Parliamentary Speeches

Ministerial Statement on Singapore’s National Drug Control Policy – Speech by Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law

Published: 08 May 2024

Thank you, Mr Speaker, Sir. 


1. Sir, our drug control policies have evolved over the years, to meet the changing nature of the threats from drugs. 

2. I make this Ministerial Statement, to set out the framework of our policies, the reasons for our policies, and what more we intend to do. 

3. The reason for making this Statement now is this: 

(a) We have a strict national drug control policy. It is necessary. It is effective. And it is well supported by Singaporeans. I will show that later. 

(b) But our approach has been criticised by some who are helping inmates to abuse the legal process – the Courts have said that they try and frustrate the legal process and prevent the penalties from being carried out.

(c) I will set out the broader context of the situation, show how these criticisms are without merit. 

(d) I will also set out what we intend to do about those attempts to abuse our legal process. 

4. I will cover four areas in this Statement. 

5. First, I will discuss the global and regional drug situation. 

6. Second, I will speak about the threat from the drug trade, and our approach to that threat. 

7. Third, I will speak about some attempts to spread misinformation, and try and undermine aspects of our drug policies. 

(a) I will show that, despite these attempts, there is strong public support for our approach and policies, including the death penalty. 

8. And fourth, I will set out our plans to further strengthen our drug control policies. 

9. With your permission, Mr Speaker, Sir, I ask to display some slides and photos on the LED screen as I speak. 

Global and Regional Drug Situation

10. Let me begin by speaking about the global drug situation. Every region in the world is affected by drugs. 


11. I start with Europe. 

12. European countries, first-world countries, have been very hard hit. 

13. Europe’s ports have been described by a major international weekly as “drug hubs” and “safe terrain for narcos”. 

14. It has also said that: in the EU, half of all homicides and more than a quarter of illegal firearms seizures were linked to drug trafficking. So Members can consider just how many lives have been lost.

15. So, let us look at some specific countries. 

16. In the Netherlands, a record of over 60,000kg of cocaine was seized by Dutch Customs in 2023 alone. I have set out, on the slides, some of the quotes from senior people in Netherlands. 

17. In the port city of Rotterdam, children some as young as 14 years old are being recruited as “cocaine collectors” – to get the drugs from shipping containers. 

18. In January of this year, the Mayor of Amsterdam, and you see her referred to in the quote, Femka Halsema, said that Netherlands risks becoming a “narco-state”. The illegal drug trade has grown “more lucrative, professional, and ruthlessly violent”. 

19. Think of a Mayor of a major European city saying that and what the implications are. 

20. The chief of the largest police union in the Netherlands, Jan Strujis, has said that the country had a parallel economy controlled by organised crime groups, shootings, and killings. 

21. A former Justice and Security Minister, Ferdinand Grapperhaus, has said that “excessive violence” against politicians, lawyers, and journalists, was “no longer taboo”. 

22. Sweden, considered one of the safest places in the world, has also been seriously affected by drug- and gang-related violence. Since 2013, the number of fatal shootings has more than doubled. In 2022, there were 391 shootings, 90 explosions, 101 attempted attacks with explosives. These were linked to fights between criminal gangs over drugs and arms. 

23. The then-police chief, Thornberg, said: “citizens are afraid”, “insecurity is increasing”. 

24. Young lives in Sweden are being destroyed by this senseless violence. In 2022, 30% of suspects for gang-related violence were between 15 and 20 years old. A lawyer who represents teenage shooting victims and suspects told the BBC: children in Sweden are using their “own bags not to carry books, but they carry the drug markets of Sweden on their shoulders”. 

25. Turning to Belgium: last year, in Antwerp, an 11-year-old girl was killed in a shooting in her own home. It was linked to a drug-related gang dispute. 

26. In the last decade, there have been hundreds of such incidents in Antwerp: shootings, grenade attacks, fires, and bombings. 

27. Many were linked to gang-related violence vying for a piece of the cocaine trade. 

28. The mayor of Antwerp, Bart De Wever, has described the situation as being a “much bigger” threat than the 2016 Brussels bombings. 

29. The Brussels bombings made headlines around the world. When terrorists attack, it becomes big news. But with drug violence, it gets ignored, even though it is much bigger, and a more continuous threat – which affects many more people. And really, this should be taken more seriously. 
30. Last year, the Belgian customs seized a record amount of cocaine – more than the customs and border officials in all of the United States. Their incinerators in Belgium were not able to burn the seized drugs quickly enough, and the confiscated stash has earned the nickname “cocaine-berg”. 

31. Customs officials now tell the media that they will never win the war against the cartels. 

32. So Members can ask themselves: Why are officials in a first-world country saying this? That they cannot win the fight against the narco gangs?

33. In the UK, the example of Barrow-in-Furness shows how drugs can seriously damage a place. 

34. In the last decade, that town has been plagued by drug use and drug-related deaths. In 2018, its opiate-related deaths were double the national average. It became known as the country’s “most infamous brown town”. Last year, there was an almost 50% jump in drug offences compared to the previous year. 

35. The situation is dismal: town buildings mostly boarded up and vandalised, broken furniture strewn on the streets, windows smashed. 

36. Businesses and residents say that they may have no choice but to leave the town if things do not change. 

37. From 2011 to 2021, the town population decreased by 2.4%, while England’s population increased by 6.6% over the same period. 

38. I should have added, in Belgium, the Justice Minister, my counterpart, has to live out of safe houses, because the Police cannot guarantee his safety.

South America

39. Let’s look at South America – The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said that 18 out of 21 countries are now the main sources of transit for cocaine. 

40. Ecuador was once seen as a peaceful country. 

41. Now it has become wrecked with drugs and violence. From 2018 to 2022, its homicide rates increased by four times, and the homicide rates are now the 8th highest in the world. There are reports of beheadings, car bombings, assassinations of police officers, children being gunned down. 

42. In one hideout used by the drug cartels, the police uncovered a collection of stuffed toys. Gangs are said to have used the toys to attract young children, and then recruited them as drug pushers, and handed them weapons, and forced them into the drug trade. 

43. In Mexico, murders, abductions, forced disappearances are almost daily occurrences due to the turf wars between the drug cartels. Since 2006, nearly 450,000 people have been killed. A significant number of these killings are believed to be linked to drugs and the drug trade. 

North America

44. We move to North America. In recent years, some places have chosen to decriminalise drugs. They take the position that drug use is a personal choice, and it should be destigmatised and allowed under certain conditions. 

45. Others say that the problem has gotten out of control. 

46. And their solution is to allow drug abuse under so-called ‘safe’ conditions. 

47. For example, they have decriminalised personal possession of drugs below certain limits. 

48. And what are the results? 

49. Consider San Francisco

50. In 2014, it passed laws to reduce the offence of drug possession, from a serious offence to a misdemeanour, which is to be dealt with administratively. 

51. And you know what the Police would do then. They will deprioritise and decide that they will not deal strictly with open-drug use and small-scale possession. 

52. A decade later, anyone visiting the city now will see. People living in slum-like conditions along major streets, looking for their next drug fix.

53. Last year, San Francisco’s death rate from drug overdoses reached a record high and was more than double the US national average. 

54. Some places which chose to legalise drugs have realised that the results were not as promised, and have reversed their policies. 

55. In 2020, the US State of Oregon decriminalised use and possession of small amounts of most drugs, including Cocaine, Meth, and Heroin. 

56. 58% of voters in Oregon supported it. They thought this was the solution: Police can then focus on other work, and abusers would feel less stigmatised, and abusers will seek treatment. 

57. But people in Oregon soon saw the results of this policy. 

58. From 2019 to 2022, the number of drug overdose deaths more than doubled from about 600 to about 1,300. People felt very unsafe on the streets, businesses started leaving, and the situation got very bad. 

59. By August 2023, last year, a majority of people in Oregon wanted to repeal the measure. And in 2024, this year, they reversed course. They re-criminalised possession of drugs for even small amounts. 

60. Let me give another example. 

61. Last year, the Canadian province of British Columbia decriminalised drugs, to try and reduce its overdose rates. 

62. Instead, the number of drug overdose deaths increased by more than 5% from the year before. There was also public backlash against the open drug use. 

63. Earlier this year, the provincial government tried to restrict the public places where people could consume drugs. 

64. But the Supreme Court blocked the measure, saying it could “cause irreparable harm” to drug users. 

65. The Court said that the users were at risk of overdosing alone, since they would have fewer public places to consume drugs where people would be present. 

66. Brad West, a mayor from a British Columbian city, said that the courts were out of touch with the public and blocking the measure “ignored the harm that occurs to others by allowing rampant public use”. 

67. Last month, the BBC reported that the authorities in British Columbia were working urgently to re-criminalise the use of hard drugs in public places. 

68. My view, to members: when they experiment with laws like this, they are actually experimenting with the lives of innocent people, including innocent young children. 

69. These policies and U-turns have a long-term impact on the next generation, and the impact cannot be easily reversed.

70. Parents and guardians, if they become drug addicts, homeless, and unemployed, it is the children who suffer disproportionately. 

71. Let’s look at a sobering account of a child who grew up in America with a mother who was a cocaine abuser.

72. From the ages of 7 to 12, they were pretty much on their own. Sometimes they would be left alone for days at a time. They would not have lights, water or heat. At night, they would huddle around the stove for warmth. It got so bad that they started hiding their mother’s keys just to keep her from going to the crack house. 

73. In 2021, Gallup reported that about 32% of Americans say that drug use has been a cause of trouble in their family. One-third of all Americans. That is almost double the proportion since 1999, when it was 17%. 

74. Children, and the next generation, are the real victims. A study estimated that in 2017, about 2.2 million children and adolescents in the US had a parent with an opioid use disorder or were affected by opioids themselves. 

75. The study projected that by 2030 this number would go up to 4.3 million - and it doubled. 

76. These children often don’t have a proper home to grow up in, no role models to look up to, and no stability to anchor their development.

77. Without basic support, they have poorer educational outcomes, increased likelihood of developing substance use disorders, and early emergence of chronic diseases.

78. The cycle will keep repeating itself.

79. One has got to ask, who speaks for the human rights of these millions of children?

Southeast Asia

80. Closer to home, in Southeast Asia, the Golden Triangle – where the borders of Myanmar, Thailand, and Laos meet – is a major drug producing region.

81. The UNODC reported in 2022 that East and Southeast Asia are “literally swimming” in Meth. In 2022 alone, 151 tonnes of Meth was seized in the region. 

82. At COS, I spoke about the situation in Thailand. 

83. When cannabis was legalised, it was available immediately almost anywhere you looked – restaurants, convenience stores, and even near schools. 

84. Within six months of legalisation, the number of addicts went up 4 times. There were young teens and children who consumed cannabis-infused cookies, candies, sweets.

85. They thought these were ordinary snacks but ended up having to be hospitalised.

86. The Thai government recently announced plans to reimpose a ban on recreational cannabis use by the end of this year.

87. One can see why. 

88. But it is no longer going to be easy to do. Because, if part of it is legal, and part of it is not legal, then enforcement is never going to be easy. And in any event, businesses which have invested in the industry will likely push back strongly. And those who are now addicted to the drug will find it very difficult to kick off the habit, and will need to be supported by the healthcare system. The consequences, in many cases, can be irreversible. The impact will be very long-lasting.

89. If you look at Malaysia, cannabis seizures jumped from 3,700kg in 2021 to 6,200kg in 2022. Just one worrying statistic, and there are many others. 

Singapore’s Drug Situation

90. With that, let me now turn to the situation in Singapore, and the threat we face here from the drug trade.

91. We are a big target for the drugs, that this region is being flooded with.

92. Despite our stiff penalties, some traffickers try their luck because of the profits they can earn. The street price for drugs is much higher in Singapore than many other parts in this region. Our purchasing power is much higher, our GDP is much higher, our wealth is much higher - so it is obvious.

93. ICA and CNB have found drugs at the borders in fire extinguishers, furniture, and even fruits. People find many innovative ways to try and smuggle in.

94. Last year, CNB seized about $15 million worth of drugs, and dismantled 25 drug syndicates. 

95. The number of drug abusers arrested increased by 10% from the previous year, while the number of cannabis abusers reached a 10-year high. 

96. The Health and Lifestyle survey conducted by IMH in 2022 showed that the mean onset age of illicit drug consumption in Singapore is 15.9 years old – this is the age of a Secondary Four student.

97. Members can see that we are not exempt from the problems that other countries face.

Singapore’s Drug Control Approach

98. So, let me now turn to our approach to drug control. 

99. We take an evidence-based approach towards drug control. 

100. In 2019, we changed our policy to focus on helping persons who are pure drug abusers. If they only abuse drugs, and have not committed other offences, they are channelled to receive treatment, and do not get a criminal record. 

101. The interventions are based on the risk profile of the abuser. For example – low-risk, first-time adult drug abusers will generally undergo counselling in the community, together with regular urine or hair testing. 

102. This minimises disruption to their daily lives while ensuring that their addiction issues are addressed. 

103. Beyond the mandated supervision period, the Singapore Prison Service (SPS) continues to work with Yellow Ribbon Singapore (YRSG) and its community partners, to help the drug abusers. For example, YRSG assists ex-inmates with career coaching and job placement. 

104. And these efforts have produced some results. From 1993 to 2021, our two-year recidivism rate for those released from DRC decreased by more than two and a half times from 73% to 27.7%. 

105. There are many examples of ex-drug abusers who have kicked the habit, leading new lives. 

106. For example, Francis How. He dropped out of secondary school, joined a street gang at the age of 12. He was involved in drugs and other crimes including housebreaking and gambling, to feed his drug addiction.

107. By the age of 32, he had already served close to 11 years behind bars – almost all of his adult life. 

108. But then he decided to turn his back on drugs and crime. 

109. He is now 50 years old, married with four children. 

110. He runs his own shipyard repair business. He has stayed clean for more than 17 years.

111. The journey to recovery is not easy – it is challenging and requires many helping hands.

112. And we should recognise not just the efforts of the ex-abusers to stay drug-free but also pay tribute to their families who support them in their journey.

113. Today, we have invited several ex-abusers and their families to join us in the Public Gallery. All in, about 120 of them. They show that it is possible to quit drugs and to live a fulfilling life. 

114. And I ask Members to join me in recognising them. 

Harsh Penalties for Drug Traffickers

115. While we seek to help abusers, we take a tough approach against drug traffickers. 

116. We have zero tolerance for those who destroy the lives of others, for money. 

117. The death penalty is imposed on persons who traffic specified amounts. For example, a person who traffics 15 grams of pure heroin - which is enough to feed the addiction of about 180 abusers for a week - will face capital punishment. 

118. The evidence shows clearly that the death penalty has been an effective deterrent. 

119. In 1990, we introduced the death penalty for trafficking more than 1.2kg of opium. In the four years that followed, there was a 66% reduction in the average net weight of opium trafficked.  

120. A 2021 study was conducted in parts of the region - we are evidence-based, so I told my Ministry, let’s do a survey from the regions where many of our drug traffickers come (from), to see what the population in those areas think of our penalties, and if our penalties are a sufficient deterrent. Because you deal with the drug situation by dealing with both supply and demand. Demand in Singapore – through public education, through control measures, through active campaigning and explaining the dangers of drugs; supply – by controlling the amount of drugs that come in, and through the use of deterrence. 

121. So we did a statistically, scientifically-valid study in the parts from which  many of our drug traffickers come from.

122. It showed – and I put up the figures - that 87% of those surveyed – this is nine out of 10, believed that the death penalty deters people from trafficking substantial amounts of drugs into Singapore; 83%, 8 out of 10, believed that the death penalty is more effective than life imprisonment in deterring drug trafficking; and 86% believed that the death penalty deters serious crimes in Singapore. The implications are that when the drug barons go around trying to recruit people to come into Singapore, people would be very careful. Many would say no, and if they do get tempted, they might say, well, I might only traffic drugs below a certain threshold amount. So it makes it much more difficult to traffic substantial amounts into Singapore. 

123. So those who suggest that the death penalty can be replaced by life imprisonment – should look at these figures. The deterrent effects of the two penalties are very different.

124. It is not easy for us – Members, policy-makers, Ministers - to decide to have capital punishment as part of the penalties in law.  

125. But the evidence shows that it is necessary to protect our people, prevent the destruction of thousands of families, and prevent the loss of thousands of lives. That is why we maintain the death penalty. 

126. Members have to understand - this is nothing short of a war. 

127. I say that we are fighting a war, and using that analogy, because that is the scale in terms of victims and lost lives. Others in this region have used the analogy of war, and that has drawn different sorts of responses, but people know here in Singapore, we go on the basis of apprehending the traffickers, dealing with the situation in accordance with laws passed by Parliament. And we fight the drug war within that framework. 

128. In the US, every 14 months, more Americans die from abusing fentanyl than from all of America’s wars combined since the Second World War, from Korea to Afghanistan. Every 14 months. In fact, the life expectancy of male Americans has come down for two reasons. One, the number of shootings, homicide; and second, drugs, opioid abuse. 

129. In 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported 600,000 deaths in 2019 which was attributable to drug abuse. This is more than twice the number of deaths caused by firearms in the same year. 

130. The World Drug Report estimates that in the same year, 31 million years of ‘healthy’ life were lost due to disability and premature deaths as a result of drug abuse. 

131. These are not just statistics, but lives – of fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons, and daughters. 

132. That is why I use the analogy of a war. I am talking about a war against those who profit off the drug trade at the expense of hundreds of thousands of innocent lives. 

133. To put it in the context of fighting a war, let me refer to a point that Bertrand Russell made referencing the Second World War. 

134. He pointed out, in his 1943 essay titled “The Future of Pacifism” that “(i)f war is to be prevented, there must be a clearly expressed willingness to go to war for certain ends”. In other words, if you want peace, you have to be prepared to fight for it. 

135. I would argue the same applies to the war against drugs. 

136. In this war, we will have to decide: do we want to go soft, and risk ending up like the countries I have spoken about earlier? 

137. Do we want to become a “narco-state”, or an “infamous brown town”, or a hotbed for drugs and violence? 

138. People may say: No one is asking you to go soft. Impose very tough penalties, just don’t impose the death penalty. 

139. But as I said, there is a clear difference in the deterrence effect between the death penalty as opposed to other punishments. 

140. My view, based on the evidence – you remove the death penalty, drug trafficking will go up significantly. There will be more robberies, house breakings and so on because drug abusers will need money to buy drugs. There will also be, evidence shows, more sexual assaults, more homicides, and definitely, many more people will die in Singapore. 

141. That is why we take a strict approach. 

142. Our strict approach has saved thousands of lives. In the 1990s, CNB arrested about 6,000 drug abusers per year. That number has now come down by almost half – CNB now arrests about 3,000 drug abusers per year. 

143. All things being equal, the number of drug abusers in Singapore should have gone up in the last 30 years. The supply of drugs in the region has exploded. Our purchasing power has increased significantly. That figure of 6,000 should be two, three times more, because more people should be consuming drugs. 

144. But instead, the number has gone down. 

145. By that alone, I say we have saved the lives of thousands of potential abusers and we have saved the lives of their families from the consequences of one person in the family taking drugs. Consequences can be, as we can see from other countries, homicide, violence, break ups, poorer outcomes for children. 

146. It’s a pretty sad situation in many places. We have avoided it.

147. This is the war that we are fighting in Singapore. And if we don’t fight it, or if we lose it, then thousands in Singapore will suffer. 

148. So everyone who is asking us to go soft on drugs, or remove the death penalty, is in fact advocating for a different Singapore, where there will be more people dying, there will be more children affected, there will be more unfavourable outcomes, particularly on people of lower incomes.

Misinformation, Anti-DP activists and Public Support

149. I will now move on to deal with attempts by some to undermine our approach. 

150. The evidence for our approach is compelling. People can see what is happening around the world, which is why I took some time to explain the situation, country by country.

151. Despite that, in recent years, there has been a small group of people who attempt to mislead the public with misinformation on drug traffickers and the death penalty.

152. They seek to evoke sympathy by presenting an image of an unfair criminal justice system stacked against drug traffickers.

153. They publish videos, pictures, stories from the trafficker’s childhood, sharing interviews with family members – “He’s got a mother”; “He’s got a sister”; “He’s had a child”; “He had a childhood”; “Poor guy” – portraying the trafficker as a victim of unfortunate circumstances. “He didn’t have money and therefore he trafficked drugs.”

154. But they leave out the facts of the cases. They leave out the accounting of the harms caused to the victims of the traffickers. They glorify the trafficker. They do not give any voice to the victims, the number of lives lost or wrecked by drugs. And the reason the traffickers were trafficking the drugs in the first place, which is to make money. 

155. The victims also have wives, sisters, children, parents. All of these people will also suffer.

156. If you face financial difficulties, if you need money, get a job. You don’t have to traffic in drugs to make money. 

157. Earlier, I recounted some stories of drug abuse overseas. We have seen shocking stories in Singapore too.

158. Early last year, a man was convicted of committing incest with his 17-year-old daughter after sharing Meth with her. She became reliant on him for sustaining her addiction and did not come forward with the truth for months.

159. In another case last year, a 31-year-old man: he had consumed various drugs, went on to drive under the influence of drugs, crashed his rental car into a public bus, killed himself and injured seven other passengers in the bus. 

160. The next slide shows the photos of a crime scene where a man who was under the influence of LSD, brutally stabbed his own mother and punched his grandmother to death. 

161. Drug abuse is not victimless. All these are caused by the drug traffickers, whom people glorify.

162. The next slide shows a heartbreaking case where a life was taken even before the victim had any voice of her own. The remains of a two-and-a-half-year-old girl. She was assaulted to death by her own father, who was a Meth abuser. The man burnt the body and hid it in a pot to conceal his crime. 

163. Several studies have shown that the harms of drugs are far-reaching, into the next generation.

164. A recent literature review by the KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, found that drug abuse by pregnant women can cause serious harms to the foetus. Their babies could be born with congenital defects, such as respiratory distress syndrome or smaller brain matter. The newborns may also suffer from drug withdrawal, increased risk of disease, and even infant death. 

165. A 2020 study by the Ministry of Social and Family Development found that children whose parents had committed drug offences were five times more likely than other children to unfortunately come into contact with the criminal justice system in the future. 

166. But these facts and images are usually missing from the speeches, posts of those who campaign against the death penalty. Instead, there are baseless allegations, one-sided claims, and half-truths.

167. These baseless allegations are also made in relation to Prisoners Awaiting Capital Punishment (PACPs). They cast doubt on the legal process, they cast doubt on the convictions and sentences. 

168. For instance, in May 2023, POFMA directions were issued against 10 social media posts and two online articles for containing false statements about a capital sentence meted out by the Courts.

169. Five parties – the Transformative Justice Collective, The Online Citizen Asia, Andrew Loh, Kirsten Han, M Ravi – continued to make false statements alleging that a PACP was denied an interpreter during the recording of his statement. This, despite the Courts’ clear statements to the contrary. A blatant, false attack on the criminal justice system.

170. Some of these activists have also helped to file unmeritorious legal applications on behalf of convicted drug traffickers. Applications are often filed at the last minute.

171. And those who help with these applications often hide behind the PACPs and their families. In one case, there were seven post-appeal applications – all dismissed by the Courts because they were all without merit. Seven – one after the other. No basis, after the substantive appeal as dismissed. 

172. In the seventh post-appeal application, the correspondence email address, “”, was provided by a family member to the Court. 
173. This obviously does not belong to the family, but to perhaps an anti-death penalty activist. 

174. The Court dismissed that application – said it was a blatant and ill-disguised application to disrupt the carrying out of the sentence. In other words: a clear abuse of process. The person, with the email account by the name of Kirsten Han, if she was involved, was helping in the abuse of process. 

175. Based on what the Court said: you can see what the persons who were assisting in the applications were trying to do. 

176. As a result of many such applications today, we have PACPs whose sentences have not been carried out despite their cases being decided more than a decade ago.

177. One such PACP is Iskandar Bin Rahman. He is not a drug trafficker. But his applications are somewhat illustrative of the point I’m making. He killed a father and son. Brutal murders, I think people remember them as the “Kovan Double Murder case”. A 67-year-old father and a 42-year-old son. In fact, one of the victims was even dragged almost one kilometre along Upper Serangoon Road.

178. He did it for money. He was sentenced to capital punishment on 4 December 2015 by the High Court.

179. His appeal was dismissed by the Court of Appeal on 3 February 2017. Seven years ago. Since then, he has filed eight applications. 

180. Some of them are still ongoing and I make no comment whatsoever about those which are currently before the Courts. Those which have been dealt with, have all dismissed.

181. To deal better with these unmeritorious applications being filed at the very last minute, before capital punishment is carried out, this House passed the Post-appeal Applications in Capital Cases Act, or PACC Act. That act will come into force very soon, within a few weeks. 

182. The Act will seek to safeguard the administration of justice and the rule of law.

183. It introduces new requirements to reduce potential delays to proceedings. 

184. For example, if the PACP has already had his or her sentence upheld by the Court of Appeal, he or she will be required to apply for permission to make a PACC Application.

185. There will be a streamlined procedure, under which only the Court of Appeal may hear PACC applications and grant a stay of execution.

186. As part of the application, the person will be required to state the grounds of the application and the reasons for not filing the application earlier.

187. But even before the law has come into force, a post-appeal application was filed by 36 PACPs in September last year, to challenge the constitutionality of the law. The application was dismissed by the Court of Appeal recently. The Court of Appeal said that the PACPs had no standing to bring such a challenge, and the fact that such a challenge had been brought at all, spoke only of the PACPs’ abuse of the process of the courts.

188. Just one day after the appeal was dismissed by the Courts, 36 PACPs, of whom 34 were the same parties involved in the earlier post-appeal application, filed another post-appeal application, relying on another matter. 

189. I make no comment on the merits of those applications. My comments about unmeritorious applications, abuse of process, and other similar comments, apply only to applications which have been determined by the Courts and dismissed. And I rely only on what the Courts themselves have said.

190. This is not the first time large groups of PACPs have jointly filed applications to the court, after all avenues of appeal and clemency have been exhausted. In the past few years, there were at least five other such jointly filed applications, each involving more than 10 PACPs.

191. The PACC Act, when it comes into force, will deal with many such applications.

192. We are now considering what else needs to be done to make sure this new legislation can be properly supported.

193. We will come back to the House if necessary. And I wish to make it clear to members and Singaporeans - be assured that we will take all necessary steps to ensure that this sort of abuse of process is dealt with.

Strong Public Support

194. I will now speak about the strong public support for our drug control approach. 

195. There is broad support from our population because we have been upfront and open about the rationale, circumstances, and safeguards on the use of the death penalty. 

196. Surveys conducted by MHA show that support for the death penalty has in fact gone up in the last 2 years. 

197. In a 2021 MHA survey 74% of the respondents agreed or strongly agreed that the death penalty should be used for the most serious crimes, including drug trafficking. 

198. We redid that survey last year in 2023, it now shows that 77% of the respondents agreed or strongly agreed. This is a statistically significant increase of about 3 percentage points.

199. The 2021 survey also found that about 66% of the respondents agreed or strongly agreed that the mandatory death penalty is an appropriate punishment for trafficking a significant amount of drugs.

200. In the 2023 survey, 69% of the respondents, almost 7 in 10, agreed or strongly agreed, again a statistically significant increase. MHA will be publishing the full report later this year.

201. This is quite remarkable because members might sometimes come across Activists saying: the death penalty is controversial, support for it is weakening, and so on. 

202. In fact, to the contrary, we are seeing the reverse. Support for the death penalty has in fact increased, in a statistically significant way. It shows that Singaporeans understand the need for the death penalty, to deal with the most serious crimes.

203. I will refer to yet another survey. 

204. In 2023, the National Council Against Drug Abuse conducted a survey. Almost 91% expressed support for Singapore’s drug-free approach, and 87% agreed that our drug laws are effective in keeping us relatively drug-free.

205. We have these high levels of support because Singaporeans trust the Government to do the right thing, and to do right by Singapore.

206. My colleagues and I have engaged thousands of Singaporeans on this issue in just the past year alone.

207. So when Mr Richard Branson comes in to argue: he doesn’t realise we take our duty seriously and we are accountable to Singaporeans, we speak with thousands of them every year and we know what Singaporeans support. 

208. And the vast majority of Singaporeans know and understand the facts and reality, and why the Government says the death penalty is necessary. 

Future Plans

Mr Speaker,

209. I will now talk about my ministry’s plans for the coming years, specifically our upstream efforts to address the drug problem amongst the young.

210. We formed the Inter-Ministry Committee (IMC) on Drug Prevention for Youths last year. I spoke about this at the COS debate. 

211. Members of the IMC have started running anti-drug programmes to enhance awareness on the harms of drugs and mobilise key community leaders to amplify our anti-drug messages.

212. Let me share some examples: SportSG has begun to incorporate preventive drug education into its programmes and curricula for our young athletes, and to reinforce positive life values to remind our youths about pursuing excellence while keeping their minds and bodies healthy. Our schools will cover drug-related topics in their school curricula, by extending it to other subjects, such as the General Paper. In the Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs), these messages will be reinforced at various junctures, such as orientation sessions and pre-departure briefings before students go on overseas trips.

Drug Victims Remembrance Day 

213. Starting this year, we will introduce a “Drug Victims Remembrance Day” for our communities to rally together to remind ourselves of the harm, the hurt, and the trauma, which the families and loved ones of drug abusers suffer and have suffered.

214. Our aim is to drive home the message that the harms drugs cause are far-reaching, and require a strong response from society.

215. In partnership with CNB, MOE schools and IHLs will be organising various activities, such as lessons, exhibitions, and talks on the Remembrance Day. There will also be an essay competition for youths in post-secondary educational institutions to encourage conversations and reflections on the impact of drug abuse.

216. This is a major step that we are taking. By doing this, we hope to bring across to a larger segment of the population, particularly the young, in as impactful way as possible, of the harms that drugs cause.

217. An inaugural observance event will be held at the Ngee Ann City Civic Plaza, on 17 May 2024. We will be holding a candlelight display to remember the victims of drug abuse, not only from Singapore but from all around the world. Because victims from around the world deserve our sympathy and thoughts. 

218. This will of course include victims in Singapore, including – the elderly mother and grandmother brutally murdered, the two-year old toddler who was senselessly assaulted to death by her own guardian, and the countless family members whose lives have been upended by having a loved one addicted to drugs.

219. These are the people who deserve our sympathy.

220. The event will be followed by roving exhibitions across eight different locations around Singapore, from May to July. 

221. I strongly encourage Singaporeans to visit the exhibitions and participate in these activities, to be aware of the global and local drug situation, and to show solidarity in our fight against drugs.


222. Sir, to conclude, our drug control policies have been effective. But the drug situation continues to be challenging, abroad certainly, but at home as well.

223. We have to respond robustly to these challenges, so that we do not have a generation caught up with drug addiction, so that our children can inherit a country – that is safe and free of drugs – and have the same environment that we enjoy today.

224. Thank you, Sir.