Published: 09 November 2016
Mr Azmoon Ahmad: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs (a) with recent statistics showing an increase in Malay drug abusers, what actions have been taken by the Ministry to curtail this trend; (b) whether Singapore is on the right path in combating drug addiction; and (c) whether the core of the problem has been understood to arrive at the right solutions and action.
1. From 2010 to 2015, the total number of drug abusers arrested rose from 2,887 to 3,343.
2. Of concern is the number of Malay drug abusers arrested. This number increased from 1,376 in 2010 to 1,738 in 2015. The number of Indian drug abusers arrested has also gone up, from 403 in 2010 to 522 in 2015. Worryingly, of these 522 Indian drug abusers, 265 were Indian Muslims. They are disproportionately represented in this context. The number of Chinese abusers arrested was about 1,000 in both 2010 and 2015.
3. Drug abuse is a complex issue with multi-faceted challenges. It affects all communities, not just the Malay community but also Indian and Chinese communities. We need to work on multiple fronts, with multiple partners, in the fight against drugs, to strengthen prevention, enforcement and rehabilitation.
4. First, we need good preventive drug education efforts. The key focus has to be on our youths. We need to share the facts and evidence with them, so that they can better understand the harms of drug abuse, and make the right choices to lead a healthy and meaningful life free from drugs.
5. The Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) has stepped up engagement on various social media platforms to provide more frequent, bite-size information and messages on drugs.
6. We also work with parents and schools. They are important partners in our efforts to reach out more effectively to our youths. To help parents engage their children on the dangers of drugs, we have developed and distributed information brochures to parents of students in our schools.
7. We are also building an Anti-drug Abuse Advocacy Network in our communities. This Network comprises individuals who help to promote a drug-free lifestyle and society, through their own social circles. We support the Network by providing members with information on the harms of drugs, and organising events for knowledge sharing and networking opportunities. We hope to have more youths come forward to join us as an advocate, and help keep their peers away from drugs.
8. We work closely with our community partners to engage youths with our anti-drug messages. For example, CNB worked with MENDAKI and Majulah Community to provide an anti-drug talk to a group of student leaders, so that they could share what they learnt about drug abuse with their peers.
9. Second, we need rigorous enforcement to keep drugs away from our streets. CNB has enhanced its capabilities to tackle drug syndicates. The Organised Crime Act, which came into force in June this year, criminalises organised crime activities, such as the recruitment of members into drug syndicates. In particular, the Act introduces Preventive Orders, which can be issued by the Courts as a pre-emptive measure. The Orders will curtail the activities of drug syndicates and deprive them of their ill-gotten gains. This enables us to better detect, disrupt and dismantle drug syndicates.
10. We have stepped up collaboration with regional drug enforcement agencies to disrupt the operations of drug syndicates. In June 2016, CNB was able to arrest a drug syndicate leader due to intelligence from its Malaysian counterparts. The close cooperation between CNB and Narcotics Crime Investigation Department (NCID) disrupted the operations of the drug syndicate and its laboratory in Malaysia. More than 270 kg of methamphetamine were seized from the laboratory, which is 17 times greater than the total amount of methamphetamine seized in Singapore last year. This operation also stopped a potentially large supply of methamphetamine from entering Singapore.
11. Third, we need to better support drug abusers in their rehabilitation. Since 2014, we have introduced more intensive rehabilitation programmes in the Drug Rehabilitation Centre (DRC) for drug abusers with more severe drug addiction issues and higher risk of re-offending.
12. Earlier this year, we introduced a day release programme for low-risk drug abusers in the DRC, to facilitate their re-integration into society. Under this arrangement, drug abusers are allowed to work or study in the community during the day, and they will return to a community facility at night. They are subjected to supervision, such as regular urine tests.
13. A strong in-care programme is not sufficient. The rehabilitation journey after release is a crucial step. If the drug abusers do not have good family and peer support, they are more likely to relapse.
14. We work closely with the community to help ex-abusers. One example is the Community Befriender Project. The Project matches volunteers with inmates who have poor family or peer support. The volunteers visit the inmates, and offer them moral support. They continue to meet the inmates after their release, and help build a new social support network. Since 2010, about 600 inmates have benefitted from this Project.
15. The Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association (SANA) opened its Step-Up Centre in January 2015. This Centre serves as a one-stop centre for services, such as counselling and support groups, to support ex-drug abusers and their families in their reintegration journey. More than 600 ex-abusers have sought help from the Centre.
16. To conclude, drugs have a devastating impact on individuals, families and the society. This is why we have a zero-tolerance approach towards drugs.
17. The drug situation will remain challenging going forward. This is due to the regional and global drug supply situation. Our youths may also be affected by the increasing tolerant attitude towards drugs in some other parts of the world.
18. We must therefore not let up on our efforts to be a drug-free society. We will continue to improve our prevention, enforcement and rehabilitation efforts. The community and families have a critical role to keep our youths away from drugs, and to keep ex-abusers from returning to drugs.
19. However, ultimately, the individual must also want to change. Drug abusers must take charge of their rehabilitation journey and work with us to stay away from drugs.