Ministry of Home Affairs Committee of Supply Debate 2016 - Speech by Mr Amrin Amin, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs

Published: 06 April 2016

"Community at the Heart of the Home Team"


1.     Madam Chair, I thank Members for their suggestions and support for the Home Team's work.


2.     I will focus my speech on three areas. 


a. First the community's role in keeping Singapore safe and secure.

b. Second, the drug situation in Singapore and our efforts to prevent re-offending.

c. Third, our Home Team officers and National Service (NS) Transformation Plan.


3.     On the first area, community partnership.


Community Partnership to keep Singapore Safe


4.     The community is at the heart of the Home Team's work. Home Team officers take pride and work tirelessly to keep Singapore safe and secure. However, the work of the Home Team cannot be accomplished by us alone. 


5.     Individuals and the community have contributed in many areas to create a safe and secure Singapore. We will continue to engage, empower and partner the community to explore new areas of collaboration.



6.     Over the past few months, as part of the SGfuture engagement efforts, we have asked members of the public, our volunteers, Full-time National Servicemen (NSFs) and community partners what safety and security means to them, what they hope to see, and how we may work together to turn these hopes into reality. We are now following up on some of these, and we welcome more people to come forward with good suggestions that we can work on together.


Tackling Threats to Singapore's Safety with the Community


7.     One of the key threats we face today is extremism and terrorism. The community's role in a heightened terrorism threat environment is critical. 


8.     Minister Shanmugam announced in March that we will develop a new national movement to strengthen community response to the threat of terrorism. 


9.     The movement, known as SG Secure, builds on the current Community Engagement Programme (CEP). The programmes under SG Secure will sensitise the community to threats arising from terrorism, extremism and religious or racial strife.


10.     Let me elaborate on how SG Secure will enable the community to "stay alert, stay united and stay strong" against terrorist threats.


a.     First, stay alert. We will raise community vigilance by training the community to be vigilant and alert to unusual behaviour or items in our surroundings and to report these to the authorities. We will also teach members of the public how to respond and protect themselves, their family and their friends, if they are caught in an attack.  

b.     Second, stay united. We need to cherish and safeguard Singapore's multi-racial and multi-religious social fabric. SG Secure will implement programmes to provide opportunities for our community to appreciate and safeguard our racial and religious diversity.

c.     Third, stay strong. We will design and run programmes to help our community to be ready to deal with a crisis if it occurs; build individual resilience and community resilience; and help each other bounce back quickly after any incident.


11.     SG Secure will be more than just a public awareness movement. It will be a call to action for all members of society to safeguard the Singapore way of life against terrorism, extremism and community strife. We will launch SG Secure later this year, starting with programmes in the schools and neighbourhoods.


12.     The second part of my speech is on the drug situation in Singapore and our efforts to prevent re-offending.


Overview of Drug Situation


13.     Mr Christopher de Souza and Dr Tan Wu Meng asked about the overall drug situation. 


14.     The drug situation around the world remains challenging. Poppy cultivation in the region has increased, and so has methamphetamine production. Our regional counterparts have also detected an emergence of overseas syndicates, originating as far as Mexico, which are involved in drug trafficking in the ASEAN region.



15.     These developments increase the supply of drugs in our region, and threaten our drug-free society. 


16.     There is also growing international pressure on our zero-tolerance approach against drugs. 


17.     Some countries have pushed to decriminalise or even legalise drug use. There is a growing call for the harm reduction approach, which includes measures such as needle exchange programmes or opiate substitution therapy. 


18.     These measures were implemented in some countries to curb secondary issues, for example HIV transmission caused by drug abuse. 


19.     However, the harm reduction approach is not relevant in Singapore's context as our drug situation is very much under control. Incidence of HIV transmission through injecting drug use in Singapore is low.


20.     We share Mr Christopher de Souza, Dr Tan Wu Meng, Mr Desmond Choo and Mr Gan Thiam Poh's concern on the local youth drug abuse situation. We have observed two trends of concern. 

a.     First, more than 60% of new abusers arrested over the past 5 years were below 30 years old. In 2015, this has remained high. Close to 7 in 10 new abusers arrested are below 30 years old. 


b.     Second, while methamphetamine remains the most abused drug among new abusers, we have seen more cases of cannabis abuse among new abusers in recent years. Cannabis abuse cases doubled from 80 in 2011 to over 150 in 2015. Notably, in 2015, cannabis has displaced heroin as the second most commonly abused drug among new abusers.



21.     These trends indicate that more young people are taking casual attitudes towards drugs and experimenting with drugs, especially cannabis, which they perceive as "soft" and less harmful. This is a serious misperception.



22.     A research team comprising medical professionals from the Institute of Mental Health has reviewed more than 500 papers from respected international medical journals. Let me highlight three key findings:

a.     First, cannabis is addictive.

b.     Second, cannabis is harmful. Long-term use of cannabis has been linked to the development of major psychiatric conditions, such as schizophrenia, depression and bipolar disorder.

c.     Third, a young person abusing cannabis will experience a persistent and irreversible decline in cognitive development, and a drop in IQ.


Maintaining a Tough Stance against Drugs


23.     To continue keeping Singapore drug-free, we must maintain a zero-tolerance approach towards drug abuse. 


24.     This includes firm laws against traffickers, continued enforcement efforts, structured rehabilitation programmes, preventive drug education, as well as aftercare schemes with community support.


25.     Last year, the Task Force on Youths and Drugs reviewed the youth drug abuse situation and announced its recommendations in June. I will provide an update on the implementation of the Task Force recommendations in two areas. 


26.     First, enhancing Preventive Drug Education (PDE). 


27.     This is our first line of defence. It is important to enlist the help of parents and educators to help youths stay drug-free. 


28.     We have developed and launched a toolkit for educators in November last year, to support educators in their engagement with youths on drug issues.


29.     We are also developing an information brochure for parents, and will distribute it to all parents of students in secondary and post-secondary institutions later this year.


30.     This will be complemented with e-articles and infographics published regularly through the social media platforms of CNB and our partners, such as MOE and Health Promotion Board.


31.     Second, enhancing our rehabilitation options for youths. We have introduced the Anti-drug Counselling and Engagement (ACE) programme at the National Addictions Management Services (NAMS). 


32.     The ACE programme is targeted at youth abusers under 21 years old, who have abused drugs but tested negative in their urine tests. 


33.     The programme comprises group counselling sessions to equip the youths with skills to cope with addiction, and workshops for parents to provide support for youths.


34.     The Committee Against Youth Drug Abuse, which I chair, will build on the Task Force's work. 


35.     This multi-agency committee comprises representatives from MHA, MOE, Health Promotion Board, Institute of Mental Health, Institutes of Higher Learning and youths. 


36.     We will continue to keep a close eye on the youth drug abuse situation and work with groups, such as youth groups, to implement initiatives that will sustain efforts in tackling youth drug abuse early.


Preventing Re-offending – a Throughcare Approach


37.     I will now touch on our efforts to prevent re-offending, which Mr Louis Ng has asked about. 


38.     Our rehabilitation programmes are designed based on evidence to reduce their re-offending. We adopt a differentiated approach towards rehabilitation, by tailoring the rehabilitation programmes and aftercare support based on the different risk profiles and needs of the offenders. 


39.     For example, in the Drug Rehabilitation Centres (DRCs), drug abusers with more severe drug addiction issues will receive higher intensity programmes, such as more counselling sessions. When they are placed on Community-Based Programmes, inmates with higher risk of re-offending would be placed in a more structured environment, such as a halfway house.


40.     We have also started a day release programme for a small number of low-risk drug abusers. 


41.     Under this arrangement, the drug abusers are allowed to work or study in the community after 2 to 4 months in the DRC. These drug abusers are required to return to a community facility at night, and are subjected to supervision, such as regular urine tests.


Employment of Ex-offenders


42.     Madam Chair, Mr Louis Ng, Dr Tan Wu Meng and Mr Patrick Tay asked about the employment of ex-offenders, which is a key factor in their successful reintegration.



43.     SCORE plays a key role in reintegrating ex-offenders back to the workforce. 


44.     In 2015, SCORE trained more than 5,000 inmates and helped over 2,000 inmates to secure jobs prior to their release. SCORE has also explored new collaboration opportunities with employers and partners. 


45.     For example, SCORE has worked with the Restaurant Association of Singapore (RAS) to develop a Train-Place-Retain model to place ex-offenders in the F&B sector. As of February 2016, over 130 ex-offenders secured employment with close to 100 companies from RAS under this collaboration. 


46.     In line with SkillsFuture, SCORE has worked with employers in key sectors, such as Logistics, F&B and Hospitality, to update its skills training and coaching programmes to meet the evolving skills needed. Let me highlight three key initiatives:


a.     First, ex-offenders will be cross-trained in skills. For instance, ex-offenders in the F&B sector will be trained in skills required to perform both serving and food preparation functions.

b.     Second, ex-offenders are encouraged to take personal responsibility for their continuous learning with the use of SkillsFuture credits. 

c.     Third, SCORE will work closely with employers to identify suitable training for the career advancement of ex-offenders they have hired.


47.     Mr Christopher de Souza asked about the employment of ex-offenders in the Public Service. The Public Service recruits on the basis of merit, where applicants who fit most closely to the job requirements are hired.



48.     When applying for Public Service jobs, applicants who have had their criminal records spent need not include this information in their applications. This has been the case since 2006. As we do not differentiate these employees, ex-offenders will be assessed for their suitability for the job like all other new recruits.


Partnerships with the Malay-Muslim Community


49.     Madam Chair, with your permission I will now speak in Malay. 


50.     Pasukan Home Team telah menikmati kerjasama yang erat dengan masyarakat Melayu-Islam dan badan Melayu-Islam, seperti MENDAKI, MUIS, PERGAS, Jamiyah dan Pertapis.


51.     Menteri Masagos telah membina asas yang kukuh dalam usaha pasukan Home Team mendekati masyarakat Melayu-Islam. Kami akan terus bekerjasama dengan masyarakat Melayu-Islam demi mencegah para pesalah daripada mengulangi kesilapan masing-masing dan membantu proses pemulihan penagih dadah.


52.     Ini sebenarnya adalah isu-isu nasional, dan bukan hanya isu-isu yang melibatkan masyarakat Melayu-Islam sahaja. 


53.     Pelbagai faktor, seperti status sosio-ekonomi, pergaulan kawan dan keluarga, mungkin memainkan peranan dalam mendorong golongan pesalah mengulangi kesalahan mereka. 


54.     Kami telah mengubah program-program pemulihan kami untuk menangani faktor-faktor risiko tersebut. Kami mahu terus bekerjasama dengan badan-badan Melayu-Islam untuk menjana program-program yang berdasarkan konteks budaya dan agama untuk meningkatkan keberkesanannya.


55.     Izinkan saya memaparkan dua contoh sebagai penjelasan lanjut.


56.     Pertama, kami telah bekerjasama dengan MENDAKI untuk menyediakan khidmat memberi maklumat dan rujukan kepada keluarga para pesalah. 


57.     MENDAKI menghubungkan mereka kepada sumber-sumber masyarakat, seperti kaunseling di pusat khidmat keluarga atau bantuan mencari pekerjaan di Pusat Pembangunan Masyarakat, CDC. MENDAKI juga merujuk keluarga-keluarga ini kepada program-program keluarga dan kanak-kanak anjuran mereka. Melalui wadah ini, kami ingin membantu keluarga-keluarga supaya kekal utuh dalam mengharungi tempoh yang sukar ini, supaya mereka boleh menyokong orang yang tersayang dalam proses pemulihan dan integrasi semula mereka.



58.     Kedua, kami telah bekerjasama dengan PERGAS untuk menghasilkan dan memperkenalkan program kaunseling perintis (atau pilot programme) untuk penagih dadah Melayu-Islam. 


59.     Rakan-rakan di PERGAS, yang diketuai oleh Ustaz Mohd Yusri Yubhi Yusoff, menghasilkan program ini berdasarkan ajaran Islam dan hasil kajian saintifik yang terbukti berkesan. 


60.     Program ini adalah salah satu daripada usaha pencegahan berbilang pendekatan kami bagi proses pemulihan penagih dadah. Buat masa ini, kami sedang menjalankan program perintis sedemikian dengan para penghuni di DRC. 


61.     Kami gembira kerana telah menerima maklum balas yang menggalakkan dan positif daripada para penghuni yang mengambil bahagian dalam program ini.



62.     Izinkan saya berkongsi satu kisah untuk menggambarkan lebih jelas bagaimana kita boleh bekerjasama demi menyokong pemulihan penagih dadah. 


63.     Baru-baru ini, saya bertemu dengan Cik Jesyharianti. Jesy seorang bekas penagih dadah yang dipaparkan dalam program Detik di saluran TV Suria bulan lalu.



64.     Beliau telah menceritakan bagaimana beliau telah keluar masuk penjara dalam tempoh 7 tahun yang lalu disebabkan dadah dan lain-lain kesalahan, walaupun hanya berusia 20-an tahun. 


65.     Kali terakhir Jesy dalam tahanan, beliau telah diletakkan dalam pelbagai program pemulihan untuk membantunya kekal bebas daripada dadah. 


66.     Baru-baru ini saya menemui Jesy dan saya gembira untuk mengetahui Jesy kini bekerja sebagai anggota kru perkhidmatan di restoran Manhattan Fish Market. Saya juga bertemu dengan majikan Jesy dari Manhattan Fish Market. 


67.     Saya amat gembira apabila mendapat tahu yang Jesy antara pekerjanya yang terbaik. Jesy penuh dedikasi dan sering mendapat pujian dari pelanggan. 


68.     Saya berharap masyarakat Melayu-Islam akan terus memberikan sokongan penuh kepada Pasukan Home Team, dalam usaha kami mengurangkan pesalah dan penyalahgunaan dadah.

Partnerships with the Malay-Muslim Community

[English translated speech]

49.Madam Chair, I will next speak in Malay.

50.     The Home Team enjoys a close partnership with the Malay-Muslim community and community groups, such as MENDAKI, MUIS, PERGAS, Jamiyah and Pertapis.

51.     Minister Masagos has built a strong foundation for the Home Team's work with the Malay-Muslim community. We will continue to work with the Malay-Muslim community to prevent re-offending and rehabilitate drug abusers.

52.     These are national issues, and not issues involving the Malay-Muslim community only.

53.     A confluence of factors, such as socio-economic status, peers and families, might play a role in re-offending.

54.     We have tailored our rehabilitation programmes to address these risk factors. We want to work with Malay-Muslim community groups to tailor programmes relevant to the offenders' cultural and religious context to increase their efficacy.

55.     Let me illustrate this with two examples.

56.     First, we have worked with MENDAKI to provide an information and referral service to families of inmates.

57.     MENDAKI connects them to community resources, such as counselling at family service centres or employment assistance at the Community Development Centres, CDC. MENDAKI also refers these families to the family and children programmes they organise. Through this, we help families stay intact through this difficult period, so that they can support their loved ones in their rehabilitation and reintegration.

58.     Second, we have worked with PERGAS to develop and introduce a pilot counselling programme for Malay-Muslim drug abusers.

59.     The team at PERGAS, led by Ustaz Mohd Yusri Yubhi Yusoff, developed the programme based on both Islamic teachings and scientific studies that were proven effective.

60.     This programme is one of the interventions in our multi-pronged approach in rehabilitating drug abusers. Currently, we are in the midst of a pilot run with inmates in the DRC.

61.     We are heartened by the encouraging and positive feedback received from those who participated in the programme.

62.     I would like to share a story to illustrate how we can come together to support the rehabilitation of drug abusers.

63.     I recently met Jesyharianti, who was a former drug abuser featured on Suria's Detik programme last month.

64.     She shared how she had been in and out of prison in the past 7 years due to drugs and other offences, even though she is only in her 20s.

65.     During her last incarceration, she was placed on rehabilitation programmes to help her stay drug-free, and equip her with skills to cope with life after she is released.

66.     Recently I met Jesy and happy to know that Jesy is now employed as a service crew with Manhattan Fish Market. I also met her employer from Manhattan Fish Market.

67.     I am heartened to learn that Jesy is one of his best employee. Jesy's dedication at work often received praises from her customers.

68.     I hope that the Malay-Muslim community will continue to give the Home Team its fullest support, including in the area of reducing offending and drug abuse.


Our Home Team Officers: A Key Pillar in our Work


69.         Madam Chair, I will continue in English and turn to the final area of my speech - our Home Team officers, a very important part of the Home Team.


70.     Minister spoke about enhancing the attractiveness of the police career with the Home Team to better recruit and retain officers. 


71.     We will also continue to tap on the contributions of ex-officers as well as retired officers, which Mr Patrick Tay and Mr Desmond Choo asked about. They are valuable to the Home Team. 


72.     MHA has recently, in 2013, extended the retirement age of Home Team uniformed officers from 50 to 55 years old. Beyond 55 years old, where there are organisational needs, officers may be offered the opportunity to work up to the age of 60, subject to performance, conduct and fitness criteria. 


73.     This allows the Home Team to tap on their knowledge, experience and expertise built over the years. 


74.     We will periodically review the need to make changes to the retirement age of our uniformed officers. 

75.     We also offer retired officers positions in specialist and civilian roles where they can contribute to the Home Team. 


76.     Over the last 5 years, about 60% of retired uniformed officers have been re-employed, and the majority have been re-employed as uniformed officers.   


77.     In addition to retired officers, I agree with Mr Patrick Tay that ex-Police officers are a valuable recruitment pool for SPF. 


78.     Suitable ex-Police officers who had resigned may be re-hired, if they wish to re-join the service. 


79.     SPF proactively reaches out to this group by holding re-appointment exercises twice a year. SPF will first send a personalised letter to invite them to re-join SPF. Subsequently, recruitment career advisors, who are Police officers from the same Division, will contact the ex-Police officers to engage them.


80.     Our National Servicemen also play a key role in the Home Team's work. 


81.     However, given the smaller birth cohorts, we can expect a decline in the number of NSFs over the next few years. As Mr Melvin Yong has pointed out, we need to ensure that the Home Team continues to meet growing operational demands even with a declining National Servicemen population. 


82.     The Home Team has embarked on an NS Transformation Plan for our SPF and SCDF National Servicemen. 


83.     Over the next few years, we will systematically deploy more NSF and NSmen to frontline positions, leadership roles as well as specialist positions. This will enable them to make stronger contributions to keep Singapore safer and secure.  


84.     Let me illustrate with specific examples from SPF and SCDF. 


85.     To deploy more officers in frontline vocations, SPF will set up a new Protective Security Command (ProCom) comprising both NSF and NSmen units. ProCom officers will be trained and deployed to protect our critical infrastructure in National Emergency situations, and oversee protective security functions during peacetime. 


86.     SCDF has established new NSmen positions in its Marine Command, where NSmen are deployed in daily operations as part of their In-Camp Training. SCDF will also deploy more servicemen to operational roles, such as in its Emergency Medical Services. 


87.     I hope that the Transformation Plan will empower our National Servicemen to take on a greater role in making Singapore a safer home for all.




88.     In conclusion, Madam Chair, the Home Team, together with the community, has worked hard at keeping Singapore safe and secure. 


89.     This is a cumulative effort built over many years and by many people. We will continue to strengthen community partnerships, empower our community to take ownership of safety and security issues, and build community vigilance, cohesion and resilience. 


90.     We must also continue our fight against drugs, and work hard to prevent offending and re-offending. 


91.     Together, we can keep Singapore safe and secure.




Managing Security Threats
Community Engagement