Appreciation Lunch for 'Dadah Itu Haram' Campaign Volunteers - Speech by Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law

Published: 17 January 2018

1.     First of all, I would like to thank all of you for coming here today, accepting our invitation. It is a full house, so that makes me feel extremely happy.


2.     Why are we doing this? I asked Amrin to look to see how we can go deeper into this issue. What do I mean? Overall, the number of people we are arresting and picking up, is coming down. But we still have a problem. We have a problem in all three communities - Chinese, Malay, Indian. The problem for the Malay-Muslim community and the Indian-Muslim community is a little bit more serious relative to the others. What do I mean? Proportionately, Malay-Muslims make up 15 per cent of Singapore's population. Indian-Muslims form a very, very small percentage of the Indian community, but half of the Indians being arrested are Indian-Muslims, and half of the total being arrested are Muslims, which is not a good number. We should not have those numbers.


3.     That problem we must tackle. Because to me, every life that goes into drugs is a life wasted. With opportunities in Singapore, 90 per cent of our students today who start from Primary 1, go and do something that is tertiary. They go to ITE, polytechnic or university - 90 per cent. The opportunities are there. Once you go into ITE, with technical skills, you get a good salary. You will get your house. You will get married and have children. And you can be happy. We need to save every life. Everyone that goes into the DRC or prison, that life is wasted.


4.     But we have to also look at second chances. When they come out, there are two possible pathways. One, the people waiting at the gates are their friends who got them into trouble. After a week or two, they get back into trouble because their family and the community reject them, and they cannot get a job. What do you expect them to do?


5.     The other alternative is - we are giving helping hands. The community, the mosques and the Government, come in to provide social support, help them rehabilitate, find them jobs, give them psychological assistance. If you give that, there is hope. Not everybody will be saved because some will go back to their old ways, but at least we can save some. So it is very, very important to give them the confidence and the self-belief. At the first level, in terms of education, making sure that they do not get into this, and at the second level, if they get into it, at least help them when they come out. To me, this is a key priority in the Ministry.


6.     Our problem is made worse because internationally, many countries are now becoming soft on drugs. The pharmaceutical companies have a lot of money and they can make money by legalising drugs, so they are pushing it. So if you go to some parts of the US, they have cannabis cafes, you can buy cannabis cake, you can buy drinks laced with drugs. They say this is good and it is not bad for you. But research after research shows that it affects your brain structure. In the end, it impacts on you.


7.     One of the marks of the success in the last two years in our intense focus is the number of people who have turned up here - people from not just the community organisations, not just the presidents of organisations, but also hairdressers, chefs, people who run restaurants - ground people who are meeting our kids every day, who are meeting the Muslim community every day.


8.     What are we hoping to do? A few simple things. We find that the people who are impacted by drugs - first of all, if the Government keeps telling them that drugs are bad, people just listen and go on. But if the mosques start spreading the message - "dadah itu haram", if the community leaders start spreading the message, if the message is there when they go for hairdressing, if the message is there when they go to a restaurant, then there is impact. Young people believe other young people, so we need to spread the message amongst young people.


9.     Second, for those who unfortunately get into the habit and they get arrested and they come out - every community, particularly the people from jail, prefer help from their own community. The Indian ex-convicts prefer to go to an Indian organisation, the Chinese ex-convicts prefer to go to a Chinese organisation, and the Malay ex-convicts, obviously, also prefer to be supported by, and are more frank when they talk to Malay community organisations.


10.     So, we need to become their friends and I need more Malay community organisations to come forward. Many have come forward, but we need many more. We do not have enough. The other thing they tell us is that - they have tattoos, they feel they have done something wrong, they are outside of the society - when they go to the mosques, some mosques are welcoming, but some are not so welcoming. So we need the mosques to reach out to them and embrace them, and give them the right path. It is consistent with the beliefs of Islam, to tell them this is wrong, and that we will support you and we will help you and give you a second chance. It is consistent with the beliefs of every religion that I know. So we need mosques to come in. Some have come in.


11.     I want to thank many organisations. Pergas is now working actively with us. AMP has become the first major organisation to sign up with us and work with us. I thank AMP for that. It is a very brave step because it requires a lot of effort. I have said, "We will walk with you as partners and we want this to succeed". We want more organisations to come forward and work with us. They are serious, I am serious. Every one of you have to look at these children as your children, our children. Why would you want them to go and do drugs? What will happen to their family when they get married? Look at their kids - two year olds, three year olds. You see the number of cases in the newspapers - three, four, five-year olds killed. When you look at their cases, it is usually the father or stepfather who are on drugs. These are lives wasted. We should not allow this.


12.     So I am very glad that you have come forward. It is not easy for my Ministry either, because these are not the kind of engagements and relationships that the Ministry of Home Affairs engages in, because we are an enforcement agency. I am asking them also to look at it in a different way - if we can help in the rehabilitation, if we can work with the Malay-Muslim community, if we can work with the Chinese community, if we can work with the Indian community, if we can prevent them from getting into trouble in the first place. It saves the State a lot of resources and it helps the community and the individual a lot. That is what Government is all about.


13.     So we should do it. We are putting in resources. We will put in more resources. We will put in people. But if we went and talked to these kids, they will not listen to us. We need you. And we need you to spread the message because we cannot be everywhere. They come in for hairdressing. They come in for a meal. They come in and meet with you. They come to the mosques. We need you to talk to them. It is a very, very important message.


14.     We have succeeded. Singapore is uniquely amongst countries in the world that have so far succeeded in the fight against drugs. You don't believe me, you just have to go across the Causeway to see what is happening. It is bad. You go south, you see what is happening. You go to Thailand, you see what is happening. You go to Myanmar, you see what is happening. We are safe. We are unique.


15.     Drugs affect all races, all classes. You see in the US - the number of homicides, the number of killings, the number of rapes and crimes - it affects everyone. But we have to keep Singapore safe. So, please help us. That is my main message.


16.     I want to thank every one of you for participating in this, and I want you to spread the message. I will ask you to step forward even more. The mosques, the community organisations, and also the businesses and people on the ground, as many volunteers as you can find. We will then work with you, train you and help the ex-offenders.


17.     Thank you very much.