01 Mar 2019

Committee of Supply Debate 2019 on "Fighting Drugs and Cyber-crime, Transforming the Home Team, for a Safer Singapore" - Speech by Mr Amrin Amin, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Health

1.            Mr Chairman, I will focus on four areas:

a.         Fighting cyber-crime and scams;

b.         Transforming the Home Team;

c.         Keeping Singapore drug-free; and

d.         Supporting rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders.


A.  Fighting Cyber Crime and Scams


2.            On the first area, fighting cyber-crimes and scams. Last year, crimes reported increased by 1.4%, largely driven by an increase in scams. More than $158 million was lost to scams in 2018 – and this is just a conservative estimate.


3.            The public continues to fall largely for three types of scams:

a.    E-commerce scams, such as online purchase scams.


b.   Two, credit-for-sex scams, where scammers pose as attractive women on social media platforms.


c.   Three, China officials’ impersonation scams, where victims receive calls from seemingly official numbers, and are told to provide banking details or remit money to assist in “criminal investigations”. Last year, one victim lost about $1.7 million this way.


4.             Mr Christopher de Souza asked how MHA would be tackling cyber-crime, especially those targeting the elderly and internet love scams.


5.            We have adopted a multi-pronged strategy:

a.    First, we have strengthened international cooperation with foreign law enforcement agencies to disrupt foreign syndicates.


Last year, Police conducted joint operations with Royal Malaysia Police and Hong Kong Police, which led to the arrest of over 40 suspects responsible for over 150 cases of internet love scams across 3 jurisdictions.


b.    Second, we have devoted more resources.


In 2017, Police set up the Transnational Commercial Crime Task Force to investigate cross-border scams. To date, we have seized more than $1.5 million and frozen over 600 bank accounts.


Police also set up the E-Commerce Fraud Enforcement and Coordination Team in November last year. In just two months, more than 200 e-commerce scams cases were solved and 26 scammers were arrested.


c.    Third, we have raised public awareness.


There is a dedicated scam advisory hotline and ‘Scamalert.sg’ website, which provide information on latest scams.


We have worked with online marketing platform Carousell, convenience stores, remittance agencies, banks and other stakeholders to remove suspicious advertisements, publicise scam advisories, and look out for potential scam victims.


To educate the elderly who are vulnerable to such scams, Police conducted Silver IT Fest 2018. Police also reached out to elderly residents through house visits and Silver Watch, a programme to equip seniors with crime prevention knowledge.


Together with the National Crime Prevention Council, we launched the “Let’s Fight Scams” campaign, partnering community and businesses.


6.            We will continue to focus on this fight.


B.  Transforming the Home Team


7.            Mr Chairman, turning to my second area – Home Team Transformation. MHA has embarked on Home Team Transformation since 2015. The Transformation aims to strengthen joint operations in the Home Team, deepen our science and technology capabilities, and upskill our officers to better meet future challenges.


8.            The Transformation efforts are progressing well. Mr Murali Pillai asked how MHA would ensure that SPF would be sufficiently resourced to continue to operate effectively. The SPF is constantly looking at new ways to improve productivity and efficiency of their officers. As part of the Home Team Transformation, systems are developed to support ground operations and ease administrative workload.


9.            One example is SPF’s convenient and citizen-centric e-Services. On 8 July 2018, the revamped e-Services 1.0 was introduced. Members of public can now perform online transactions such as reporting crimes, from home. Self-help terminals have also been installed at several Neighbourhood Police Centres. Time saved from automating such services can be re-directed to frontline core policing duties where human touch is crucial.


10.          Another key aspect of policing is community partnership. In 2018, SPF introduced a new vocation for its voluntary service vocation: VSC (Community). I attended the training graduation of the inaugural batch of 38 VSC (Community) officers in April 2018. From 38 officers, we now have 134 VSC (Community) officers. 


11.          Dressed in a blue police polo T-shirt and black cargo pants, VSC (Community) officers join regular police officers at high visibility patrols in community areas, assist in crowd and traffic regulation, and security checks at major security events. VSC (Community) is an example of how the community can help augment police resources and contribute to our nation’s security.  


12.          Mr Desmond Choo asked how we are re-skilling our officers to better utilise technology and whether there is scope to form training committees. The Home Team recognises the importance of upskilling our officers to take on higher value work. This is crucial as we transform, introduce new concepts of operations, and re-design existing jobs to leverage new technologies.


13.          MHA formed a Skills Transformation Development Team to identify the training required for officers to meet increasing operational expectations. The team identified a need to develop officers’ skills in key areas such as data analytics, technology literacy and cyber security.


14.          Mr Desmond Choo also asked about the re-employment of officers. In the last five years, MHA re-employed about 45% of our retired uniformed officers. And we aim to re-employ as many of our officers as we can.


C.  Keeping Singapore Drug-free


15.          I will now turn to my third area -  keeping Singapore drug-free. Mr Chairman, this is a top priority for MHA.


Preventive Education


16.          Mr Christopher de Souza, Mr Gan Thiam Poh and Mr Tan Wu Meng asked about Singapore’s views on the moves by some countries to legalise the use of cannabis.


17.          The Government’s stand on illicit drugs, including cannabis, is clear. Drugs are addictive and harmful. And research has shown that they lead to irreversible brain damage, and even death.


18.          But strangely, some countries have legalised cannabis. Contrary to evidence, they portray raw cannabis as “harmless” and even having “health benefits”. 


19.          The trend is largely driven by commercial lobbying thirsty for profits, and serves as a politically expedient way out of a drug abuse situation over which some governments have lost control over. Public interest and the welfare of individuals, families and society are sacrificed on the altars of bad science, profits and political expediency.


20.          Preventive education is our first line of defence against the drug scourge. Mr Sitoh Yih Pin asked about MHA’s plans to engage youths on the harms of drug abuse. This is a concern.


21.          Young abusers below 30 formed close to two-thirds of the new abusers arrested last year. The number of new youth abusers below 20 increased by 30 per cent last year to 305.


22.          Today, CNB reaches out to students through talks, roadshows, social media and projects. And with their talents and passion, youths can be powerful anti-drug advocates. Let me share some examples.


23.          Nanyang Polytechnic graduates, Jillian Khoo and Teh Yu Yin produced an illustrated book titled “Captain Drug Buster vs Dr Wacko: The Final Showdown”. The storybook teaches our seven to 10 year olds on the harms of drugs. Teachers and parents can read to their children and equip them with facts about the harms of drugs early. You can get this storybook at primary school, public and Parliament libraries. 


24.          Another example: 19-year-old Singaporean, Ms Nur Afikah, participated in the annual United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Youth Forum in March 2018. At the Forum, she exchanged ideas with representatives from 25 other countries on running effective programmes to prevent drug abuse. She spoke from personal experience having witnessed the devastating impact of drugs on relatives and friends.


25.          At 2019’s Youth Forum, Singapore will be represented by Javier Ng, a 17-year old ITE student.  Javier and Afikah are among 122 youth Anti-Drug Abuse Advocates.


26.          Our youth advocates have organised various events, most recently an anti-drug roadshow at Singapore Institute of Management. 


Anti-Drug Enforcement Framework


27.          Even as we do more in preventive drug education, we cannot let up on enforcement. We amended the Misuse of Drugs Act recently to introduce contamination and child endangerment offences.


28.          Acts of contamination which facilitate or promote drug use have been criminalised. Drug abusers who leave drugs lying around at home and expose children to the risks of drugs, will also be criminally liable.


Drug Rehabilitation Regime


29.          We will also strengthen our drug rehabilitation regime. We will make a distinction between abusers who only consume drugs, and those who face charges for other offences of harm to society. Pure drug offenders will undergo intensive rehabilitation in the Drug Rehabilitation Centre, instead of going through the long-term imprisonment pathway. After their release, they will be subject to longer supervision in the community of up to five years.


D.  Supporting Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Offenders

 

Supporting Family Re-integration


30.          A key factor that keeps offenders from re-offending is strong pro-social support. Family is an important source.


31.          Prisons has set up the Family Interventions and Reintegration Support Team (FIRST) in July 2018. And under this trial, Family Case Managers work closely with community partners to strengthen dysfunctional families, so they can support and be meaningfully involved in the rehabilitation of their loved ones. With strong family support, the reintegration process for the inmate becomes easier. 


32.          As mentioned by Mr Saktiandi Supaat, unfortunately there are still cases where ex-offenders are unable to return home due to unresolved family grievances. For help, they can go to the Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association’s Step-Up Centre in Sengkang and the newly opened centre in Taman Jurong. They may also call the ComCare hotline, or approach the nearest Social Service Office or Family Service Centre. If they have no alternative family support and are unable to afford other housing options, they can apply to HDB for public rental housing.


33.          There are schemes to support those in need, and inmates are briefed on help avenues before release. We are constantly reviewing to see how else we can support ex-offenders in their re-integration. It is a difficult journey but ex-offenders must also take ownership and responsibility for their reintegration.


Efforts by the Malay-Muslim Community


34.          The community is another critical component of pro-social support. The Malay-Muslim community has made significant efforts to mobilise support against drugs and for ex-offenders.


35.          Mr Chairman, with your permission I will speak in Malay.


36.          Penyalahgunaan dadah menjejas semua lapisan masyarakat. Namun isu ini telah lama menghantui masyarakat Melayu kita. Masyarakat Melayu membentuk sebahagian besar jumlah pesalah. Yang membimbangkan adalah kadar pesalah dadah Melayu yang baru dan yang berusia di bawah 30 tahun, yang meningkat.


37.          Masyarakat kita walau bagaimanapun tidak mudah tewas, kita tidak mudah berserah. Perang dadah jahanam ini akan terus diperjuangkan dengan sokongan padu pemerintah, dan badan-badan Melayu-Islam, para asatizah, kaum keluarga dan belia-belia Melayu kita.


38.          Cik Rahayu Mahzam menyentuh tentang Kempen “Dadah Itu Haram" (DIH) yang dilancarkan pada April 2017.


39.          Kempen Dadah itu Haram menggembleng tenaga masyarakat dan menonjolkan pendirian tegas masyarakat tentang najis dadah. Walaupun hanya dua tahun, kempen Dadah itu Haram tidak merangkak, tetapi terus berlari ligat dalam usaha mendekati masyarakat. Hasilnya melebihi jangkauan kami sendiri.


40.          Setiap dua minggu sukarelawan menghulur risalah kempen Dadah itu Haram di masjid di merata Singapura selepas solat Jumaat.


41.          Abang gunting rambut sambil menggunting  berkongsi tentang bahaya dadah di kedai gunting mereka.


42.          Pemain liga sepak takraw PERSES sambil bertekong menepis dadah. 


43.          Kedai makan, studio jamming, kedai jual kereta dan bengkel kereta turut serta menampal ‘tangkal’ Dadah itu Haram sebagai amaran dan seruan untuk berwaspada.


44.          Kita akan terus mengejutkan masyarakat kepada ancaman dadah dan bertindak supaya keluarga dan anak kita sedar dan terpelihara.


45.          Lebih 50 acara, 300 pertubuhan dan perniagaan sebagai rakan kempen, 300 sukarelawan dan hampir 100,000 ahli masyarakat didekati pada tahun 2018.


46.          Yang membanggakan saya ialah kini kita mendapat panggilan daripada kaum masyarakat. Mereka ingin turut serta menjayakan kempen ini. Mereka terpanggil.


47.          Contohnya abang-abang fishing The One Nation Angler Association (TONA),

kumpulan berbasikal FlowRiders dan persatuan Melayu NUS (PBMUKS) dengan acara tahunan Paradigma menghulurkan bantuan kepada penagih belia.


48.          Dadah itu Haram - kempen masyarakat, suara hati rakyat.


49.          Selain kempen Dadah itu Haram, badan-badan seperti Jamiyah, Pertapis, Pergas dan Muslim Counselling Service memberi sokongan kepada pesalah semasa mereka di penjara dan di luar penjara. Saya ingin ketengahkan dua program.


50.          Pertama AMP, program DRP (Program Pembangunan dan Integrasi) yang saya lancarkan pada November 2018, berjalan dengan baik.


51.          Setakat ini, 185 pesalah dan keluarga menerima sokongan dan bantuan dari segi kewangan, peningkatan kemahiran dan pendidikan untuk anak-anak.


52.          Saya tabik AMP kerana keazaman dan keikhlasan mereka. AMP merupakan badan pertama yang memberi khidmat yang menyeluruh dan berterusan – dari asuhan di dalam penjara, sokongan kepada keluarga hingga sokongan selepas keluar penjara.


53.          Kedua, Muis. Muis telah menghasilkan khutbah Jumaat yang disampaikan semasa solat Jumaat di penjara. Khutbah khas ini ditumpukan untuk keperluan para pesalah dadah.


54.          Tambahan, para asatizah di Muis sedang melakarkan satu kurikulum pendidikan agama yang  membekalkan pesalah di dalam penjara bukan hanya tentang pengetahuan agama, tetapi nilai-nilai seperti tanggungjawab terhadap diri serta keluarga, yakin diri dan peri-pentingnya menjauhi najis dadah yang menjahanamkan keluarga dan meruntuhkan akhlak.


55.          Muis dan rakan M3 (Muis, Mendaki, Mesra) akan bekerjasama untuk menangani cabaran ini.


56.          Kerja belum selesai. Gejala dadah belum terkawal sepenuhnya. Ia masih menular di masyarakat kita. Ayuh kita bersatu. Kita berjuang dengan jiwa dan raga.


Upskilling Inmates Throughout Rehabilitation Journey


57.          Employment is another key in breaking the offending cycle. 


58.          Mr Saktiandi Supaat asked about support for ex-offenders to find jobs. In 2018, 96% of ex-offenders who requested assistance from the Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises (SCORE) secured a job before release. Ex-offenders who are unable to secure jobs on their own, can apply for jobs via SCORE’s online job portal or contact SCORE’s Employment Assistance Unit.


59.          Mr Christopher de Souza and Mr Baey Yam Keng asked about steps taken to increase the employability of ex-offenders. We have launched several initiatives last year.


60.          First, Prisons School has launched a Diploma programme in Business Practice (International Supply Chain Management), with Ngee Ann Polytechnic. Inmates can benefit from the projected increase in manpower demand of the logistics sector upon their release. 


61.          Second, since June 2018, SCORE has enhanced the WSQ training in culinary skills to include advanced modules. I visited Prisons last month and observed inmates learning to make chicken soup - not from ready-made sachets, but from scratch.  86 inmates have successfully attained the Higher WSQ certification as of December 2018. With this certification, they can work at kitchens as kitchen helpers and progress the ranks to commissioned cooks.


62.          Third, SCORE has partnered Workforce Singapore (WSG) to emplace ex-offenders on short-term work stints under the Career Trial Programme. The trial allows a prospective employer to assess performance and job fit for up to 480 work hours, before offering an ex-offender permanent employment. No manpower cost is incurred as the training allowance is paid by WSG.


63.          Since its November 2018 launch, 24 employers offering more than 150 vacancies have come on board.


64.          Besides offering such programmes which are geared mainly for inmates with longer sentence, we have also reviewed how we can help inmates with short sentences.


65.          Last year, the National Committee on Prevention, Rehabilitation and Recidivism (NCPR), a committee co-led by MSF and MHA, was set up to oversee national efforts to prevent offending and re-offending and enhance rehabilitation.


66.          The Committee assessed that there was scope to offer targeted support for higher-risk inmates with sentences of less than a year as a good number of them may still have a high risk of re-offending.


67.          Since June 2018, Prisons started to provide psychology-based correctional programmes to higher-risk inmates serving between six months and a year. This group of inmates will undergo an abridged pre-release programme and a Reintegration Needs Assessment before release.


68.          Prisons will also work with the National Council of Social Service on a pilot to place 60 higher-risk inmates with short sentences on voluntary case management after their release, to assist with reintegration.


69.          Keeping Singapore safe and secure is our promise to Singaporeans. We will deliver.


70.          Thank you.

Last Updated on 20 Nov 2018
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