Published: 02 March 2018
1. Mr Chairman, I will focus on two areas. First, keeping Singapore drug-free, and second, supporting the rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders.
Keeping Singapore Drug-Free
2. Many members spoke about the fight against drugs. Mr Christopher de Souza spoke about stemming the supply and demand of drugs.
3. Keeping Singapore drug-free is a key priority for MHA. This requires a combination of tough laws, effective enforcement, and preventive education.
4. The Central Narcotics Bureau, or CNB, has kept up enforcement efforts. Last year, CNB dismantled 23 drug syndicates, and conducted 19 islandwide operations targeting drug traffickers and abusers. CNB also conducted 12 joint operations with our foreign counterparts to cut off drug supplies from overseas. Just last week, CNB had a joint operation with our Malaysian counterparts to smash a regional drug trafficking syndicate.
5. Mr Christopher de Souza and Mr Baey Yam Keng spoke about emerging drug threats such as the purchase of drugs online and New Psychoactive Substances. These are indeed areas of concern.
6. There are people in Singapore who have tried to buy drugs online. They thought they could get away with it. They were wrong. Last year, we worked with courier companies to detect more than 350 parcels with drugs or drug-related products. CNB's follow-up investigations led to the arrest of 177 individuals. We will continue to clamp down on the online drug trade.
7. New Psychoactive Substances, or "NPS", is a global challenge that many countries are grappling with. So far, the NPS situation in Singapore is contained. This is because we keep a close watch for any new substances, and list them in our Misuse of Drugs Act. Regular reviews of our legislative and operational strategies are conducted to combat NPS abuse.
8. Enforcement alone is not enough. To keep Singapore drug-free, all Singaporeans must know that drugs are harmful and stay away from them.
9. Mr Edwin Tong and Ms Cheng Li Hui asked how we can better engage youths and tackle the high proportion of new and young drug abusers. In 2017, 2 out of 5 abusers arrested were new abusers. Close to two-thirds (64%) of new abusers arrested were under 30 years old. This is very worrying.
10. There are foreign celebrities who glamourise drug use. They falsely advocate drugs as harmless and "cool". Our youths must not be fooled.
11. Minister earlier mentioned about Portugal's campaign "Say No to 2nd hand Syringes". In Singapore, we have a different campaign. We promote a drug-free life. We advocate a life free from addiction, and we encourage our youths to enjoy life to the fullest and make the best of life's opportunities. Be yourself. Be drug-free – these are the taglines that are trending here in Singapore. This is the narrative: We reject drugs and we reject the notion that drugs are harmless or cool. They destroy life, health and family, and drug abuse is not a victimless crime.
12. We have ramped up our preventive drug education efforts in the last year, both on the ground and on social media. Besides school programmes and roadshows, CNB also collaborated with educational institutions and young local filmmakers to produce a series of videos showing the destructive effect of drugs. 18 short films were posted on CNB's Instagram and Facebook with the handle #FilmFriday, racking up close to two million views in total.
13. To reach out to more youths, CNB also set up a makeshift club called "GURD Club" outside Cathay Cineplex. "GURD Club" featured lights and sounds which simulated the disorientating and distressing effects of drugs. More than 4,300 anti-drug pledges were collected.
14. Our community is with us in this fight against drugs. Our United Against Drugs Coalition partners - Pastamania, Singapore Post, just to name a few, helped to distribute 50,000 "DrugFreeSG" keychains to the public during our Anti-Drug Abuse Campaign last year. Online retailer Reebonz distributed 5,000 anti-drug message cards in their parcels during Christmas last year.
15. Ms Rahayu Mahzam spoke about engaging the community, especially the Malay Muslim community. Mr Chairman, please allow me to speak in Malay on this.
16. Berita baiknya adalah - kami menerima sokongan yang padu daripada masyarakat Melayu/Islam dalam pelbagai usaha memerangi najis dadah. April lalu, enam pertubuhan Melayu/Islam yang diketuai Pergas, melancarkan kempen Dadah Itu Haram. Ini adalah inisiatif para pemimpin masyarakat demi menyebarkan kesedaran mengenai larangan Islam ke atas dadah.
17. Lebih 250 kedai menyokong usaha ini. Ini termasuk 50 kedai gunting rambut yang mempunyai jangkauan lebih 10,000 pelanggan setiap minggu. Abang-abang dan pakcik-pakcik tukang gunting sedang membantu menyebarkan mesej anti-dadah dengan memaparkan pelekat Dadah Itu Haram di pintu masuk dan cermin kedai mereka.
18. Hasilnya menggalakkan. Bulan lalu, saya pergi gunting rambut di Woodlands North Plaza. Tukang gunting berkenaan malah meminta lebih banyak pelekat Dadah Itu Haram. Saya tanya kenapa? Beliau menjawab, ramai pelanggannya melihat pelekat di kedainya dan inginkan pelekat itu untuk diri mereka. Ini kemajuan yang memberangsangkan.
19. Hampir 200 abang-abang motor juga sama-sama menggerakkan rangkaian mereka untuk menyebarkan mesej Dadah Itu Haram. Mereka ke tempat-tempat tarikan belia dan gerai-gerai makan di serata Singapura. Saya menyertai mereka mendekati orang ramai - dari Bedok ke Arab Street, kita singgah di Bukit Batok, ke Jurong, dan terus ke Woodlands, dan banyak lagi tempat untuk menyebarkan kesedaran tentang najis dadah. Sesungguhnya ini adalah satu usaha masyarakat - satu usaha 'dari belia untuk belia' - satu usaha yang amat murni. Saya tabik kesediaan mereka. Antara penunggang itu ialah Encik Ramle Ismail dan juga Encik Azri Zulfarhan Kamsin, seorang pensyarah ITE berusia 30 tahun. Mereka mengerahkan rangkaian kumpulan motosikal untuk menjalankan usaha ini, mendekati belia setiap bulan, dengan ke pusat-pusat tarikan belia dan tempat-tempat makan.
20. Selain mereka, sekumpulan mahasiswa Melayu/Islam diketuai oleh Persatuan Bahasa Melayu NUS juga masuk sekaki untuk membantu usaha-usaha anti-dadah. Semua ini perkembangan yang sangat baik.
21. Ini ikrar kami: Kami akan terus menyokong kuat usaha masyarakat dalam kempen Dadah Itu Haram. Kami akan terus bekerjasama rapat dengan pertubuhan Melayu/Islam seperti Pergas, Jamiyah, Pertapis, Angkatan Karyawan Islam (AMP), Muhammadiyah dan Persatuan Pemudi Islam Singapura demi memperkukuhkan usaha membebaskan masyarakat kita daripada dadah terlarang. Kami sangat berazam untuk memastikan anak-anak yang kita sayangi terpelihara daripada najis dadah. Kami impikan sebuah masyarakat Melayu yang bebas daripada dadah yang haram yang menjahanamkan anak-anak bangsa kita. Saya yakin, dengan kita terus saling bahu-membahu, kita pasti mencapainya.
Supporting the Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Offenders
22. Let me now turn to the second area of focus - supporting the rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders.
23. Mr Christopher de Souza asked if MHA can consider quashing criminal records for drug offenders who stay free from drugs for three to four years, to facilitate their reintegration into society. Today, drug offenders who are placed on diversionary programmes such as the Community Rehabilitation Centre and Drug Rehabilitation Centre will not receive criminal records. We will consider how else we can support the reintegration of drug offenders.
24. Mr Louis Ng spoke about the importance of programmes in prison, and family and social support. He asked if the Singapore Prison Service, or SPS, will be extending family programmes to more inmates.
25. SPS works with community partners like Focus on the Family, The Salvation Army and Singapore Children's Society to conduct bonding programmes for inmates and their families. We have structured family programmes run by agencies such as Fei Yue Community Services and Lakeside Family Services to strengthen family relationships. More than 4,000 inmates benefitted from these last year. SPS aims to extend family programmes to more inmates.
26. Another factor that can reduce re-offending is social support. SPS has established a Befriending Programme for trained volunteers to befriend inmates and support them upon release. Since 2010, over 900 inmates have benefitted from this programme.
27. Mr Louis Ng asked if SPS would consider having more programmes featuring ex-offenders. We agree that sharing by ex-offenders can be very impactful. SPS collaborates with community partners to engage ex-offenders to give monthly motivational talks. In addition to face-to-face talks, the talks are also uploaded on shared tablets which are being piloted for inmates to engage in self-learning.
28. Employment is another key in breaking the offending cycle. Mr Gan Thiam Poh and Mr Edwin Tong asked for an update on plans to enhance the employability of ex-offenders.
29. The Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises, or SCORE, provides skills training, job placement, job coaching and job retention support to help ex-offenders reintegrate into the workforce. Over 5,500 employers have supported SCORE. With their support, 97% of inmates (2,143 out of 2,201) who were referred to SCORE last year secured a job before their release.
30. This year, SCORE will be launching several initiatives to enhance the employability of inmates. Firstly, SCORE will introduce a job profiling tool to assess and coach inmates more effectively. Secondly, SCORE will extend job retention support from six to 12 months. In other words, inmates can have a job coach for a year after their release. Thirdly, SCORE will offer WSQ Advanced Training under the WSQ Culinary Skills framework. This will equip inmates with vocational skills in demand by potential F&B employers. We will explore having WSQ Advanced Training in other sectors.
31. Mr Chairman, supporting offenders in their rehabilitation journey is not easy. For some, it takes more than one attempt. We are with them each step of the way.
32. I first met Lina after her release from prison in 2016. She had found a new job through SCORE and I thought she was coping well. A few months later, I met her again when I visited our Prison School for a National Youth Achievement Award Ceremony. Lina had gone back to drugs. She saw me and said, "I'm sorry, I have let you down". I said to her, "We have not given up on you."
33. And that, Mr Chairman, is also what our officers do. We do not give up. We are tough on drugs and crime, but we also believe very strongly in rehabilitating and reintegrating inmates. Our Prison School, has at its entrance, a lighthouse mural. This symbolises our efforts to shine light towards a bright path, a path that leads away from the darkness of drugs, a path that guides those who have strayed to a fulfilling life, towards a brighter future.
34. Keeping Singapore safe and secure is a whole-of-Singapore effort. From our Home Team officers, to our community partners, to our volunteers, to our citizens, each of us plays an important part in making Singapore our Safe and Secure Home.
35. Thank you.
English Translation of Malay Speech
16. The good news is this - We have strong support from the Malay/Muslim community in our various efforts to fight the drugs scourge. Last April, six Malay/Muslim organisations led by Pergas, launched the Dadah itu Haram (Drugs are Forbidden) campaign. This is a ground-up, community-led initiative to spread the Islamic prohibition on drugs.
17. More than 250 shops support this initiative. This includes 50 barber shops with a reach to over 10,000 customers each week. The barbers are helping to spread anti-drug messages by displaying Dadah itu Haram stickers at their shop entrances and mirrors.
18. The outcome has been encouraging. Last month, when I went for a haircut at Woodlands North Plaza, my barber asked me for more Dadah itu Haram campaign stickers. I asked him why. He said many of his customers saw the stickers in his shop and wanted some for themselves. This is good progress.
19. Close to 200 motorcycle riders have also mobilised their networks to spread the Dadah itu Haram message at youth hangouts and eateries around Singapore. I joined them in reaching out to people - from Bedok to Arab Street, to Bukit Batok, to Jurong, then Woodlands, and many more places to spread awareness about the harms of drugs. This is a true community effort- an effort by youths for youths, a truly noble initiative. I salute their willingness to help out. One of these riders is Mr Ramle Ismail and Mr Azri Zulfarhan Kamsin, a 30-year old ITE lecturer. They mobilised the motorcycle riders network to reach out to youths every month, by going to youth hangouts and eateries.
20. Apart from them, a group of Malay/Muslim undergraduates led by the NUS Malay Language Society also chipped in to help out in our anti-drug efforts. These are very good developments.
21. This is our pledge: We will continue to strongly support the community’s efforts in the Dadah itu Haram campaign. We will also continue to work closely with Malay/Muslim organisations such as Pergas, Jamiyah, Pertapis, the Association of Muslim Professionals (AMP), Muhammadiyah, and the Singapore Muslim Women’s Association to enhance efforts to free our community from drugs. We are committed to ensure that our children whom we love, are protected from the drug menace. We envision a Malay community that is free from drugs that destroy our children. I am confident that if we keep working hand-in-hand, we will definitely achieve this.