Published: 01 April 2017
Mr Abdul Hamid, Chairman, AMP Group,
Malay-Muslim community leaders,
Ladies and gentlemen,
1. Thank you for inviting me here today to the 2017 Community In Review Seminar. This event was first held in 2001. It brings the community together. You discuss important issues - issues that affect the Malay-Muslim community in Singapore.
2. In my speech, I will cover four areas:
ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE COMMUNITY
3. Let me start with the achievements of the community because it is always good to take stock of where we are. I think sometimes, it is underestimated, or understated in terms of the real progress that the community has made.
4. First, we start with education. Let's look at the Primary 1 cohort. The number of Malay students who go on to post-secondary education has doubled to 93% in 2015. So, 9 out of 10 children who go into Primary 1 will achieve post-secondary education. That is significant by any sense. Over a 20 year period, it doubled from 45% in 1995 to 93% in 2015. Any child that enters Primary 1 will likely have at least 12 years of education.
5. Next, look at polytechnic diplomas, professional qualifications, or university degrees. This has gone up over a five year period to 21%. One out of every five Malay boy or girl who gets into the education stream today will achieve a qualification of this nature. Our diplomas, professional qualifications or university degrees compare favourably with those elsewhere in the world. In the interest of time, this is a snapshot, but it will be good for AMP to look into this, not just the topline figures, but in terms of streams. For example, where are the students going, how many are going into science and technology, how many are going into the pure academic stream and how many are in the polytechnics (in the hard sciences, in healthcare, etc). These are the things that an organisation like AMP should study, and then you will be able to talk to students in secondary schools, about their career choices, to shape their thinking and move them. The opportunities are there, but the leadership has got to come from the community, and the Government will support it.
6. Second, jobs and income. Let us look at the topline figures. The proportion of Malays in PMET jobs was 28% in 2010. I am sure it has gone up more by now. That is one in three, which is very significant. Median real monthly income per capita has doubled on a real basis since 1990.
7. Next, we look at home ownership. Nearly 90% of Malay households own their homes, or 9 out of every 10. In Singapore, owning a home means you are sitting on equity of a few hundred thousand dollars. Even more significant is that more than 70% live in 4-room and higher-end housing.
8. So what does that mean? If you look at the education profile, the income profile, the job profile and the home ownership profile, take these four basic factors, you can say confidently that there is a Malay middle-class. A Malay middle-class has formed, because a 4-room flat today in the market would be above $380,000 to $400,000. Their costs would have been much less. Therefore, with a significant equity, and assets that they own, they do not have to worry about where they are going to live, with a bright future for their children, confident that their children will go on to post-secondary education. They know that if their children compete, there is a decent chance of getting into the top 20%, and the rest will still have good jobs. The framework has therefore been created for tremendous success.
9. Progress takes time. This has been achieved over many years of hard work by organisations such as AMP and MENDAKI, the mosques, the community, working in partnership with the Government. Over the last 50 years, at various times, there may have been frustrations because the results do not come quick. Results can only come quick if the Government automatically appoints people to positions but that is not the Singapore way. If that had been done, there would have been no pride and it would not be a real success. What the community has achieved is real success. This can only come about if the Government creates a framework, and guarantees the protection of minorities and equal opportunities, and provides them.
10. The community and individuals have also got to work hand-in-hand. So what you have is a very strong foundation. A foundation from which there can be solid progress. You look around the region, there are countries that have some very wealthy individuals and they say that is progress, but what about the rakyat (people)? Take the average Malay in Singapore, and I have showed the statistics earlier. Let us look at education, home ownership, actual wealth, at real substantive progress of the individual in Singapore, versus the countries in the immediate region.
11. A Singapore Malay today in educational standing, in terms of skills and wealth, is better off than a Malaysian Malay or an Indonesian Malay. Look at the progress in education - our PISA scores, look at mathematics, science, reading. Compare a Malay PMET in Singapore and a Malay PMET in Malaysia, who is doing better. The same goes for the Indians, and for the Chinese in Singapore. Take them versus their counterparts across the causeway or around the region, we do better. We rank first in the world on PISA rankings in science, mathematics and reading. When PISA does the assessments, it takes the average kid in Singapore versus the average elsewhere, and we are number one. Again, what AMP can do is to drill down further into the details. We are doing better than many parts of the world, but within Singapore, there is still a gap. Our competition is no longer just Malaysia or Indonesia, we are competing with the world.
12. So if you look at education, jobs, home ownership, the Malay population here has done extremely well. The proportion of Primary 1 cohort that drops out at secondary school used to be very high, but it is 0.6% as at 2015, less than 1 out of 100.
13. Unemployment rate of the resident population is 3%, and that applies to the Malay population as well. That is very low for a mature economy like ours. So effectively, unemployment rates and that applies to the Malay population as well, is very low. It does not mean that there are people who are not unemployed, but for a mature economy like ours, it is actually on the low side. For most mature economies, it will be about 5% or more. The picture can be even brighter, if we get some of the social issues out. The social issues, the personal issues - marriages, divorces, drugs - those issues I think, affect everyone. But I think it disproportionality affects the Malay community. It has come down, the picture is much better. But that is again, something that I think the community has been working very hard on. I think we can focus on that. I will touch a little bit on that later.
14. So that is the first part of my presentation. That is the progress of the Malay community. Let us understand the facts and then we can talk about what to do next.
Support the Government gives to all Singaporeans, particularly the lower income
15. The second part of my address today is the framework and the support the Government gives, particularly to the lower-income. And why do we need to discuss it? You need to understand the spectrum of policies there are to help the community take advantage of it, because there is no point duplicating what the Government is doing.
16. And what are your opportunities? Let me start by a timeline - from the time a baby is born. Let's call the baby, Siti. The moment a baby is born, $8,000 from the Government for the first child, and another $8,000 for the second child. You have a third child, $10,000 into the account. Cash, no questions. Mother gets 12 weeks' paid leave, father gets 2 weeks' paid leave. Medisave grants of $4,000 which is used for inoculation, other medical expenses, even to pay for MediShield Life premiums. So if the parents are smart - and you must bring this point across - use that money to go and buy MediShield Life. It is universal insurance. Don't end up at age 40, saying I don't have insurance and I can't afford to pay. So that is the moment a baby is born - thousands of dollars. Very few Governments do this. You get two children, you get $16,000. You get three children, $26,000. It is a lot of money, much more tax than you will ever pay in your life for most people.
17. Second, when you go to pre-school, immediately you get $300 basic subsidy for pre-schools. Additional $100 depending on your income level, and then subsidies of $34-$170 for children in Anchor Operator kindergartens, depending on your income level. Now, one of the challenges we have is parents enrolling their children into preschool. Today, really the mental development starts when the baby is in the womb. From that time, the mother has got to eat healthily, talk to the baby, focus on the child's development. And from the time the baby is born, that attitude has got to be there and enrol them in good pre-schools. The social nature of pre-schools, the socialisation, the interaction, the education - all of that is essential. But never, never, think that the Government or the state or the school or the pre-school can ever substitute what the parent gives at home. That is fundamental. Parents have to be totally focused.
18. Research all over the world shows that middle-class parents give a huge amount of knowledge to their children. We have to make sure in the Malay community that is one area that the AMP can come in and play a part and put forward to the parents the importance of focusing on their children. And not just leave it to the pre-school. You have to read, you have to spend time, you have to pass on the values. Every time the child sees something new, a new network and connection is being formed. Do that, stop watching TV, stop giving an iPad to the child to keep it quiet. Put in some effort, spend time. It takes effort but you can do a lot.
19. When the child goes to primary school, we have made education compulsory so every child has got to go. School fees are free. There are some small, miscellaneous fees and there are Edusave top-ups from the Government every year. So no one really ought to be saying we cannot afford to send our children to school. There is that big issue of tuition - that I am not going to touch. But the fact is, school fees are completely free. So if you look at what the Government can do, the Government is providing a world-class education, free of cost.
20. We move on to secondary school. School fees are $5 per month. And you got various types of Edusave Awards. We are very generous with the numbers. A lot of children get this. Since 1993, we have given more than 2 million awards. Thousands of children get these awards every year. Just under 100,000 children if you do a straight line. This is a very significant part of the school-going population. As an MP, one of the things I like doing - I spend three or four weekends to meet the parents and the children. I used to meet 2,000 just in my constituency alone. Now, with our declining birth rate, it has come down to 1,300 to 1,400.
21. We move on to tertiary education. In a polytechnic, a Singaporean pays $2,700 per year when the cost is nearly $20,000. In the ITE, you pay $590 instead of $20,000 per year. And in the NUS, if you go to Engineering, it costs you $8,000 instead of the $36,000 per year. And even these, for example, at the ITE, the bursaries available today are 100%. You do not come up with a single cent. Same for the polytechnics, where the bursaries cover up to 100% if you apply for them - for those who need them. But of course, if you are well-off, I think you should pay yourself. But for those who cannot afford, whether it is primary, secondary or tertiary, today, no one can say I cannot afford. If you cannot afford, the state will pay for you. I put this down to all three communities - What do you think the Government can do? If it is sensible, we will do it.
Other financial assistance
22. On top of that, you have all these schemes. Even if the low fees cannot be paid, you have all these additional benefits, and some specifically focus on Malay kids. You have the Tertiary Tuition Fee Subsidy (TTFS) - in 2014, 4,100 students benefitted. The numbers are not small. You have the MENDAKI scholarships, bursaries, free textbooks, uniforms.
23. So, what is the picture that you get? Can we say that our schools are world-class? You go to any school in the heartlands and I can say that our schools are world-class. Our teachers are well-trained, they are graduates. We will continue to learn from the best in the world. We are continuously upgrading. Our schools come with the right equipment - computers, labs, the training is all there.
24. You move from a student to a young adult. What do you get? First, you want a house. If you are a low-income earner, you get additional grants of up to $50,000 to buy a flat. If you buy a resale flat, live near your parents and you have done NS, you get up to $110,000 in grants from the Government. If you are divorced or widowed, there are assistance schemes to buy 2-room flexi flats and 3-room BTO flats set aside for you. So if you take a first-timer family with a modest household income of $3,000, who bought a 4-room flat in Sengkang near their parents, they get nearly $100,000 in grants. So they pay $272,000 instead of $370,000. Apart from the initial deposit, the rest of the money can be paid entirely from CPF, not a single cent in cash.
25. People will only get into trouble if they sell their flat and spend the money. I am not saying it is only the Malays who do this, it is a problem across the races. After spending the money, they come to the MPs and say they want another flat. So these people would say, "I cannot afford to buy resale, please give me another subsidised flat". The Government relented and allowed them a second bite at the cherry. And now, we have a situation where people have sold the second flat and the money is gone. There are subsidies both in the price of the flats and the HDB loans. Should we say yes? If we do not say yes, they will put it up on social media and say, "See, the poor in Singapore is staying in Changi Beach, in a tent". But when you go and find out, they would have had two flats, and they would have taken the money, spent them, and now say they do not have a roof. So we have now come up with a scheme where if you do not have a roof, we put you up in a home, with others.
26. Moving on to the working life. There are many schemes to help people to upgrade their skills. People have suggested Minimum Wage but we have not gone down that route because that will impose a huge burden on companies and make it more difficult to employ older workers. Rather, the Government takes a different approach. If you earn below a certain amount, the Government tops up. In Singapore, we have Workfare. In Malaysia, you can come back from Oxford or Cambridge as a lawyer and you earn about RM3,500 in KL. That person would have qualified for Workfare in Singapore. That is the difference today. In Singapore, a lawyer's pay starts at $5,000.
27. Next, I will touch on healthcare benefits. We have Medisave and MediShield Life, which covers everyone. Premiums are kept affordable and you can use your CPF money to pay for the premiums. For those who cannot afford, there is Medifund, subsidies and the Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) which subsidises treatments.
28. On top of all these, we also need social support. We need to be actively engaged in the community, you need to be vibrant, to be a part of the community. If you look at education, healthcare, jobs, working life, housing and then social support, these are comprehensive, all-round support. But we can only provide the framework.
Quality of life
29. So what does all of these provide? It provides a quality of life. I have only taken one index - the Mercer's Index – we are best in Asia, 25th in the world. We are 25th in the world because unlike Melbourne, with the parks, climate and water, or Perth, or Toronto, we do not have the climate, the space, the kind of water. But we do what we can. Melbourne and Toronto do not have to provide for their defence. They also do not have to do the other support systems that we have to do, and they have more space. So if you remove those factors, in terms of what we have and what we can provide, we get a good life in Singapore. And this thing about being the most expensive in Asia, unless you lead an expat lifestyle, let us leave that out. We look at the Singaporean lifestyle.
30. So on average, what does this say in terms of the dollars and cents? Let's say you take a 31-year-old husband earning $2,800, with a three-year-old son and a wife having a second child, will get over $85,000 in CPF benefits, $33,000 in cash, from the Government. They will not pay a single cent in tax. They pay GST, yes.
31. So this provides the foundation for the entire community to take advantage of this framework and move forward.
CONFIDENT, VIBRANT, MODERN MALAY-MUSLIM COMMUNITY
32. What is our vision for the Malay-Muslim community? My own vision is that of a confident, vibrant, modern, integrated Malay-Muslim community. How do we go about having such a community?
33. First, you need the majority of the community to do well. As an icing on the cake, you need superstars who will serve as a beacon, the role model, for us. The Malay community today can say it has such young superstars and the majority are reaching the middle-class. It does not mean they have achieved. It is not a fixed line. As opportunities move, you have to continuously move and compete. But the base is there.
34. This is best illustrated by reference to specific people. I am just going to refer to some people, specifically those in their 20s and 30s. Obviously, at an older age group, you have people like Bahren Shaari, Dr Razakjr Omar, including some of our MPs who are in the private sector.
35. Take Faizal Abdul Kadir, now a Deputy Senior State Counsel. He graduated with First Class Honours from the National University of Singapore (NUS), given government scholarship to Harvard, became a Registrar, a very important position. The Government sent him to spend two years with the Singapore Medical Council, to get a different kind of experience. He is a recipient of the President's Volunteerism and Philanthropy Award and the International Outstanding Leadership Award, and is a volunteer and facilitator at the Singapore Mediation Centre. When I looked through his CV - as a lawyer, I understand this - when he was in the US, he was an editor of the Law Review. That is next to impossible. President Obama was an editor of the Law Review. This boy was an editor. In New York, he was the only Asian to have been appointed as the editor of the Law Review as well. Very young, very bright, ahead of his cohort.
36. Next is Esa Masood. He is an Admin Service officer, MIT graduate, Masters in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, former president of MENDAKI Club, Director of Policy and Sector Funding at the Early Childhood Development Agency now. On his own merit, he is a superstar.
37. Most of you would have heard of Siti Nur Diyanah Hardy. She went to madrasah, went on to university, first Malay to graduate with First Class Honours in Social Work from NUS. Even as she was an undergraduate, she started a Maths Mentoring programme to coach madrasah students and organised a youth expedition programme to Cambodia, as part of the NUS Muslim Society. She worked with Mercy Relief to help young Cambodian children, cutting across racial, religious, national boundaries. Passionate, committed, with her heart in the right place. Another superstar.
38. Even amongst our own MPs, those who are still in the private sector, we take Zaqy Mohamad. He is a Director of Business Development at Ernst & Young, at a very young age, by his own merit. Another example is of course, Rahayu Mahzam.
39. These are the kinds of bright stars in the community - and I emphasise that this is just for illustration, not a complete universe of stars. But the line does not stay still. It is a continuously moving line. Truth be told, there is still a gap between the Malay community and the other communities. There is also a gap between the Indian community and the Chinese community. Within the Indian community, there are two parts. One part is comparable to the Chinese community. The other part is probably below the Chinese community. The Indian picture is more skewed.
40. Singapore cannot be successful and Singaporeans cannot be happy if there is any section of the population which is not doing well. Because we are such a small population - we breathe and live each other's air. If that under-performance is defined by race or religion, it will even be more stark. So it is in our national interest, it is in Singapore's interest to make sure that everybody succeeds and that the under-performance is not defined by race and religion.
41. Therefore, it is more of the same. More hard work and organisations like yours must continue to lead the community and the Government must continue to first lay down the rules clearly - racial and religious harmony, guarantee of equal rights for everyone, guarantee of minority rights, absolute, unquestionable. And based on that, the kind of social, economic support that I have outlined. This will require partnership with the Government, community, individual - patient, careful, hard work.
42. I should say something about the Malay-Muslim community organisations and the work that they have been doing. You have been focussing the community on the big goals and the results we are seeing now. But, I would say, let us not just look at Singapore. The vision that I have outlined today, I would say, the community can achieve even more. Look around the world today. Many Islamic societies are searching for the path forward on how to be successful. They are asking themselves, what is the correct path? How will they achieve success? What does "successful" mean? In that context, look at the future and see how our Malay-Muslim community can be the beacon for the rest of the world. What do I mean by that? We need to work on two major aspects to achieve this vision.
43. First, focus on achieving success in the material world: education, work, skills and relationships - family, society, country. Our focus got to be: to be successful world-class, not just Singapore, not just the region. We are no longer competing within Singapore.
44. But the material world alone is not enough. I guess it might get you a house, a career, some sense of your place in the world, but there is something lacking inside if you define success simply by whether you can afford a certain type of home or car and have a certain type of job. Those are all outside of you. What is success inside of you? To be really successful inside and outside. To be successful inside means to be internally confident, to face everything that life throws you, to be centred, to be calm, to be strong, to have guts, to know our place in the world and to be true to ourselves. For that, we should go back to our roots and deeply steeped in our culture. We must understand the culture, religion, traditions, and be proud of them.
45. I emphasise - material success is important but the other aspect, to be proud of yourself, your tradition, your culture, your religion, and understand it truly, is equally important. The person who is successful in the material world but does not know himself - do you think he is truly strong?
46. Let me refer to something that Mr Lee Kuan Yew said, in Parliament in 1997. He was talking about the Chinese but it applies equally to the Malays and the Indians.
Way back in 1965, we found ourselves suddenly independent. If we lose that Chinese education and you go completely English educated, you will lose that drive, that self-confidence. That is what is wrong.
47. Something else that he said in 1979, that if we were more liberal in our mother tongue, we would not make a living.
Becoming monolingual in English would have been a setback. We would have lost our cultural identity, that quiet confidence about ourselves and our place in the world.
48. Language gives you access to culture. Culture gives you access to your values, and you know yourself. Life has thrown a lot of things at me. I cherish the fact that my parents gave me access to Tamil and my culture. So even though I make my living as an English- speaking lawyer, what makes me inside are the values and culture. And that helps you be strong. Every word that Mr Lee said is absolutely true. We may in our working life, use English as an essential but in our personal life, our access to culture is essential. If you have both, you then succeed even better in your material life and you stay true to yourself. But then, the person who focuses only on the cultural aspects without seeking to compete in the world, he may be satisfied. We do not want to pass judgement on that, we cannot criticise that. But, if everyone chose to be like that, then we will not get an economy and we will not get to compete either. So that is why I said both are important for a society.
49. So I would say that cultural values are - to use a term, "tented" should be a booster that helps you lift off like a rocket but in the world, it must not become the tent within which we are stuck. Sometimes, it is easy to be comfortable within a tent because then, you do not have to face the world. You should change that to become the booster that lifts you off to compete. And we can do it. Faizal, Nur Diyanah, many of you here, many others, amongst the Chinese and the Indians - that is what makes Singapore number one in so many things.
50. So, at a time of considerable change in Islamic societies around the world, our Malay-Muslim society is now in a position to be successful in science, technology, maths, computers, and at the same time, practise our religion and values, and be strong internally within the framework of a multi-racial, multi-religious society. What that means is - with a stable, strong political system, with a strong Government, with a guarantee for the minorities and a developed middle-class and superstars – with this framework, we can become the community that Muslim societies in other countries look towards and say, this is the example. Not for us to look at others and say that is how we should work. We can be an example for the world, no longer just for the region. So I personally hope, that we will realise this vision of a modern, vibrant, confident, integrated Malay-Muslim community, which is an example for the rest of the world within our lifetimes. That is possible and that is doable. That would a great success.
CHALLENGES FACING THE MALAY-MUSLIM COMMUNITY
51. Now, the final point of the speech. Let us turn to some of the challenges. We have to face facts if we want to achieve these visions. From what I understand, this morning's discussion touched on some of these things - the socio-economic factors that sort of hold the community back a little bit. But let me touch on a few things.
Radicalisation and exclusivism
52. The first that we need to deal with, is exclusivism, radicalisation. A Pew Research Centre study on Malaysia showed that 10% of Malaysian Malays had a favourable opinion of ISIS. And nearly one quarter were not prepared to come out and say ISIS is wrong. Even if we just take the 11% in a population of say, roughly 20 million, that gives you 1.8 to 2 million in Malaysia who think ISIS is good or they have a positive view. We have to make sure that we do not get there. And a key part of that depends on you, the leaders of the Malay community - whether you can make sure that the right religious values are put forth. We have to work hard at this because the influences are on the Internet.
53. Second, we need to help our Malay-Muslim PMETs, in a period of great change. Many have lost their jobs, I say many within the overall framework either lost their jobs or are making a switch to a different career. They need help and we have to help them. Minister Yaacob has asked Parliamentary Secretaries Amrin Amin and Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim to co-chair a new committee to assist Malay-Muslim PMETs and work closely with the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) who is looking at this. This is not just for the Malay-Muslim community. It is also people in their 40s, among Chinese and Indians losing their jobs.
54. You expect to earn $2,000 or $2,000-plus. China can produce 100 to 200 engineers for every one polytechnic graduate that we have, who will ask for a much lower salary. So that is the kind of competition that we face and that impacts our PMETs. MOM is working very hard at it. But in the end, the economy has to grow. We have to bring in the investments, the jobs have to be there before we can create or make opportunities for these people. And that involves complex trade-offs. Today, an investor looking at Singapore says, "I want to bring in $5 million. I am prepared to invest but I need 5,000 people". We do not have 5,000 people with these skills. But the political situation means that we are not able to allow the foreign workers to come in. But when we do not allow that, then they cannot invest and then the Singaporean jobs do not get created. And even worse, some of the existing MNCs are moving out because they have difficulties getting the foreign labour that they need. We do not have enough people, and we do not have enough people with the right skillsets. Today, while we have people who are unemployed, we also have thousands of jobs that are unfilled, a mismatch. We have got many jobs in the skills side, the skilled sector that are not filled. So the Government is looking at it overall, but within the Malay community, these two office holders are focusing on it.
Over-representation in crime, drugs, and prison statistics
55. Third, there is a significant over-representation in crime, drugs, and prison statistics. When I left MHA in May 2011 - I was the Minister then - the Malay population in the prisons was something like 40, 42 or 43%. Today, it has crossed over to 55%. In 2016, Malays formed 53% of drug abusers arrested. This has increased compared to 10 years ago when the proportion of Malay drug abusers was 32%. 54% of those arrested are new abusers, first-time abusers. In 2006, it was 22%. It has more than doubled. And in absolute numbers, it has gone up as well. The Malay drug abusers arrested per year increased by 1,300 compared to 10 years ago. New Malay drug abusers arrested per year increased from 104 in 2006 to 728 in 2016. In 2016, Malays formed 53% of drug abusers arrested.
56. So, to prevent the offending and to reduce the re-offending, the recidivism, it is challenging. When I was last in Home Affairs, I asked Minister Masagos to form a Task Force to go and look at this. They came up with the recommendations. I said go get the Malay organisations, Muslim organisations, to come and work with us. Because I am talking about the rocket and lifting off and all that, but there is a section of the community that is being caught up in this part. And we need to help them as well. Not everyone can be the rocket, but we must at least make sure that people at least have a decent life, have a flat, have a job – all of which are possible. Your help will be essential in the area of sending the message across, education, aftercare. It is a general problem, it is not a specific problem, not specific to the Malay community.
57. We are a major logistics hub. We are a major aviation hub. We are a major shipping hub. And we are a few hundred miles from the world's second largest heroin production centre, in the Golden Triangle. And because of the wealth factor in Singapore, people can afford to pay and therefore it is a huge attraction. It is a very lucrative industry. That is why we take a very tough stand. People know that if you get caught with drugs, you face the death penalty, beyond a certain limit. And that has helped us reduce the supply. It is not the only thing, there are many other things - a tough legal framework, a very strong focus on rehabilitation. First-time offenders, second-time offenders, we actually primarily focus on rehabilitation, education. It is a complete suite of things. You work on the supply, but you also got to work on the demand. The demand keeps growing, people keep wanting it. Whatever our laws are and however tough we are, the supply will keep coming in because the price just keeps going up. So we got to deal with both.
58. We have been successful. But next week in Parliament, there is a major motion. Chris de Souza has put the motion in his own name and I will be making a major speech. We have substantial issues about this Golden Triangle nearby. Afghanistan is the world's largest production centre. Much of it, they are hoping to route through Southeast Asia to eventually, elsewhere. And they can wash us over.
59. The second major challenge is internationally, people have lost the fight on drugs. And because they have lost the fight on drugs, they want to decriminalise and they say it is okay. And who is financing this campaign? The pharmaceutical companies, because they hope to sell a lot of drugs to people. They produce dubious research which says it is good to have marijuana and cannabis and so on. We are fighting this internationally.
60. Many of you have heard that famous or infamous speech I made at the United Nations last year. The Economist called me Singapore's fearsome Home Affairs Minister for that speech. But we have succeeded within Singapore. So I told them, you want me to change, okay you show me that the outcome will be better if I change. If you can show me, I will change. But if you cannot, please keep quiet. They did not like the speech - the NGOs and so on which are financed by the pharmaceutical companies. But people can understand, there is a logic to it. We have succeeded in Singapore, but we have to be careful. There is an international movement not just to change their laws, but they want to create a new international law that says countries which criminalises drugs are wrong. So they do not only want to change their laws, they want us to change our laws and they want to create a new international law.
61. And the third is of course, you can now buy it online. You get millions of parcels in Singapore so they try and send it in through parcels. And young people's attitudes towards drugs. Both for our anti-drug policy and our tough penalties, the population supports it across all races and religions but for the young people today, it is a lifestyle, it is cool. So we have to find a way of getting that message across. We made a debate in Parliament, but I think this is also something that the Malay community needs to look at.
MORE SUPPORT NEEDED FROM THE MALAY-MUSLIM COMMUNITY
62. The mosques, MUIS, can also help us with the ex-offenders and their families. Get them involved in doing things, 'gotong-royong'. The clerics, ustazahs, ustazs have very strong ground experience because they meet people all the time. They can help us send this message. They could help the community. For example, you take the Christian community, the preachers go and meet the prisoners and talk to them and work on them. Likewise, they have been trying to work very hard to get Muslim clerics, asatizahs, to go to the prisons and talk to the inmates, save their souls. So that when they come out, they do not go back to re-offending. We have had limited success. But the Darul Ghufran Mosque has come forward to help us. It would be good if more can come forward.
63. PERGAS has got a young team of asatizahs experienced in offender rehabilitation work, familiar with the issues faced by Malay inmates. They can help us review and improve the religious curriculum for inmates. I strongly believe that if the boys in prison turn to religion, it will help them stay away from behaviour that gets them back in prison. PERGAS Community Dakwah team can extend the outreach efforts to Muslim ex-offenders in the community. When they come out, they also need the scaffolding, the support. Because who are the first people who go and see them when they come out of prison? The friends who got them into trouble. We need to get them out of that cycle. We also need to focus on preventive drug education. So, here PERGAS is helping us lead a coalition of Malay-Muslim partners to launch the "Dadah itu Haram" campaign. Organisations can play an important role in these upstream efforts.
64. AMP, with strong ground experience, rich experience in working with disadvantaged groups and families, you have now come in to help us work with inmates and their families. You have launched a maiden programme. Malay-Muslim inmates starts on the inside of prisons and continue until after they are released. And I am happy that AMP is partnering us in championing this cause and I believe AMP can do an excellent job here and work with a coalition of partners to help in aftercare support for Muslim offenders.
65. MENDAKI has been working with Prisons on Information & Referral Programme to connect families of inmates to various community resources. Launched in 2015, MENDAKI has helped more than 250 Muslim inmates but we have more than 5,700 Muslim inmates in prison so we need to expand the programme.
66. PPIS - Family Service Centres has been serving 10,000 beneficiaries each year to provide services like mentoring and co-parenting support for single mothers. And that is another issue that the community has to tackle. And PPIS now plans to expand these programmes to ex-offenders. There is scope for more people to come in and help in this.
Jamiyah and Pertapis
67. Jamiyah and Pertapis play a key role in helping Muslim offenders in Halfway Houses. The Halfway Houses are financed by us.
68. We are constantly on the lookout for organisations, groups that can come and work with us to help the community. So we must ask for more volunteers, more community participation, working on these issues. We will be there to help. We put the money down, we put the framework, but we cannot do what you can do. We need you.
69. So let me conclude. It is the individual, community organisations and the Government combined together. It is a powerful combination. And together, with a very clear set of goals and vision, and clear understanding of the socio-economic issues, looking at it squarely and facing facts, and having that idealistic view of what can be achieved, I think you can achieve a lot. We can achieve a culturally and religiously vibrant, integrated, modern, successful Muslim community. And may that vision be achieved soon.
70. Thank you.