Published: 09 March 2019
1. Good afternoon everyone. Thank you to every one of you for being here today.
Over-representation of Malay drug abusers
2. Let me start by giving you a perspective about the overall drug situation in Singapore now.
3. Last year, despite our best efforts, there was an 11 per cent increase in the number of drug abusers arrested last year. I made this point before – that there are 200 million people going through Singapore every year. We are very close to the Golden Triangle, heroin and drug production has increased tremendously, and this also from Afghanistan. It’s worth millions and millions of dollars. So we are facing an avalanche as it were. The capital production of new psychoactive substances is also a lucrative business. And with the countries in the region – Thailand, Malaysia talking about legalisation, it presents more of a challenge.
4. Specifically for the Malay community, there was a nine per cent increase in the number of Malay drug abusers arrested last year. The number of new Malay abusers arrested increased by 6 per cent.
5. Overall, 80 per cent of the persons in our prisons are there either because of drugs, or they had a drug conviction in the past but have now committed some other crime. So the moment you get into drugs, it plays a part and it takes you away. We feel that we have to use every possible angle – religion is very powerful, community support - to try and tell our young people there are better paths to life than going into drugs.
6. And we have been relatively successful. We have put in major legislation in the last few months also to change our own approach towards these first-time or second-time abusers, who don’t have any criminal convictions. Even if it is the third or fourth time, if they are stuck with drugs but are not doing anything else which is bad, we now focus on that as something where they need help. We try and get them - high risk, medium risk, low risk – and we give them differentiated counselling, assistance, treatment, and try to help them kick the habit, and also try and find them jobs when they come out. It is a whole support system through detention – some are later put on halfway houses and allowed to go back. Once they leave, community support and support by family - all of these things are very important.
7. Now I went into Home Affairs in 2015. I analysed it then. The community support system for drug abusers who are Chinese was very strong. The support system for drug abusers who are Malay was not as strong, in terms of the number of volunteers, the number of people involved. I think it was partly awareness, partly the agencies working with the community organisations and mosques - it was a bit weaker. And I asked Amrin to look at this, bring together the mosques which play a key role, and community organisations - to be able to do something and bring in more volunteers. We got MSF, MCCY, and my Ministry to try to do something.
8. Because we really have got to reach the next generation. When people get into drugs, their children suffer. We have to stop that. And community partners, they got to support them. We have to bring in the organisations, mosques, Muhammadiyah Welfare Home, Jamiyah, everybody to come in and we can do something. We will put the money in, at least some of the money, the community comes up with the volunteers. It is about awareness.
9. So, if we can prevent offending and re-offending, it saves lives, saves families and protects society. Dadah Itu Haram (DIH) was launched in April 2017 to take this approach. Without community support, it is very, very difficult for us to fight this fight. As of today, we have managed to get more than 300 community volunteers, and over 300 Malay-Muslim organisations and businesses have been reached out to, as partners in this project. More than 40 outreach events have been held at key community touchpoints - eateries during supper, at the mosques during Friday prayers, at jamming studios and motor vehicle companies. So we have to be thinking out of the box, rather than the traditional methods. SPS Amrin has played a very important role in this fight.
10. The campaign also launched four anti-drug videos by local Malay film producers in October last year. We have to reach the young people so we need to find people who can tell us how to reach them. The key messages in these videos are that the problems related to drug abuse not only affect the abuser, but also affect the children and family. We got to get that message across.
11. There are regular efforts on engaging the community. Every two weeks, biker groups would issue DIH brochures and decals at the mosques after Friday prayers. Many take leave to do this, and they even swap shifts to join in the outreach.
12. Mosques have also come on board in a big way to support the campaign. I should make special mention of Sultan Mosque for their continuous and active participation. They distributed porridge using the DIH plastic bags, joined the outreach to the nearby bazaar during the fasting month, and hosted the second Volunteer Engagement session with the barbers.
13. The rest of the community has also come forward to help spread the DIH message. These include The One Nation Anglers, TONA and Torpedo Caster which advocate the DIH message through Facebook; Creation SG which produces DIH T-shirt designs; and Paradigma which reaches out to the youths. Paradigma, a group of youth volunteers from NUS Persatuan Bahasa Melayu, has participated in several DIH events, and spread the anti-drug message to fellow youths at their own events and on social media. Messages delivered by young people to young people are much more effective. We really appreciate the efforts of the young people in coming forward.
14. Today, with all these efforts, close to 100,000 members of the community have been reached out to. So the awareness has increased. Expansion of the DIH campaign is a good initiative, and I hope to see more.
15. Sharing the “Dadah itu Haram” message is not always easy. Some of the barbers have told us that when they try to share the message with their customers, they were rejected. Business could be lost. But this message is extremely important. It can change not just the lives of a few people, but also the entire family and generations. This is a long-term struggle, it is a long-term fight. The work will be challenging.This will be especially so when countries start legalising cannabis.So, we have to stand firm.
16. The damage, the danger, the problems are too serious – so many people being killed. People don’t understand this. The level of homicide in Singapore is very low – because we are so tough on drugs. Otherwise, crime, rapes, robberies, killings and children suffering, Some other parents kill their own children – it happens frequently. You’ve seen the videos from the US. It is very, very damaging. And we have got to continue to get the message across.
17. I would like to personally thank each and every one of you. SPS Amrin for his efforts, as well as Saherly and the Dadah Itu Haram team from CNB, Aaron Aziz and Sufi Rashid for coming on board to inspire the community. And major organisations - MUIS, PERGAS and Muhammadiyah Welfare Home for the tireless efforts on the ground, Goodwheelz Bikers, Barber Giman Khairoman and NUS Paradigma for their strong support of the campaign and showing up at almost every DIH event and outreach.I am not able to name all of you but you know that you are in our hearts. I hope you can continue the good work.
18. But before I end, I want to share one other message. Something that has been in the news of late – not directly related to the community but something that I think is important and which the members of community should understand and discuss openly. I think in the last few days some of you would have read the news about this rock band that was banned from performing – Watain. Now I don’t know anything about bands – and particularly when you say “black metal”, I don’t know what that even means. So it is a different language. But I saw the lyrics – it’s four-letter words on Jesus Christ, on Christianity, on religion, abusing the cross – everything that is so far out that I can’t see how we could have agreed to it.
19. The Christian preachers, when they talk to me, say “you are very, very strict when it comes to anti-Muslim, anti-Islamic messages. For example, the Danish cartoon, you won’t allow in Singapore.” “Satanic Verses” - it is a book, people would say that it is a literature book, it’s got some verses in it - we banned it in Singapore. They said what these people are saying is far worse, it is a hundred times worse about Christianity – how come you would allow that? So when the Christians come to complain to you about how you could allow all these things? So they said you treat the Muslim community differently than the Christian community. I looked at it and I thought that there is some truth to what they say, I won’t say that it is completely true but it is an approach. I mean many of these bands come from Christian countries and so their societies are different. We ban this but that doesn’t mean we ban every single one that talks about Christianity.
20. But why am I talking about them here? A photo went viral on the Internet. The photo has got mainly young Malay men showing the one-finger sign with Watain – it was a post by the Watain band, criticising the Singapore Government, telling us to “go fly kite”. The picture is of primarily Malay young men – I think they went to the concert, got angry, they are all showing the one-finger sign. In a multi-racial society, they don’t understand that the concert is anti-Christian, it criticises Jesus and Christianity and churches and they talk about burning churches and so on. You have a group of Malay young men, showing the one-finger sign, supporting the group. Next time you will have the Christians doing the same thing.
21. I think we have to educate our young people about the importance of this, that you treat others the same way that you are expected to be treated. If we had a concert like this about Islam, there is no way we would have allowed it. If a group of Chinese went and showed the finger sign and said that we should allow it – how would you all have felt? It is the same.
22. This part was not in my script but I thought I should share with you because this sort of awareness is important. If you haven’t seen the photograph, you should go and get it. It is going viral across the Christian community. They won’t realise that this a small group of Malays, but they may think is this what Muslims think of us? So now we have to send the message that this is not what the Muslim community thinks. These are black metal group supporters, they are not the mainstream community.
23. But anyway, thank you very much for being here and for supporting us.