02 Mar 2020

Committee of Supply Debate 2020 on “Combating Drug Abuse and Strengthening Rehabilitation Together” - Speech by Mr Amrin Amin, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Health

1.     Mr Chairman, I will speak on two areas: Combating drug abuse; and strengthening the rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders.

 

Overview of Drug Situation

 

2.     The international drug situation is grim. One in 18 adults in the world used drugs at least once in a year, according to the 2019 World Drug Report.

 

3.     New Psychoactive Substances, or NPS, is a rising threat. NPS mimics the psychoactive effects of traditional drugs. In 2009, 126 NPS were detected worldwide. Within ten years, the number has increased sevenfold to 892.

 

4.     We are seeing a global movement towards more liberal attitudes on drugs. More countries are legalising drug abuse or are considering to do so.

 

5.     The media fuels this legalisation wave. They gloss over documented harms of cannabis like mental disorders.

 

6.     Pro-legalisation camps also conveniently ignore the social costs– lives lost, families destroyed, increased crimes.

 

Enhancing Singapore’s Anti-Drug Approach

7.     Singapore is not immune to a worsening global drug situation.

 

8.     First, attitudes of young Singaporeans towards drugs are changing. Three in five new drug abusers arrested last year were below 30. A MHA survey found that youths in Singapore have more liberal views on drugs, particularly, cannabis. One in five held the view that cannabis abuse should be legal in Singapore.

 

9.     Second, the rising threat of NPS. A decade ago, NPS was hardly known in Singapore. Now, NPS is the third most commonly abused drug. 414 or 11.7% of drug abusers took NPS in 2019.

 

10.     More than ever, we need strict laws to stay ahead of drug trends, robust enforcement, and effective preventive drug education.

 

11.     This is a multi-year effort.

 

12.     I am happy to announce that this year we will enhance two areas:

 

a)     First, a review of our laws to robustly deal with the rising threat of NPS, and

 

b)     Second, to sharpen preventive drug education with a focus on correcting misinformation about drugs and addressing changing attitudes towards cannabis.

 

New Psychoactive Substances (NPS)

13.     On NPS, we have been proactively listing NPS to the Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA) since 2010.

 

14.     But as Mr de Souza pointed out, the difficulty is that rogue chemists are able to swiftly produce new NPS variants by changing their chemical structures. This poses a challenge for drug enforcement agencies the world over.

 

15.     MHA is reviewing our laws to stay ahead of drug trends. Details will be announced in due course.

 

Preventive Drug Education (PDE)

16.     Effective preventive drug education must achieve two important aims.

 

17.     First, our people must know the facts about drugs.

 

18.     And second, the effort must garner community support. Strict laws and robust enforcement require the people’s backing.

 

19.     Mr Sitoh and Mr Irshad asked how we help our youths stand firm against drug abuse. Mr de Souza asked about our strategies against cannabis.

 

20.     Our preventive drug education starts from pre-school. In schools, we teach the facts about drugs through story-telling and activities.

 

a)     A cartoon activity book for pre-schoolers will be ready in April.

 

b)     An Anti-Drug Ambassador Activity booklet has been used by over 48,000 primary school students in 2019.

 

c)     60 secondary schools have been offered an after-school anti-drug engagement programme.

 

21.     Information on harms of drugs must be easily understood and put in layman terms. For instance, as suggested by Mr de Souza, we state in our press releases how many abusers have their drug addiction fed from drugs found on a trafficker.

 

22.     To counter growing misinformation about cannabis, we are making facts about cannabis accessible.

 

a)     We have a one-stop repository for cannabis-related information on CNB’s website.

 

b)     Infographics on the harms of cannabis and the social costs of legalising cannabis are on social media platforms.

 

c)     And, an anti-cannabis information booklet for educators will be ready this year.

 

23.     Mr Chairman, to win community support, a one-way exchange of information will not be enough. At the heart of what we do is to speak with our people frankly, give them the facts, hear them out, and involve them to co-create and deliver.

 

24.     We have frank conversations. National Council Against Drug Abuse, or NCADA, will launch ‘HIGH’, an interactive film by Royston Tan, in March. Viewers get to make choices and learn the consequences of their choices in this film. At our preview screenings, we invited youths to no-holds barred conversations on drugs, revealing its ugly, gritty realities.

 

25.     We co-created projects with youths from all Institutes of Higher Learning.

 

a)     160 youths are our Anti-Drug Abuse Advocates. They organised four roadshows and campaigns raising awareness among their peers.

 

b)     Republic Poly and Nanyang Poly students created two anti-drug games to teach about the harms of drugs.

 

c)     ITE students produced anti-drug videos.

 

d)     Temasek Polytechnic students had a social media campaign on how drugs affect our loved ones.

 

26.     Ms Rahayu, Mr Faishal, Mr Tan and Mr Irshad asked about community anti-drug engagement efforts.

 

27.     We have been working with various groups – youths, LGBTQ+, ethnic communities, parent groups and others.

 

28.     Last September, Indian youths and 13 Indian community groups organised the Bothaiporulai Ethirtu Nirpom, or BEN, campaign. BEN is a short-form, Tamil phrase “We Stand United Against Drugs”.

 

a)     Indian celebrity, Anand K, helped as an anti-drug ambassador.

 

b)     We gave out envelopes and snack packets with anti-drug messages at Deepavali Bazaar.

 

29.     We worked with various LGBTQ groups on anti-drug campaigns, discussion forums, and research and outreach activities in support of a drug-free lifestyle.


 

Our Malay-Muslim Community United and Determined in its Fight against Drugs

 

30.     Mr Chairman, I will now speak in Malay.

 

31.       Usaha kita untuk membebaskan masyarakat dari cengkaman dadah jahanam semakin penting.

 

32.       Keadaan di dunia semakin mencabar. Lebih banyak negara kini bersikap lebih terbuka terhadap dadah. Kebimbangannya, mereka tidak dapat mengawal masalah dadah di kalangan masyarakat mereka.

 

33.       Ini sangat berbeza dengan Singapura. Saya masih ingat semasa menghadiri persidangan pemulihan pesalah antarabangsa di Argentina Oktober lalu.

 

34.       Singapura mendapat tepukan gemuruh dari puluhan pakar pemulihan pesalah antarabangsa apabila saya berkongsi tentang jumlah pesalah dadah Melayu di Singapura yang turun hampir separuh - dari lebih 3,200 pada tahun 1993 kepada 1,800 pada tahun lalu.

 

35.       Jumlah pesalah dadah melonjak di banyak negara. Mereka rasa tewas dan ada yang terpaksa melonggarkan larangan terhadap dadah kerana tidak terkawal lagi.

 

36.       Masyarakat Melayu Singapura menyerlah – kita mengandakan usaha pemerintah, tidak mudah putus asa dan tidak mengelak tugas berat. Namun kita mesti berwaspada. Masyarakat kita terdedah kepada pengaruh di luar negara dan di alam siber. Mitos tentang dadah seperti kanabis berleluasa. Kononnya, kanabis itu tidak bahaya. Ini salah sama sekali - kajian demi kajian telah membutikannya.

 

37.       Tinjauan MHA menunjukkan belia Singapura sikap lebih terbuka terhadap dadah, terutama kanabis. Satu daripada lima belia berpendapat kanabis harus dibenarkan di Singapura. Tiga daripada lima pesalah dadah baru yang diberkas berumur bawah 30 tahun. Ini membimbangkan.

 

38.       Dadah jenis baru seperti New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) adalah dadah ketiga paling popular di Singapura. Di kalangan pesalah dadah baru, NPS adalah jenis dadah kedua paling popular.

 

39.       Kita tidak boleh berdiam diri atau leka. Strategi memerangi dadah akan dimantapkan.

 

40.       Tiga strategi tersebut adalah – undang-undang lebih ketat, penguatkuasaan yang lebih tegas, dan pendidikan pencegahan dadah yang lebih berkesan.

 

41.       Saya gembira untuk mengumumkan bahawa tahun ini, MHA akan menumpukan lebih banyak tenaga kepada dua perkara:

 

a)     Pertama - Menyemak undang-undang untuk mengekang ancaman NPS yang semakin menular, dan

 

b)     Kedua - Memerangi mitos atau informasi salah tentang dadah dan menangani pendirian yang semakin terbuka terhadap kanabis kerana ianya berbahaya.

 

42.       Ini ikrar pemerintah – kami akan sentiasa berganding bahu dengan badan-badan Melayu, keluarga dan anak-muda kita supaya masyarakat kita sayang diri kita sendiri dan keluarga kita, dan elak daripada diperhambakan oleh dadah. Golongan yang memerlukan akan kita bantu untuk bangkit dan terus menuju kecemerlangan.

 

43.       Gerakan M³ yang diterajui MUIS, MENDAKI, and MESRA, memberi tumpuan kepada golongan pesalah dan keluarga mereka. Semangat gotong-royong mekar dengan lebih 320 sukarelawan mendukung FITRAH.

 

44.       Mendaki mengajurkan ‘Family Excellence Circle’ untuk menyokong penjaga, pesalah dan pasangan. MESRA akan memadankan beberapa kursus siri SHIOK kepada keperluan keluarga bekas pesalah, terutama kepada anak-anak muda.

 

45.       Persatuan-persatuan Melayu turut sedia bantu - AMP, PERGAS, JAMIYAH, PPIS, Club Heal, dan Dana Pendidikan Harun Ghani.

 

46.       Kempen Dadah Itu Haram terus mendapat sokongan hangat dari mat-mat motor, pakcik-makcik pancing, selebriti Aaron Aziz dan Sufi Rashid, members basikal, para mahasiswa, golongan asatizah, para penggiat dikir barat dan pencinta teater.

 

47.       42 buah masjid serta 200 kedai dan badan-badan juga tampil membantu. 51 acara Dadah Itu Haram diadakan sepanjang tahun lalu dari Konsert Rock hinggalah ke Siri Inspirasi di Rumah Peralihan.

 

48.       Kini sebanyak 75 kedai gunting menyokong kempen dengan menjadi ‘para penasihat tidak rasmi anti-dadah’. Tukang-tukang gunting sanggup belajar tentang bahayanya kanabis dan kemudian berkongsi dengan pelanggan masing-masing tentang bahaya kanabis demi membanteras mitos tentang kanabis.

 

49.       Kami akan meneliti keberkesanan usaha melalui kajian-kajian yang sedang dibuat. Tahun ini, kita akan memberi tumpuan kepada program keluarga dan belia.

 
English translation of Malay section 

31.         Our efforts to free our community from the evil grip of drugs have become more important.

 

32.         The situation is more challenging in the world. More countries have increasingly more liberal attitudes towards drugs. Worryingly, they are unable to control the drug problem in their own societies.

 

33.         Singapore is different here. I remember attending an international rehabilitation conference in Argentina last October. 

 

34.         Singapore was applauded by hundreds of international experts on drug rehabilitation when I shared that the number of Malay drug addicts were successfully reduced by almost half - from more than 3,200 in 1993 to 1,800 last year.

 

35.         The number of drug offenders has jumped in many countries. They feel defeated, and some have been forced to liberalise drug laws as they have lost control of their drug situation. The Malay community in Singapore is different – we multiply Government’s efforts, we do not give up easily and we do not shirk difficult tasks.

 

36.         But we must stay cautious. Our community is exposed to influences from abroad and online. Myths about drugs like cannabis are widespread. They claim cannabis is not harmful. This is totally wrong. Studies after studies have proven this.

 

37.         And a survey by MHA has shown that Singapore youths have a more open attitude towards drugs, especially cannabis. One in five held the view that cannabis abuse should be legal in Singapore, and three out of five new drug offenders caught were under the age of 30. This is worrying.

 

38.          New types of drugs like NPS are the third most popular drug in Singapore. Among new drug offenders, NPS is the second most popular drug.

 

39.         We must not stay still or remain complacent.

 

40.         The strategy to combat the drug menace will be strengthened and the three strategies are – tighter laws, stronger enforcement and a more effective preventive drug education.

 

41.          I am pleased to announce that this year MHA will focus our efforts on two areas:

 

  • First, to review our laws to respond to the rising threat of NPS; and  
  • Second, fight myths and misconceptions about drugs and address changing attitudes towards cannabis, because it is harmful.

 

42.         This is the Government’s promise – we will always work together with Malay organisations, families and youths to better care for ourselves and our families, and prevent ourselves from being enslaved by drugs. For those in need, we will help them to recover and continue their journey towards excellence.

 

43.         The M³ movement, led by MUIS, MENDAKI, and MESRA, has focused their attention offenders and their families. MUIS launched FITRAH, or 'Family & Inmates Through-Care Assistance Haven’, in November 2018. FITRAH has over 320 members supporting.

 

44.         MENDAKI runs the Family Excellence Circle for caregivers, inmates, and spouses. MESRA plans to tailor several SHIOK series courses to the needs of families of ex-offenders, especially children.

 

45.         Malay Muslim Organisations are also ready to assist: AMP PERGAS, JAMIYAH, PPIS, Club Heal and the Harun Ghani Education Fund.

 

 

46.         The Dadah Itu Haram Campaign continues to receive strong support from Bikers, barbers, fishing enthusiasts, celebrities such as Aaron Aziz and Sufi Rashid, cyclists, students, religious teachers, “Dikir Barat” enthusiasts, and theatre-lovers.

47.         42 mosques and 200 shops and organisations have come forward.

 

48.         Today, we have 75 barbershops supporting campaign by becoming 'informal anti-drug advisers'. Our barbers took the effort to learn about the harms of cannabis and share the information with their customers, to correct misinformation about cannabis.

 

49.         We will study the effectiveness of these efforts. This year we will focus on family and youth programmes.

 

 

Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Offenders

50.     Mr Chairman, I will now speak about the rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders.

 

51.     Mr de Souza asked how the amendments to the MDA in 2019 has affected inmates’ risks of re-offending.

 

52.     The full suite of MDA changes took effect last August. It is still early to make any conclusions on their impact. We will continue to monitor.

 

53.     Mr Murali asked how we can reduce re-offending.

 

54.     Prisons will strengthen support for offenders in three ways.

 

55.     First, family support. Family plays a critical part. Prisons’ has started a Family Interventions and Reintegration Support Team, or FIRST trial, and family case managers work with community partners to support inmates’ families.

 

56.     Over 100 inmates have benefited from this trial and results are encouraging. Prisons will be enhancing collaborations with Social Service Agencies.

 

57.     Second, a network of positive peers to support ex-offenders stay crime-free. Prisons will expand its Throughcare Volunteer Network to encourage more volunteers and support inmates pre and post release.

 

58.     Third, the offenders. Offenders will be empowered to take charge of their rehabilitation through the Prisons’ Digitisation of Inmate Rehabilitation and Corrections Tool or DIRECT. Inmates use shared tablets to learn, and keep in touch with their loved ones via electronic letters.

 

59.     Gainful employment is another critical part. Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises (SCORE) prepares offenders for employment through employer engagement, skills training and employment assistance.

 

60.     More than 5,600 employers from various industries offer jobs to ex-offenders. Almost 6,000 offenders went for an average of four training courses each last year. Over 2,600 offenders received employment assistance, with 96 per cent securing jobs before release from Prisons.

 

61.     SCORE will further support inmates get industry-relevant skills. SCORE will partner Singapore Precision Engineering and Technology Association and MediaCorp to set up precision engineering and media skills training academies this year.

 

Conclusion

62.     Mr Chairman and Parliamentary colleagues, the choices we make today affect tomorrow.

 

63.     We will keep Singapore safe and secure, together.

 

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