drug business for thirty-three years. Indeed it was a pioneer in Singapore in this arena. Given its long history, some of SANA's programmes are very well-established. Most well-known of these projects is SANA's aftercare counselling programme which started in 1977.
5 In April 1977, the Central Narcotics Bureau and Police started Operation Ferret to flush out drug abusers. In that year alone, about 5,000 addicts were arrested. By Feb 1978, over 26,000 persons were arrested for drug consumption. With so many addicts arrested, there was an urgent need to provide aftercare counselling to arrested drug abusers. SANA answered this call. Since August 1977, SANA has provided rehabilitative counselling to numerous former drug abusers and continues to do so today. SANA's contribution to drug prevention and aftercare in Singapore has been immense.
6Community involvement in voluntary organisations is critical.In order for voluntary organisations like SANA to continue to contribute or expand its operations, the community must give its active support by getting involved, participating and volunteering to organise activities and programmes. SANA's success is in large part due to the commitment of its volunteers who selflessly contribute their time, energies and efforts to help our youngto stay away from drugs and aid former addicts to lead drug-free lives.
Keeping the Anti-Drug Message Relevant
7. The drug problem touches everybody's heart because none of us want any of our loved ones to become a drug addict or get involved in illicit drug activities. The drug situation in Singapore remains well under control with the number of people arrested for heroin abuse decreasing steadily over the past ten years. In recent years, synthetic drugs have replaced heroin as the drug of choice. However, we have managed to contain the problem through strict enforcement and preventive drug education. Nevertheless, we must continue to remain vigilant against the threat of synthetic drugs such as Ecstasy, Methamphetamine and Ketamine as they have become increasingly popular among youths in many countries.
8. Unlike heroin, synthetic drugs have taken on a more 'hip' or "cool" image. They have been touted as 'non-addictive', 'recreational drugs' and even harmless to consume. This cannot be further from the truth. Synthetic drugs are harmful and can be fatal. They pose similar health and mental risks to the individual as opiate drugs like heroin and morphine. More than just dealing with curbing directly instances of abuse through enforcement action and rehabilitation, the challenge is how to ensure that mainstream youths, those who have not ventured into drug consumption, do not change their attitudes towards drugs and consider consumption of these so-called "soft" drugs as permissible if not fashionable.
9. The challenge to SANA is how to sustain the relevance of the anti-drug message to our youth, to teachers, parents and the community. If not, complacency will set in and community vigilance will decline. In addition, SANA needs to help these groups recognise changing attitudes towards so-called 'soft' drugs. I am confident that with its spirit of care, SANA can face up to these new challenges.
The Support of Many Partners
10. Rigorous drug enforcement efforts alone cannot account for the falling numbers of drug abusers arrested each year. This cannot be achieved without the critical contributions of not only lead organisations like SANA and the National Council Against Drug Abuse but also the many other volunteer groups and individuals, including those who contribute their creative ideas and expertise to refresh the anti-drug message effectively each year in our public education programme.
11. The media have also played an important role. Over the years, their efforts help to continually keep the anti-drug message in the public consciousness and to keep the public informed and educated of the drug danger and its changing forms. Without public awareness, more could have fallen prey to drugs. Whether it is regular reports on drug busts or heart-warming stories on how volunteers help youths stay clear of drugs or ex-addicts to turn over a new leaf, the anti-drug movement in Singapore has benefited from the efforts of our media.
Our Philosophy Remains Zero Tolerance
12 The scourge of drug abuse remains one of the most difficult challenges facing any society. Over the years, we have done well in containing the drug problem. Our challenge is to keep drug addition down. We need to guard against complacency which may arise naturally because of our very success so far. We need to guard against a softening of our public attitude towards drugs. We must not accommodate any suggestion that drug abuse in some form is acceptable. We must remain committed to the goal of a drug free Singapore, to a philosophy of "zero tolerance."
13 I would like to take this opportunity to thank SANA and everyone who are helping to fight against drugs, for their hard work and support. To SANA's Board members, staff and volunteers, I wish you all the best and may your new office herald even greater success in the fight against drug abuse and in making Singapore drug-free.
14 It gives me now great pleasure to declare this new office of the Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association open. Thank you.