Published: 25 April 2016
Mr Ng Ser Song, Director, CNB
Ladies and Gentlemen
1. I am pleased to join you this morning at the CNB Workplan Seminar 2016.
2. CNB continues to do well in keeping Singapore safe from drugs. The number of drug abusers arrested last year was about 3,300. This is less than 0.1% of the resident population in Singapore.
3. However, the global drug situation remains challenging, and this in turn affects Singapore. We have observed certain local trends that are of concern, such as the online distribution of drugs, the threat of new psychoactive substances or NPS, and the increasingly casual attitudes of our youths regarding drug abuse. Hence, it is important for CNB to continue its efforts in 3 areas – engage, educate and enforce – to attain its vision of a Singapore without drugs.
4. First, engage. CNB must continue to engage our local and regional partners and beyond that, at the international level to make Singapore's voice heard at international platforms. This is crucial as many countries are shifting their positions and approaches in handling the drug problem.
5. For example,
a. Some countries are considering decriminalising drug use, or legalising cannabis.
b. Some have advocated for the adoption of harm reduction approaches, such as needle exchange or opiate substitution.
c. Others have framed the drug problem as purely a public health or medical issue.
6. Last week, Minister Shanmugam delivered a statement at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem, or UNGASS. This is an important platform for the international community to discuss the future of global drug policy. I will highlight the key points he made:
a. First, drugs are a serious threat to societies and to Governments who want to build a better life for their people.
b. Second, the drug abuse situation in Singapore is under control. We have adopted a comprehensive and sustained approach to tackling both drug supply and demand.
c. Third, Minister explained that decriminalisation, legalisation and the harm reduction approach does not work in Singapore as:
I. Our focus is on building a drug-free Singapore, not a drug-tolerant one.
II. Harm reduction programmes do not fundamentally recognise that drug abuse impairs the individual's cognitive ability. In addition, we have little to no HIV infections from injecting drug users.
III. Instead, Singapore adopts a demand reduction approach. This is the best way to keep our families and children safe from drugs.
7. ASEAN member states also delivered a joint statement at UNGASS, to reaffirm our collective commitment to a comprehensive approach in both demand and supply reduction efforts in realising the regional vision of a Drug-Free ASEAN.
8. UNGASS 2016 culminated in the adoption of an outcome document where member states remain committed to the goals and objectives set out in the international drug control conventions. This is a good outcome as the conventions stand firm against calls for decriminalisation and legalisation of drugs. I would like to commend CNB for their hard work, working in close collaboration with MHQ and MFA, in the negotiation of the outcome document.
9. Singapore, together with our ASEAN counterparts, must continue to put forward our views and actively shape the new global drug strategy in 2019. Singapore will host the 5th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Drug Matters later this year, in October. This will be a key platform to rally ASEAN member states for a common position towards 2019.
10. Second, educate. Preventive Drug Education (PDE) remains our first line of defence. Our work to educate youths to say 'no' to drugs is made more urgent with the increase in new, young drug abusers arrested in Singapore. Our survey and research studies have also shown a significant proportion of older youths thinking that "it is ok to try drugs".
11. CNB has been working with post-secondary institutions, MOE and MINDEF to strengthen our PDE efforts and outreach. CNB has also developed PDE toolkits and information brochures to support parents and educators in guiding youths to stay away from drugs. The information brochures for parents will be launched in June, and distributed to parents of all secondary and post-secondary students.
12. Apart from parents and educators, we must also enable the community and other agencies to play a bigger part in PDE. The Health Promotion Board (HPB) is one such partner. I am pleased to launch the revamped Addiction Alley at the HPB Healthzone today [new initiative]. CNB has worked with HPB to revamp the Addiction Alley by refreshing and updating the exhibits.Through the interactive exhibits, we hope youths can learn about the addictiveness and harmful effects of drugs.We must also encourage parents and educators to visit this exhibition, as it showcases many interesting facts that they can use to initiate conversations with youths.
13. To deal with the youth drug problem, the Ministry has set up a Committee Against Youth Drug Abuse, which I chair. This is an inter-agency committee, which comprises young people and representatives from MHA, CNB, HPB, Institute of Mental Health and post-secondary institutions. The Committee will explore new methods to engage youths, such as through online platforms, youth-led participatory action, or enlisting anti-drug ambassadors that youths can relate to. We will also conduct research studies and literature reviews to inform us on how best to tackle youth drug issues.
14. Third, enforce. We must continue with our enforcement efforts to tackle both drug supply and demand. For instance, to tackle youth drug abuse, CNB has committed more resources in investigating youth abuse cases. Suspected youth drug abusers are quickly brought in for investigation so that CNB can:
a. First, assess their risks and needs to provide the most appropriate interventions;
b. Second, prevent them from influencing their peers to abuse drugs; and
c. Third, follow up on leads involving drug suppliers of these youths so that CNB can take them out swiftly.
15. We have also enhanced our laws to give CNB more levers to deal with the emerging threat of NPS. In May 2013, the Fifth Schedule of the Misuse of Drugs Act was enacted to allow CNB to control the proliferation of NPS. NPS can be temporarily listed in the Fifth Schedule for up to 12 months, with a possibility of extension for another 12 months. This allows CNB to seize these substances so that circulation is restricted while research and industry consultation are conducted. Subsequently, if there are no licit industrial or medical uses, the NPS will be re-classified as Class A controlled drugs. Given the speed at which new variations of NPS are emerging, we need to closely monitor global developments, review our laws and enhance our detection capabilities for NPS.
16. To deal more decisively against drug trafficking syndicates, many of which operate across national borders, CNB will soon have additional powers under a new law. The Organised Crime Act (OCA) was passed in Parliament last year and will soon come into force. The OCA will give CNB more powers such as Organised Crime Prevention Orders, Financial Reporting Orders and Civil Confiscation Orders to disrupt and dismantle transnational drug trafficking syndicates.
17. In conclusion, I want to acknowledge the hard work of our CNB officers. The work that you do has made Singapore a safer home, towards our goal of a drug-free nation. I urge you to continue to uphold your values of professionalism, integrity, dedication and courage in all that you do.
18. I wish all of you a fruitful workplan seminar. Thank you.