Mrs Quek Bin Hwee, President of SANA
Mr Chng Hwee Hong, Co-Chairman of CARE Network
Members of the SANA Board of Management
Volunteers and Community Partners
Ladies and Gentlemen
- Good evening.
- Let me begin by thanking all of you here – especially donors, volunteers and community partners – for your contributions and support towards SANA’s work in preventive drug education and the rehabilitation of drug abusers. Your efforts and commitment play a crucial role in ensuring a drug-free Singapore.
Global Drug Situation Remains Challenging
- We face an increasingly challenging global environment that is tolerant and liberal towards the recreational use and legislation of drugs. For example, just last month, Canada became the second country in the world after Uruguay to have legalised the use of cannabis as a recreational drug. Other countries like Australia and Germany have allowed the so-called “medicinal” use of cannabis in recent years. In the United States, a growing number of states have also allowed the medical and recreational use of cannabis. However, their experiences are telling, and paint a clear picture that a permissive attitude towards drugs exacts a high cost on society.
- Let’s look at the example of Colorado, which legalised full-scale commercialisation of cannabis in 2012. Today, Colorado is facing the stark reality and implications of its decision made just six years ago. Presently, the number of youths in Colorado who use cannabis is 85 per cent higher than the national average. Colorado has also experienced an increase in the number of cannabis-related traffic fatalities. These are just a few examples of how grim the situation in Colorado is. Closer to home, some of you may have read that countries in our region are also looking at legalising cannabis for medical use.
- These are worrying developments that we are closely watching. If we are not careful, we can be easily swamped by this liberal attitude towards drugs. It is therefore important that we remain steadfast in our position, and uphold our zero-tolerance stance against drugs.
- We have looked carefully at the evidence. Drugs, including cannabis, are highly addictive. They cause harm to the body and damage to the brain. There are countless examples of adults, being high on drugs, who neglected the care of their children, or even physically abused their children.
- We must do what is right for Singapore. This means maintaining our tough laws against drug traffickers, continue with proactive enforcement, and at the same time continuing to invest in our preventive drug education and rehabilitation efforts.
- However, the fight against drugs cannot be the Government’s alone. We need the support of community partners like SANA, if we are to stay on top of the drug scourge.
Community Plays an Important Role in the Fight against Drug Abuse
- Community support is critical in helping ex-offenders who want to start afresh, reintegrate into society and lead a crime and drug-free life. The journey towards rehabilitation and reintegration is never an easy one. We must therefore continue to work together to help ex-offenders rebuild their lives. What we do impacts not just them, but also their families and the larger society.
- This is where SANA has played, and continues to play, a very important role, by supporting ex-offenders’ in their rehabilitation and reintegration journey.
- For example, I am heartened to learn of the SANA Peer Leaders initiative. This initiative grooms ex-offenders who have made significant progress in rebuilding their lives as SANA Peer Leaders. They then serve as role models and ambassadors, to inspire recovering abusers post-incarceration.
- Entrepreneur Mr Mohamed Nor bin Ismail, the Director of Amani Services Pte Ltd and Amani Weddings Pte Ltd, is one such SANA Peer Leader. The second youngest of 13 siblings, he started experimenting with drugs and got involved in secret societies when he was just 11 years old. At one point in his life, he found himself repeatedly going in and out of prison for drug offences. He had a wake-up call when he narrowly escaped the death penalty for drug trafficking, and he resolved to turn his life around. In fact, he has been drug-free for 18 years now. Well done Mr Mohamed! As a SANA Peer Leader, Mr Mohamed now visits halfway houses to mentor and inspire recovering addicts to stay drug-free.
- Another volunteer, Mr Sam Rasso Muthusamy, has been a SANA volunteer for the past 35 years. One of his most memorable experiences involved mentoring an ex-offender who looked up to him as a father figure. When the ex-offender got married, Mr Rasso helped to conduct the wedding rites. With Mr Rasso’s support and mentorship, the ex-offender has successfully stayed away from drugs and has gone on to rebuild his life.
- Such stories warm our hearts, and are only possible because of volunteers such as yourselves here today, who give your time and effort selflessly.
More Satellite Centres to Replicate Services Offered by SANA Step-Up Centre
- As part of its ongoing efforts to reach out to more ex-drug offenders and families in need, SANA is finalising plans to set up more satellite centres to replicate services offered by the SANA Step-Up Centre. The SANA Step-Up Centre offers financial, legal, housing, skills training, employment and family support assistance, as well as support groups where recovering drug abusers and their families can share their experiences and provide each other with emotional support.
- These centres will help to coordinate social services and resources for ex-drug offenders and their families. Through these centres, SANA will be able to expand its reach and be even more accessible to those who need it most.
- SANA will be able to continue and expand their services, only if they have the resources to do so. I urge all of you to donate generously to support the good work of SANA.
- Let me conclude by thanking again all the volunteers, donors and community partners for working together with SANA to support the rehabilitation and reintegration journey of ex-offenders. I look forward to your continued support for many more years to come.
- I wish all of you a pleasant evening. Thank you.