Published: 20 June 2021
1. I’d like to acknowledge the presence of Ustaz Mohamad Hasbi bin Hassan, President of PERGAS, Mr Esa Masood, Chief Executive of Muis, as well as fellow distinguished guests including Ustaz Muhammad Yusri Yubhi, CEO of PERGAS, Ustaz Dr Qusairy Bin Thaha, Acting CEO of PERGAS, Mr Kadir Maideen, Deputy Chief Executive of Muis, Mr Terence Goh, Deputy Commissioner of the Singapore Prison Service, and ladies and gentlemen.
2. I want to thank all of you for giving well wishes to our friends who have completed the Insan Mukmin programme. I saw some of the messages. It is very heartening.
3. To me, the Insan Mukmin programme has been a meaningful one. When I looked through the syllabus and the materials, I enjoyed the session. One of the sessions I attended was with Ustaz Hasbi. So, it was not only our friends who learned from Ustaz Hasbi, I also got to do so.
4. Ustaz Hasbi gave a very inspiring, I would say, not only speech, but he spoke from his heart. Very sincere, and it travelled deep into the hearts of our friends, together with me. And I could see how our friends, including me, were inspired, and how they responded to the speech by Ustaz Hasbi. I am very fortunate to have been able to be there, and at the same time, to be able to join the session and learn from him.
5. In fact, if you look at some of the snippets of the video earlier, and also when I went through the syllabus and curriculum, there are very important and also good aspects and diversity in engagements. It is a reflection of what we can provide for our friends, and also how we are able to help them in their rehabilitation.
Words of Encouragement
6. The eight-month programme started in October 2020. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and you have not only taken one step – you’ve taken many steps. We are very proud that you have taken the steps in going through and completing the programme. I saw how you thought, you engaged, you reflected. And I saw some of you really want to make the improvements and really want to go through the rehabilitation and reintegration process. That is something I am very proud of. I want you to continue doing this and having this spirit.
7. To be honest, the rehabilitation journey is not easy. You know it yourself, and you might have also heard from your friends. But you can do it, with hard work, determination, and perseverance. These are what you need. The knowledge and religious guidance gained from this programme will help you after your release.
8. Put into practice what you have learned and continue to be in touch with the asatizah for guidance. This is very important. One of the advice, or what Ustaz Hasbi said on that day, was that he wants you to be in touch with the asatizah. And some of you can’t wait to see him out there. So, I hope that you continue keeping in touch with the asatizah, because that, to me, is very important. And I pray that you have a chance to get the opportunity to meet Ustaz Hasbi and learn from him, get inspiration and blessings from the engagement, and put it into practice. That is important.
9. There will be uncertainties and challenges ahead. There will be trigger points that you will come across. But remember, you have taken the steps. You have made the effort, you have met people who want you to change, and you have met people who have invested their time and who want you to change. And remember, your family also wants you to change.
10. So, what is important is to never give up in the face of the challenges and do your best to overcome them. Sometimes, you cannot do it alone, so do not be afraid to approach your family or our befrienders for help.
11. I just want to share a story with you. I met “Rahim” (not his real name) recently, who is a recovering addict. He has stayed clean for more than five years and is now volunteering his time to reach out to youths to stay away from drugs.
12. He said while there are many triggers every day that could tempt him back to drugs, he has turned to family and religion as his motivation to stay clean. Rahim, is very clear in what he is doing. He has turned to his family and religion. And, in essence, he has benefitted from the religious programme in prisons which brought him closer to the religion; and strengthened his relationship with his family, particularly his father, upon his release.
13. And I hope you will take lessons from Insan Mukmin to give you the motivation and guidance to continue your rehabilitation journey. I also hope I will get to share your success stories in years to come.
Key Role of Community Partners in Supporting Offenders’ Rehabilitation and Reintegration
14. Just recently, I received an email from someone whom I met when I visited a halfway house. This person wrote to me and said that she is very, very appreciative of what we are doing in the community, and in Singapore society. Now that she’s out, she wants to return what the community has done. She wants to really help to steer more and more people away from offending, and she wants to help her fellow friends in their rehabilitation journeys. Because she knows that we need this support and appreciates everyone. And for her, she has gone through it, and she feels that it is important for her to provide that guidance.
15. She wants to stay with pro-social groups. She wants to be close to religious teachers, the asatizah. She wants to be close to people who provide positive vibes, positive attitudes, positive inclinations and positive activities, so that she will be able to manage the trigger points that she will face every day. And everywhere she goes, she looks at the staircase, she looks at the toilet, all these she says are trigger points. But what keeps her strong – what she learned in prison, what she learned at the halfway house and the people she mixes with, and that is key.
16. So, I want to urge you to continue to keep in touch with the asatizah, have strong bonds with your family. If maybe your family is affected and not ready for you and need some time, turn to others – others who will bring positive elements. And asatizah are one of the groups that not only have come forward but have done wonderful work – all the way from Ustaz Hasbi, to all the members of PERGAS. So, these are people we can trust, people who will guide you. I want to urge you, while you may have other things in life, but PERGAS as well as all the asatizah will be able to help you. That is something that is important.
17. I also realise that, over time, we have been working very closely as a community. For this programme, I am happy that we have worked very well together. Muis and PERGAS have been valuable partners in our efforts to prevent offending and re-offending. We are grateful for their continuous support and hope to continue the strong relationship.
18. As I shared earlier, particularly for PERGAS, the Insan Mukmin programme is an excellent example of the commitment by PERGAS in producing the programme and training the asatizah to conduct it. This ensures the high standards of delivery of the programme, which is important. You can have many programmes, but without quality control, without the high standards – I saw the curriculum which Ustaz gave me a copy, and I went through it. It is of high standards. The delivery is also of very high standards. My hope is for PERGAS to continue to play a key role in the production and delivery of the throughcare religious programme for our friends in prison. Because nothing beats experiencing it, looking at it, and talking to the inmates.
19. You know that I’ve visited the prisons many times since I joined the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). Lately, I have not gone because of the COVID-19 situation. But, I’ll be back when things are better, because I want to engage, I want to help, I want to play my part so that I can connect others with your friends who are still in there, so that they too can have a better life. While they go through their rehabilitation journey, they will also get the best support available, in addition to their family.
20. Muis has also been very supportive. Apart from setting up the FITRAH office to provide structured religious programmes, Muis has also provided the use of a classroom at Istighfar Mosque to run the third phase of the Insan Mukmin programme.
21. This is very important. If we stop the programme just at Prisons, when they come out, there is no connection remaining. Having the use of a classroom at Istighfar Mosque, I think this is fantastic. It connects another part of the journey, and this has allowed participants to attend Insan Mukmin in a conducive learning environment and allow ex-offenders to continue in this programme after release. To me, this is very important, and I thank Muis for giving the ever-strong support.
Emphasis on the Strong Collaborations
22. So, we see strong collaborations among MHA, Prisons, PERGAS and Muis in running the Insan Mukmin programme and providing continuous support to the participants. This is a good example for the community; on how coming together can provide holistic support to the offenders and their families.
23. I hope to see more of such collaborations, particularly among the Malay/Muslim organisations in preventing offending and re-offending. By coming together and sharing our resources, we can certainly amplify the support for offenders, ex-offenders and their families.
24. Despite the COVID-19 situation, support for offenders and their families must continue. Making a difference to their lives takes a collective effort. We are grateful to have community partners such as Muis, PERGAS and dedicated volunteers playing a key role in these efforts.
25. I want to congratulate the participants on their graduation. It is a milestone. This milestone is made up of many steps, and I want you to continue with them. Don’t stop. On top of having all these programmes, I want you to have a plan, have a schedule – what will your morning be, what will your afternoon be, what will your night be – and follow it as closely as possible. In this way, you can focus. At times, you may not follow 100 per cent of your schedule, but, never mind, go back to it again, try. Keep trying and trying every time. I pray for your that you will be able to have a focused journey out here and be able to be reintegrated into the community.
26. So, congratulations to participants on the graduation, and I want to thank all parties for the making the programme a success.