Published: 28 January 2023
Happy New Year! I would like to acknowledge:
Director of the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) Mr Sam Tee;
National Council Against Drug Abuse (NCADA) Chairman Mr Hawazi Daipi,
Members of the NCADA Council;
Volunteers and partners.
1. A warm welcome as well to our friends from Hong Kong joining us today, we have here with us Assistant Commissioner of Police, Head of Crime Wing Mdm Eve Chung; Chief Superintendent of Narcotics Bureau, Hong Kong Police Force Mdm Ng Wing-sze; and the officers and student volunteers from the Hong Kong Narcotics Bureau’s Leadership Institute on Narcotics.
2. Welcome to the Appreciation Lunch for A3 Network Volunteers and Partners.
3. It has been four years since we last gathered physically for this event. I am glad to see many familiar faces, and I am pleased to see that many of you have continued to support and advocate for the drug-free cause even during the pandemic. We did not rest during the pandemic. We worked very hard because we know the syndicates, drug dealers and those who try to harm our people were not resting. So, we worked hard to protect our people.
Current Outlook and Challenges
4. The global and regional drug situation continues to pose challenges for Singapore.
5. The global drug situation remains a concern. In 2021 alone, there were half a million deaths linked to drug abuse globally. The 2022 World Drug Report stated that in 2020, 284 million people worldwide had consumed drugs in the previous 12 months. This corresponds to about 1 in 18 persons, or 5.6% of the world population. This was a 26% increase from the figure in 2010. There is a trend in a number of countries of adopting more liberal attitudes towards drugs, which has subsequently led to the relaxing of policies against drugs.
6. The Golden Triangle in our region is a major global drug supply source. As a key transport and transhipment hub in Asia, drug syndicates may use Singapore as a transit point. A record of over one billion methamphetamine tablets were seized in East and Southeast Asia in 2021. In total, nearly 172 tonnes of methamphetamine were seized in the region in 2021.
7. The abundance of meth in the region has had a direct impact on the drug consumption situation in Singapore. Meth continues to be the most commonly abused drug in Singapore - nearly 60% of all arrested drug abusers in 2021 abused meth.
8. Domestically, we continue to see cases of teenagers getting involved in drugs, not only in consumption, but also in their sale and distribution. In October last year, five teenagers were arrested for the suspected trafficking of cannabis. Three of them were 14 years old, the other two were 16. One month later, CNB officers conducted an operation and arrested 96 suspected drug offenders in total, including a 14-year-old and a 17-year-old who were found in possession of cannabis and drug utensils. Earlier this month, CNB arrested a teenager aged 17 and his brother for suspected drug activities conducted on the encrypted messaging app, Telegram.
9. CNB has also detected shifts in drug trafficking patterns over the COVID-19 pandemic. Drug syndicates have shown an increased willingness to deal in large quantities of drugs in a single movement. This includes a seizure of 18kg of heroin in May last year, and another seizure of 13kg of drugs in September last year. This shows that drug syndicates are ever eager to supply drugs to Singapore. They are continuously innovating and thinking of how to circumvent the law, bringing ruin to lives and families for their own profit.
10. These challenges reinforce the need for us as a community to remain vigilant, and not become complacent about Singapore’s drug situation.
Preventive Drug Education and Advocacy Efforts
11. One important channel for garnering community support is through the Anti-Drug Abuse Advocacy Network, or A3 Network, managed by NCADA and CNB. The A3 Network started with about 20 advocates in 2016. Today, there are almost 800 of you who identify with, support and promote the drug-free cause. I want to sincerely thank you for heeding the call to volunteer with us. Thank you very much.
12. Each of you play an important role in promoting the drug-free cause. Many of you have lent your voice to carry the anti-drug message within your own spheres of influence. A number of you have also organised ground-up activities within the community. I would like to highlight the good work of some of our advocates who, amongst many, have made outstanding contributions to support the drug-free SG cause.
13. Mr Aaron Chew has been an Adult Advocate with the A3 Network since 2019. Aaron first fell into drugs in the 1970s, developing a heroin addiction at the young age of 15. He spent the next 11 years in and out of prison and the detention barracks, and spent the next few decades trying to overcome his addiction.
14. Today, Aaron works at the Economic Development Board. Aaron is committed not only to keeping himself drug-free, but also to sharing his story with others, in the hope of deterring others from falling for the allure of drugs. In November last year, NCADA worked with Aaron and RICE Media to publish his story, “My Full-Time Job is Overcoming Drug Addiction” as part of NCADA’s ongoing What’s Your Fix? campaign.
15. Mr Dervin Lua is one of our Youth Anti-Drug Advocates. Dervin has been very active in promoting the anti-drug message among his peers in his polytechnic, by organising relevant initiatives for his CCA mates from the Rotaract Club. Dervin has even encouraged them to volunteer as fellow youth advocates. Last year, Dervin and I appeared in a video together as part of the annual Anti-Drug Abuse Campaign. Later this year, Dervin will be representing Singapore’s youths at a Youth Forum organised by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. I am sure you will do us proud, Dervin. Thank you Dervin.
United Against Drugs Coalition (UADC)
16. Apart from the A3 Network, our advocacy work is also supported by the United Against Drugs Coalition, UADC. The UADC was started in 2007, and rallies support for the anti-drug cause from partner organisations like the Institutes of Higher Learning, community groups, public agencies and private organisations.
17. The UADC galvanises organisations to make a concerted pledge of support to keep Singapore drug-free. The UADC aims to create a multiplier effect, by tapping on partners’ network to cascade our messages and rally support from the community.
18. In 2022, two of our UADC partners, Inc Equality Ventures and the Prison Fellowship Singapore, collaborated to launch a programme called ‘Our Listening Ear’, to equip ex-drug abusers with active listening skills derived from coaching methodologies. This programme aims to train ex-abusers to provide better support to their loved ones and other former abusers, reducing their risk of turning to drugs in difficult times.
19. Twenty ex-abusers have been trained so far, as coaches-in-training. They have already clocked over 200 hours in coaching sessions with other former abusers, family, and friends.
20. This initiative represents our hopes for the UADC, where partners from different sectors come together to collaborate and find meaningful ways to contribute to a Singapore which is safe from the harms of drugs.
Future of Volunteering and Partnership
21. With new challenges ahead of us, we must consider the next step to strengthen the anti-drug cause. We will have to look into creative means of getting the message across through the use of social media platforms, and facilitating conversations, especially with youths.
22. One such example is NCADA’s “What’s Your Fix?” Media Campaign, held on TikTok. The campaign aims to spark meaningful conversations on the lived realities of drugs, and raise awareness on how members of society - especially our youths - can be advocates for the anti-drug vision and support those who may be vulnerable to the influence of drugs. NCADA’s media campaign partner, Viddsee, will be sharing more on this campaign in today’s programme.
23. Volunteers, advocates, and partners – each of you play an important role in the fight against drugs in Singapore. Your voice greatly supports CNB and NCADA to raise awareness of the harms of drugs, build resilience against the influence of drugs, and support those recovering from drug addiction.
24. As we press on in this mission of keeping Singapore drug-free, it is my hope that more organisations and individuals will come alongside as partners and advocates, so that our children can grow up in an environment safe from the perils of drugs.
25. I hope you enjoy the rest of today’s appreciation event. I sincerely want to thank you for all your effort and contributions in this area of work so that we can provide better lives for all you. Thank you.