Published: 24 November 2016
Mrs Quek Bin Hwee, SANA President
Members of the SANA Board of Management
Volunteers and Community Partners
Ladies and Gentlemen
1. Good evening.
2. It is a pleasure to join you this evening to celebrate SANA's contributions and achievements.
3. SANA is a key partner of the Ministry of Home Affairs and the CARE Network in the fight against drugs. Since its inception 44 years ago, SANA has been concerned with the need to arrest the abuse of drugs such as opium, morphine and heroin. SANA, through its volunteer aftercare officers, has helped many ex-offenders in their recovery and rehabilitation journey. It also played an important role in spreading the anti-drug message to Singaporeans through outreach programmes, workshops and exhibitions. Over the years, SANA has expanded its role to include preventive drug education and enhanced its community aftercare efforts for ex-offenders.
Challenging Drug Situation
4. The drug situation in Singapore remains challenging. There was a 6% increase in the number of drug abusers to 3,343 in 2015, compared to 2014. Two areas are of particular concern.
5. First, there has been an increase in new drug abusers. We arrested a total of 1,309 new drug abusers last year, a 20% increase from the previous year. Many of them are youths and young adults. In 2015, about 7 in 10 new abusers arrested were below 30 years old.
6. Second, we have seen more cases of cannabis abuse among new abusers in recent years. Cannabis abuse cases in Singapore have doubled from about 80 in 2011 to over 150 in 2015. Cannabis has also displaced heroin as the second most commonly abused drug among new abusers.
7. These two trends indicate that more young people are taking casual attitudes towards drugs, and experimenting with those that they perceive as "soft" and less harmful.
8. We are also keeping a close watch on global trends and attitudes, which are moving towards the liberalisation of drugs. We have seen this in the United States, where three additional states have legalised cannabis, with many others pushing for the same. Some other countries are also moving towards that direction.
9. Singapore must continue to maintain our zero-tolerance stance against drugs. We need to maintain tough laws against traffickers, keep up with enforcement efforts, step up preventive drug education, and strengthen our rehabilitation and aftercare programmes.
10. For these efforts to be effective, we need the support of community partners like SANA.
SANA's Efforts in the Fight against Drug Abuse
11. SANA plays an instrumental role in reaching out to youths and ex-offenders. I am happy to hear that SANA will be using different platforms to do so. For example, SANA will be creating an online portal to provide youths with information on the dangers and consequences of drug abuse, as well as developing an e-resource centre to better engage youths.
12. SANA's new Step-Up Centre is already making a difference to the lives of ex-offenders. The Centre provides ex-offenders and their families with financial and emotional support that is crucial to their rehabilitation journey. To date, more than 600 ex-offenders and their families have been given assistance and guidance on how they can prepare themselves for their journey ahead.
13. This significant achievement is possible because of the dedication of the 20 para-counsellors who volunteer actively at the Centre. Take for instance Mr Danny Koh, who has been volunteering as a para-counsellor at the Centre since January 2015. Through his efforts, an ex-offender was able to reconnect with his wife and family, and is now enjoying time with his grandchildren.
14. The support of the community is key in helping ex-offenders who want to start afresh, reintegrate into society and lead a life free from crime and drugs. The journey towards rehabilitation and reintegration is not an easy one, but we must continue to bring hope and optimism to ex-offenders.
15. I would like to thank all of you for your perseverance, dedication and commitment towards this meaningful cause. I also hope that all of you will inspire and encourage those around you to be a SANA volunteer and make a difference to the lives of ex-offenders.
16. On this note, let me conclude by thanking again all the volunteers, donors and community partners for working to keep Singapore drug-free and your support of ex-offenders in their journey of rehabilitation and reintegration.
17. Thank you.