Published: 13 July 2021
1. A very good afternoon to all of you. I am happy to be able to come back to Singapore Polytechnic (SP). I was also part of SP in the past, and I had a very meaningful nine years working together with the colleagues here in SP. Coming back here, it is nice to see that things have really changed to benefit the students. I am very happy to be able to join you.
2. I would also like to thank Mr Sng (Chern Hong) and all the colleagues from the Central Narcotics Bureau for always thinking of ways to protect our people, especially our young, from the harmful effects of drugs. Since I joined the Government, I have been involved in issues relating to Health, Social and Family Development, Education and now I am in Home Affairs. I have seen how drugs have negatively affected our people.
3. Now, I spend a lot of time visiting our inmates in prison and when I go there, I speak candidly with them. Even the story of what you are trying to envisage in “Monomania”, is something that I can relate to, because I spoke to someone who was an athlete and somehow got distracted by drugs, and his life got disrupted for many years.
4. As such, when I see all of this, I am very passionate and determined to be able to work with all of you to see how we can bring more and more upstream approaches, and continue to innovate and be creative in what we are doing. We have been working very hard together with youths to see how we can reach out to not only youths, but also the community, the parents, to see how we can give the opportunity for youths to say “No” when it comes to drugs. So, I thought to just give a preamble to what I would like to say.
5. This is something that we do to empower our youth and we want our youth to take on a more active role in developing anti-drug initiatives and content for their peers and general public. As mentioned earlier, it is about how we continue to make our efforts relevant to our people, especially the general public. I am happy to see that it is a ground-up initiative, not only a first for SP but for us as well.
6. ‘Monomania’ is based on a fictional storyline centered on the experiences of a promising young athlete who fell prey to drug abuse. While we see this, we can try to imagine. Some may think that it is hypothetical, but I want to share with you that it is real, and I have seen how dreams and aspirations being destroyed and disrupted by drugs. So, what you do is very important. Hopefully, through such an initiative, you can reach out to many of your peers and that can save them from the harmful effects of drugs.
7. I remember that it was a very emotional period when I went, this guy approached me and told me, “Professor, I used to be up and coming in one of the very common sports in Singapore, until I got distracted and I tried my first try. That’s it, just my first try. I started to skip my training, I started to get away from my family and I started to deteriorate in terms of my ability to play the sport.” I asked him if he would want to go back and play the sport? He said, “I tried but it is not easy to tackle addiction.”
8. The best approach is to stop them from taking, and what you are doing today, is the best thing so that they know this is our educational approach and it is important for us to make sure that we are able to do this.
9. Using projecting mapping technology is something that is creative and unique, and it is very important. The message is clear that drugs are harmful and will affect your future. It is something that we want to continue to share with the public.
Global Drug Trends
10. This is important if you look at the context of drug trends in the world, the use of drugs, the attitudes towards drugs, you will realise that there is a liberalisation in stance. Also, with social media, this stance, this attitude, is being shared with our people and our young people. As such, many young people think they are able to manage it. They think they want to take it one time and will not take it anymore.
11. But unfortunately, after the first try, you will continue to yearn for more, and after a while, it will bring damage to your brain and body. The research findings are quite ample in this aspect.
12. You will realise that attitudes also have changed, especially towards cannabis. They do not think it is as harmful as they should. This is because of the people who want to promote these drugs to the society at large.
13. As such, you will see that some of the things that we do, such as the video, you will see how drug syndicates operate and who are the users. The main users are those who take it, and the abusers.
14. Just a few days ago, when I was engaging the community, on a topic that’s not related to drugs. A former abuser approached me, and he shared with me some the things that he used to do when he was pushing drugs, and when he first started as an abuser, and he then got promoted. Now that he has been clean for the past 20 over years, he wants to help so that others will not have to go through what he went through.
15. I am very happy that more youths are coming on board and even ex-abusers, knowing that they can play a part. I think we want to continue to make sure that in whatever we do, we want to give youths a drug-free lifestyle and that is for the betterment of their lives.
16. In Singapore, you realise that similar liberalisation of attitudes can also be seen amongst the young people. We must continue to reach out to the young people, the youths and the communities.
17. What we do in addition to working with you and the Institutes of Higher Learning, we are also going down to the local communities. That is important, as that is where some of the transactions happen, in the neighbourhoods.
18. Today, we have people who keep a look out for one another. I have a community in Nee Soon, for example. There is a group of residents who always keep a lookout for new faces and try to engage young people. They will try to protect the neighbourhood so that these influences do not penetrate the community and especially the young people. We want to build more of such communities here so that we can keep a lookout for one another. Such an avenue like this will help us strengthen the messaging, and how we can share some of the efforts by the communities and students like yourself.
19. If you look at the statistics we have, in 2020, those below the age of 30 continued to form the largest group of drug abusers arrested in Singapore. This is something that worries me, because three in every five new drug abusers arrested were under 30 years old. So, it is something that falls into many of our youth community, and essentially can happen to any of us. Advocacy efforts to share the harmful effects of drugs, get people to stay away from drugs, are very important.
20. There are a lot of myths and misinformation which I have shared with you. Such as how many youths started out of curiosity, peer pressure or that single moment.
21. Many of our people today are living outside of Singapore. Some students may go for overseas attachment or exchange programmes. So, we need to protect our people. So that even with the liberal stance overseas in some of the countries, they will know where the line is crossed, so that they will say no to drugs, and know what to do and how to navigate their lives, and take a drug-free lifestyle and opportunities given to them, wherever they are.
22. We find that we want to not only expose, but also give a definite confidence amongst our young people, about the myths and misinformation on social media, the Internet and the countries that have taken a liberal stance. It is important for us to present the information and share with the public on what the real information is.
Intensifying Public Education Efforts
23. As we strive towards a Drug-Free Singapore, it is an aspiration that we hope we can achieve. Nevertheless, we always want to make every single effort towards that and protect our youth and our people. We will continue to do that, and we want you to help us to be that positive influence among your friends, so that you can continue with your studies and not be disrupted by the harmful effects of drug addiction.
24. Such an art installation, ‘Monomania’, is how we can share the anti-drug messages in a refreshed approach, presented through a creative medium such as this. We hope you can help to share this with your friends, as we feel that this is something that will cater and appeal to younger audiences.
25. I am very thankful to SP for being a very active supporter in this, and we hope we can continue to do more of this and find new ways. This year, we have this installation. Last year, we had a music video by Amirul. These are things that we want to continue to do, to reach out.
26. While we do this, we also continue to go to the ground to engage. For example, I go to coffeeshops and to places where there are many people, to directly engage them on the harmful effects of drugs. At the same time, we continue to go to schools, which is the approach that we have undertaken all along. All these things are still very important. We want to extend the engagement platforms and continue to be relevant in our approach.
27. I am happy to see, over the last year, that many more young people have come onboard either via platforms like this or at the community level. In fact, whenever I share with young people, or when they follow my social media, they will tell me that they want to be part of it. Just yesterday, a group of five young people wanted to come forward and be a part of our efforts in promoting anti-drug abuse. It is a good sign, even though the trend in some overseas countries shows liberalisation.
28. We will continue to do this and work with SP. We will continue to see how we can continue the journey of engaging more young people, and how to get the whole Singapore community to drive this effort of making Singapore drug-free and providing a drug-free lifestyle and many more opportunities as well as a happy life for our young people, their families as well as their friends so that together, in Singapore, even though the storm out there can be very rough, we will still be able to protect our people from the harmful effects of drugs.
29. From my heart, to all of you, thank you for doing this, and thank you for making it a first, as part of our efforts in making it relevant to the context of technological developments, and for putting in anti-drug messages, and also providing avenues for us to save more lives and bring more goodness to our fellow countrymen here in Singapore.
30. Thank you and congratulations.