16 Mar 2019

Association of Muslim Professionals Community In Review 2019 - "United Against Drug: Community Progress and The Way Forward" - Speech by Mr Amrin Amin, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Health

Mr Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim, Chairman AMP

Malay-Muslim community leaders

Ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning.

 

  1. I’m very happy to be here. Allow me to say thank you to the out-going Chairman, Mr Abdul Hamid Abdullah. We have worked very well together. You have been supportive. Thank you very much for your distinguished service to AMP and to Singapore. I also very privileged because we are also making history in one other way. This is one of the first public events for the Chairman of AMP so I am very honoured to share the stage with him.

     

  2. Mr Zhulkarnain mentioned about the devastating attack in Christchurch. It is barbaric, it is inhumane, it is cruel. And our condolences, our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. I saw the videos circulating online. It was terrible. It happened in a peaceful region in Christchurch. I think this sends a signal to all of us. There is a Malay proverb – “air yang tenang jangan disangka tiaka buaya”, which literally means: one should not presume that are no crocodiles in calm waters.

     

  3. We are safe in Singapore, things are fine but we must always take care, we must always be careful. I think this is a serious reminder, that we can never take integration or religious harmony for granted. Each time there is an attack, whether it is at the mosque, at the church, at any place of worship or anywhere for that matter, we must condemn strongly and strenuously.

     

  4. This incident reminds us that mercy and compassion is in short supply. Here in Singapore, we must be that shining place, we must be the place where we show the world that it is possible that people from different races and religions live in harmony.

     

  5. I also read the statement by the Australian senator yesterday. To put it very mildly, it was offensive. It is important for us to realise that Islamophobia is very much alive in other parts of the world. We got to make sure that it is not spread to this region, and we must make sure that the non-Muslims around here, in your hearts of hearts, that you treat as equals, you respect us and we will do the same. It is important that we bring our society closer together. This incident should unite us and more than ever when we are under attack, that we close ranks. That is the true response to terrorist attacks.

     

  6. Turning to this topic on drugs, I’ll make some opening remarks and after that I will share some slides. I will discuss how we are doing on this war on drugs, what the challenges are and what we must do together.

     

  7. First, I will touch on the challenging situation. If you look around, our immediate neighbourhood, as well as casting the net wider to the region beyond. Around us, we live in a tough neighbourhood. Methamphetamine production and trafficking rose to an all-time high in 2018. The UN Office of Drugs and Crime recorded that seizures in East and Southeast Asia went up by three times from 2013 to 2018. It is now at 116 tonnes, it used to be 30 tonnes in 2013 – it has gone up that high. Production of new psychoactive substances in the Mekong region in Myanmar has also reached an alarming level. We are the doorstep of the Golden Triangle. It is called golden for a reason – it is a thriving area for production and trafficking of drugs.

     

  8. And so look around us, it is a very tough neighbourhood. The drug abuse situation in our neighbouring countries is very critical. Indonesia has declared war on drugs. President Jokowi mentioned this as one of his core goals of his administration and he has instructed police officials to shoot suspected drug traffickers on sight. In the Philippines, as you know Duterte has also waged a war on drugs. So the region is grim. That is the reality.

     

  9. So given this tough neighbourhood, what can we do in Singapore? The reality is that there are limits – there is only so much we can do. We are a small country. We are a little red dot. 400,000 people cross our borders and I’m just talking about Tuas and Woodlands – every single day. During school holidays, in March, you can expect 430,000 people every day. This does not include the cargos that come through – your food supplies, your eggs from various countries, your vegetables; and the airport and seaports. The reality is that it is not possible to check everyone. There are limits to what you can do. Of course you can check every single product, every single person but it will cause massive disruption to our economy. You can expect long queues and people will no longer just complain about closed counters. I think these are the realities.

     

  10. What is our best defence? The best defence is actually our people. We must have a strong culture against drugs, our people must understand that we are tough on drugs for a reason and a very good reason. There must be strong support and strong laws and robust enforcement for deterrence.

     

  11. If we cast our net wider to the global region, we are looking at the global movement against drugs. We look at how some countries are prescribing the harm reduction approach. Or worse, they say let’s just legalise, let’s just make it legal. Once you make things legal, the problem gets re-classified. Why do some countries do this? I think in most of these countries, the problem of drugs has grown out of hand. They cannot handle it, they don’t know what to do. It is a choice between getting high or having an epidemic.

     

  12. Let me give you one example. The Aids epidemic – some countries have needle-exchange programmes where the usage of drugs, if not controlled properly, could lead to an Aids epidemic cause people are sharing needles. So they have to resort to allowing people to exchange for clean needles and there are such programmes in some countries. Other countries are not able to control the flow of people at their borders, so for some of them they need to build walls or other type of measures. There is corruption, there is prison overcrowding and various things. The situation is very different in Singapore – I’ll touch on that later.

     

  13. And of course it is further complicated by lobbying. You have heard of Big Tobacco, you’ve heard of Big Pharma and now you will hear of Big Cannabis companies. If you read the Wall Street Journal, you’ll know that more than a couple of them are looking to go public, getting listed. Bank executives are joining drug companies and drug cannabis companies because they predict that the US would legalise cannabis in a big way. People see this as a bank. When you have a bank, the researchers get into the picture. You have industry-funded research that portrays raw cannabis as harmless and even having health benefits – curing headaches and many other things supposedly. Research has shown, and this is quite irrefutable, that drugs lead to irreversible brain damage and even death. And so you see, public interest and the welfare of individuals, families and societies are sacrificed at the altars of bad science, profits and political expediency.

     

  14. We are highly exposed to this in Singapore. If you look at the situation here in Singapore, our people travel almost every other weekend, especially during school holidays. Our students go on student exchange, overseas studies and study visits. If you look at the Internet, it is a borderless world. People access many things. We see postings, videos, news articles that downplay the harms of drugs, or worse, they glorify drugs. And we see this in the National Council Against Drug Addiction (NCADA) perception survey in 2015/2016 where close to 60 per cent of our youths say they learnt about drug-related matters from social media. So it is very worrying given the challenging external environment.

     

  15. So let me now turn to Singapore, let me give you a bit of context. The drug fight in Singapore is actually not new. There was opium in the 19th century where the sale of opium was not only allowed, but even encouraged as a source of government revenue. Since it is the bicentennial year, let me also share a bit of history. When Sir Stamford Raffles signed the agreement with Temenggong Abdul Rahman on 6 Feb 1819 when Singapore was ceded to the British, crates of raw opium were among the gifts exchanged. It was a valuable commodity, it has made China known in history as the “Sickman of Asia” and so it was very much in demand. In 1848, one out of every four Chinese settlers in Singapore were opium addicts. There were untold hardships, devastation to families and the problem stayed with us for a long time.

     

  16. So with this talk in other countries, prescribing drug legalisation – they tell us it is good, it is something that you should do. We speak from personal experience in Singapore – been there, done that. We speak from personal experience to know that it is not something that we want. When we say we want a drug-free Singapore, we mean it. This what we want for our country and we know what is best.

     

  17. So looking at the national numbers and the numbers today - while I’m happy to say that the drug situation is very much under control, CNB arrested 3,438 abusers in 2018. That was a 11 per cent increase from last year. But if you look at it, it is good progress, from the high of over 5,800 abusers arrested in 1993. But there are also some worrying signs. We see new abusers forming a significant proportion of all abusers arrested, at about 40 per cent. And also about two-thirds of new abusers are under 30. So the numbers of young abusers and the new abusers are worrying because they could form the next generation of drug addicts that could cause untold destruction and hardship to self and families.

     

  18. If you look at the drug types too, methamphetamine, heroin and NPS, were the three most commonly abused drugs in 2018. But if you study the patterns of the new drug abusers, you will see that the three most commonly abused drugs are meth, cannabis and NPS. It is important for us to keep drugs under control in Singapore. There is at least one good reason. When we study Prisons data as of 2018, the percentage of local inmates with drug antecedents was 82 per cent. That means, eight in ten inmates have a history of drug issues[1]. If you are able to solve this drug problem, a lot of other problems would go away and you can have a safe and more secure Singapore where crime rates would go down even further. We learn from the experience of other countries. We look at countries that have legalised drugs, let’s look at Colorado. There are studies that have shown that crime, emergency attendance rates[2] have gone up, driving under the influence of drugs have gone up, mental illness and various other problems. We are tracking just one indicator, which is the prison incarceration rate.

     

  19. Moving now to the Malay-Muslim community. The bad news first – there were some worrying areas which we all know about; which we are all very familiar with. The Malay community formed more than half of the drug abusers. The other thing that we are very familiar about is that more than half of the new drug abusers are Malay. But I think to just look at the bad news misses the whole picture. It is not a lost cause, there is actually hope. There is a silver lining, there is actually progress if you look deeper. Let me share with you at least three areas where there has been good progress made.

     

  20. The first is, if you look at the total number of Malay drug abusers over the 25-year period, it has actually halved. That means in the span of 25 years, you have actually reduced it by half. From 3,211 in 1993 to 1,760 in 2018. This quite a remarkable feat if you look at what’s happening in the region. We live in a tough neighbourhood where our neighbours have trouble managing the drug problem. I mentioned just now that we are at the doorstep of the Golden Triangle where people are travelling very frequently, where people are having conferences in neighbouring states and people are having growing liberal attitudes towards drugs. Despite all these things, we have halved it. I think that is a sign of very good progress that has been made. I think that is something that we should highlight and that is an indication that it is not a lost cause.

     

  21. The second thing that is worth highlighting is that the Malay abuser two-year relapse rates have actually gone down from over 40 per cent in 2013 to around 28 per cent today. What this means, that in 2013, four in ten go back their drug habit within two years. But in 2018, it has gone down to close to three in ten. This is quite significant.

     

  22. The third thing worth highlighting is that you see volunteers increasing, people stepping up to do something to address this issue. If you look at the number of prison community volunteers – we have 141. This is an increase from 106 in 2016. You see the Muslim religious counsellors have doubled – now it is 92, from 50 in 2016. If you look at the Dadah itu Haram volunteers, people from all walks of life, motorcyclists, barbers, abang abang fishing, ordinary people wanting to do something. Within two years, we have 360 people stepping forward. People are asking what they can do and I think that is a very good sign. We are close to a tipping point and we got to keep up this momentum. So it is definitely not a lost cause and I think these are areas we should focus on. I think with the support; it will only get better.

     

  23. So for keeping Singapore drug-free, I have mentioned how the national numbers have come down and how the community has made progress. We need to ask ourselves how did this happen – this is not by accident. In fact, if you leave it to the forces of nature, it could go the other way. We have seen the examples of other countries. This is result of a strong government with tough laws and we continue to keep the death penalty for trafficking, when other countries are looking to change; strong enforcement, including international partnerships; effective preventive drug education and strong support of the community. There are many of you here, community partners involved in this work and that all adds up to something; and of course, family and individuals.

     

  24. We can be optimistic but we should not be complacent. The headwinds are strong. There are good reasons to be optimistic, in fact, plenty. Good progress made is the result of the strong partnerships. But as mentioned by Mr Zhulkarnain just now, it is also important that we think from time to time, to update our approaches. To scan the academic literature to see what else we can do to augment our work, to refresh our approach.

     

  25. If you look at the number of young offenders, people under 30, they require a different approach, a different way of speaking to. The old ways of “just say no”, the Nancy Reagan campaign, may not work so well. We have to do something, we have to engage them, we have to share the data, we have to tell them why drugs is harmful, we have to show examples. We have to speak to them as equals. This is what we are trying to do. I’ll share more about preventive drug education later.

     

  26. The profiles of offenders have also changed. General education levels have gone up. We did a survey among drug offenders in Nov 2017 and I’ll focus on the Malay community. I’ll highlight two findings that give cause for optimism. The first is that there is high awareness of social support. 86 per cent of Malay inmates in the Drug Rehabilitation Centres (DRCs) are aware of where to get help. 50 per cent expressed preference to get help from mosques and religious groups. There is a high awareness of risk factors and a strong desire for change. They identified bad influence and unemployment as risk factors. And many have aspirations and want to learn new skills. In fact, close to half expressed interest in technical, communication and management skills. There is high awareness of help available and encouraging signs and desires for self-improvement. This is a good sign and we need to encourage that because they have shown a desire to get back up and be independent.

     

  27. And I have met many of you who are very involved in this area. When I ask whether you can do more, I think many of you have stepped up and I think that is actually a very good sign. The question is usually about funding, but it is also a question of where can we get the resources to do this in terms of manpower. I think we need to work on this together as a community, as a country, to allocate resources and to ensure that we address this problem.

     

  28. You are showing me examples of the work that you do. I met Haslinda Putri Harun recently, she is here today and she brought a couple of people who have benefitted from the Harun Ghani Education Fund. She shared two inspiring stories we have heard. I was very inspired by them. Let me share two.

     

  29. “A” – her father was hanged for drug offences. With her grandmother, aunties and uncles, supported by the Harun Ghani Education Fund, she made it in life. She works with the project management communities around Asia-Pacific.

     

  30. And there is another example. Both father and mother were drug offenders. Yet all three siblings managed to complete university. He is now a supervisor and a professional trainer, a believer in the Harun Ghani mission statement that education is a key way in rebuilding lives. He has a young baby now. But sadly, the grandfather of the baby is still in prison.

     

  31. Let me now take you through the slides. I will focus on three areas – the challenges that we face, rethinking how we can address this issue, and the way forward.

     

  32. I mentioned just now about how methamphetamine production has gone up by almost three times. This region is an attractive transit point. We have the growing NPS threat, and we see that the UNODC has reported that there are almost 900 types of NPS from agencies around the world. In Southeast Asia, almost half, 434 NPS have been detected. Singapore is proactive in its detection. Enforcement and our laws are designed to keep pace with this as best as we can. I will show you a short video on the movement to legalise drugs.

     

  33. Let me just share that cannabis legalisation has become an increasingly politicised issue. A party in Thailand has made the full legalisation of cannabis a core campaign policy, promising the electorate that it will be the new crop. People are flooded with promises of miracle cures and profits. Countries that are against cannabis are casted as outdated, old-fashioned and backward.

     

    [video played on screen]

     

  34. That is just to give you a sense of what is happening in other places.

     

  35. Turning now to Singapore, look at the abusers’ numbers. As I mentioned just now, by ethnic group, if you look at the Malay community, about 51 per cent of abusers, followed by the Chinese and Indian communities. I mentioned just now about youths - they are exposed, they see movies, TV shows like “Breaking Bad”, various types of shows that glamourise drugs, celebrities coming up to promote the so called harmless nature of taking drugs, that it is not that harmful. I think these are things we got to combat – pop culture.

     

  36. New abusers by ethnic group, 49 per cent are from the Malay community. I mentioned that there are good signs of progress, that it is not all gloom. These numbers show you that from a very high of 3,000, it has been going steadily down. You should ignore the Subutex episode. That was an anomaly. In fact, we reversed that when people were abusing Subutex as a substitution drug. So you see the numbers going up but when you see the whole trajectory from 1993, 3,211, it almost halved to 1,760 in a span of 25 years.

     

  37. The two-year relapse rate has also plunged from 40-something per cent to about 28 per cent. You see the number of Malay volunteers – I mentioned 141; the number of Muslim religious volunteers also went up, and also for the Dadah Itu Haram campaign.

     

  38. You look at how the global trends have affected us. This chart shows you in 1994, almost 97 per cent of the Malay drug abusers took heroin. You look at cannabis, it formed a small portion, the Ganja culture. But now in 2018, heroin is seen as an “old man” drug for the old-timers, out of fashion already, no longer cool. Now they go for Ice because they say Ice is cool. You see increasing cannabis as well as NPS, and this is a reflection of what is happening in the region.

     

  39. You look at the supply, you see the Golden Triangle is also producing, trafficking in Ice. You see that heroin is 97 per cent, cannabis is about two per cent. Cannabis is slowly increasing. But you see the rise of NPS, nine per cent. It is a cause for concern.

     

  40. And what is worrying is if you look at the profile of the drug abusers, the new Malay drug abusers. It is 92 per cent of new drug abusers who are young, under 40. Below 20 is one quarter. Almost half are 20 to 29, this is when they are most productive, supposed to have jobs, supposed to have families. You have a lost decade. And you look at the gender, 77 per cent are males. And you look at the drug types, you see methamphetamine, Ice, cannabis and NPS.

     

  41. We need to think about how we approach this problem, how we can energise the ground, what are the things that we need to change to adapt, and to relate to this group of young people. We are doing it in various ways.

     

  42. The Government is leading the system-level change which I will touch on in greater detail. And it is up to the community. We have more community-centred rehabilitation and reintegration. The community plays a greater role.

     

  43. The third aspect is that we need to prevent the next generation of abusers. We need to inoculate our people. We need to tell them that drugs are harmful. Our experience tells us this, otherwise it will be as though we have got this problem managed and we don’t need a harm reduction approach. We need to call bad science for what it is.

     

  44. We had the long-term (LT) imprisonment system back in 1998. It was introduced when the drug problem was very high-level. In the 1990s, we had about 7,000 abusers in the DRC. 75 per cent were hardcore opiate abusers.

     

  45. We had this system where first-timers and second-timers go to DRC, and they have no criminal record. And then the third time, you go into the prison route, get 5 to 7 years and caning. And the fourth time, 6 to 13 years. This has achieved results. This came about, as I mentioned just now, when the abusers’ rate was very high. People who work with abusers, halfway houses, were supportive of this change because they saw how hard it was to change the hardcore abusers and so they welcomed the introduction of the LT imprisonment. It paid dividends.

     

  46. If you look at the two-year recidivism rate, it has gone down from around 60 for the 1996 cohort to 28 per cent in 2015 cohort. But you see that the five-year recidivism rate is still not so good. It is six in ten who come back.

     

  47. So this is something that the Ministry studied. Previously, we streamed the abusers into LT differently - first-timers and second-timers. We amended the Misuse of Drugs Act in January 2019, where we have a more targeted approach. We did various studies and we saw that if we had adopted this approach, there are better chances. We have the pure abuser pathway where abusers who only consume drugs and admit to their drug use, get channelled to the rehabilitation regime where they undergo intensive rehabilitation in DRC. Their time out in the community is thus better spent in holding down a job, repairing ties with the family, keeping up ties.

     

  48. We also extended post-release CNB supervision from two years to five years. This is based on a study that we found that if you stay crime-free for five years, you have a better chance of staying crime-free. So we extended the community supervision period. And Prisons adopt a multi-model approach. We are not wedded to a particular philosophy; we pick what works.

     

  49. Our Psychology-based Correctional Programme (PCP), is built on the Risks-Needs- Responsivity (RNR) model, with its proven effectiveness internationally and locally. But we recognise that it is not perfect. There are flaws and criticisms of the system or the approach. So what we have done is, we have incorporated the useful elements of the Good Lives Model (GLM). This is a model that essentially talks about identifying and reinforcing positive motivations in the individual abuser. The GLM is weaved into the PCP, and we have this high-intensity, integrated criminogenic programme, or the ICP.

     

  50. So, the GLM principle is operationalised in the ICP through several methods. This is to help participants analyse their offending behaviour on their personal values and see how they can use these personal values to be an agent for change or force of change. So the offenders have what we call the Good Lives Roadmap, where they can envisage how their lives would look like if they were to manage their risks and work towards their goal.

     

  51. But it should also be prefaced that the GLM is not as well researched as the RNR, but we still decided to weave it in because if it works, what is the downside? As I have mentioned, we are not ideologically wedded to any particular philosophy or approach. We also supplemented it further. Prisons conducted its own research and had this desistance concept, where we study the why, when and how offenders stay clear of further reoffending. This helps us better understand so we can develop better programmes. So it is multi-model, evidence-based, and we pick what is current and relevant and we strengthen and supplement the different approaches so we can provide comprehensive support to our offenders.

     

  52. We also have education opportunities and employment support. You all know about the Prison School, where we provide education, numeracy and literacy programmes, O levels, N levels, A levels. Recently, I posted about a top student who scored five As for his A levels. We do serious work in prison. We also provide a diploma programme. We work with Ngee Ann Polytechnic to provide a Diploma Programme in Business Practice (International Supply Chain Management), and recently, I announced at the Budget debate, a work trial with Workforce Singapore, which we called Career Trial, where offenders can work for up to 480 work hours to try out with their prospective employer, and if the employer retains them, we provide retention support to both the employer and the offender. Since November 2018, we have 24 employers. This is on top of the current services provided by SCORE, which provides job coaching support to offenders.

     

  53. I am turning now to community support. There are many examples, but let me focus on one. AMP has come up with the Development and Reintegration Programme. This programme is a product of community collaboration. I must make special mention of my friend, Mr Andrew Tay from the Prison Fellowship, for sharing his wisdom and experience in helping AMP develop this programme. It is an example of our good relations, regardless of religion, to support one another.

     

  54. This is the first throughcare approach. In less than two years since it piloted, over 200 inmates have benefitted. Let me give one example. “Sharil” and Siti Nurshafiqah, his case officer from AMP. This story illustrates the work that she does. She met “Sharil”, who attended this programme in April 2017. Before he went to the DRC, he was the sole breadwinner, taking care of four children, the youngest of whom was only five months old. The loss of “Sharil’s” income was a major stressor for the family, who did not know who could turn to. Shafiqah visited the family and worked closely with agencies such as MSF and MUIS to assist “Sharil’s” family. With all these worries being taken care of, “Sharil” could focus on his rehabilitation. Today, “Sharil” is out of the DRC and is now volunteering with AMP to deliver essentials to needy families. This is the kind of example that we want to portray and the kind of programmes that we want to promote, and we want many more of the community agencies to take them up.

     

  55. CNB has also stepped up its preventive drug education. It is about winning hearts and minds. We have engaged peer influencers and youths to share these messages, so we want to make sure that the messages get right through to young people. We are not building on a fresh slate. We must remember the work that the late Harun Ghani did. When I met Haslinda Putri Harun, she told me about the work that her late father did to make families feel remembered, valued. This is the sense of compassion that people like him have taught us. We are building on his work, and we see a good momentum.

     

  56. We launched the Dadah itu Haram campaign in 2017, and we organised about 50 events last year - that means about two events per month. I asked the team to reach out to the community, the ordinary people who want to get involved. This is what this campaign is all about. It is not just driven by the Government, it is driven by organisations. It started with Pergas, Muhammadiyah, and various organisations coming together to launch this. We supported by having a secretariat. And we got people - food owners, barbers, ordinary people who want to do something, involved. We give them a role, we provide funding and support. We got about 360 volunteers and we are not stopping.

     

  57. Let me tell you about how this Dadah itu Haram campaign started. When I first started in the Ministry of Home Affairs, I visited one of our prisons. I met a group of drug offenders. I sat in a cell with them. I was very curious about their background. There was one thing that struck me. When I asked them, “Do you take pork?”, all of them said “No”. When I asked them, “Why?”, they said, “Because it is haram”. So I said, “How do you know? Who told you?”. They said, “My mum. Every time before I go to school, she would tell me not to buy non-halal food, and that if I touch something haram, I must cleanse myself”. There is a whole culture around it. When I asked them, “Why is it haram?”, they could not really tell me.

     

  58. So there’s a whole culture around it. People think, and when I ask them “why is it haram?” they could not really tell me why. They just know “don’t touch it, don’t touch this stuff, it is toxic.” So the point is actually this - that religion plays a very important part. Not just religion, but cultural. People have certain ideas and they are taught from young.

     

  59. I remember when I went for the DRP programme, they had a course on financial counselling. One of the things that really touched my heart was when they were projecting their expenses. One of the boys said, when he wrote down on mah-jong paper, he was asked that if he had spare cash of $15,000, what would you do. And I was very touched to see one of the boys wrote on his paper that “I will take my mum to haj”.

     

  60. That tells you that religion plays a very, very, very important part; it tells you many things. It tells you about his relationship with his mother, it tells you how he respects his mother, how the family plays a very influential role, how he listens to his mother and he wants his mother to have a good life.

     

  61. So these are all stories, that tells us that there is hope, that it is not a lost cause, that religion plays an important part, that family ties are still strong and there is something that we can do to strengthen it. And there is something that we can use in terms of our PDE messaging, to strengthen that because I am not creating it – the Ustaz tells me that it is haram.

     

  62. So we worked out something. If you look at it, you study the influence of religion, you see for instance, that in the Malay community, alcoholism is quite low. Compulsive gambling is quite low. It did not happen by accident, not by chance. These are all cultural factors. And so, if we are successful in telling every kid that “dadah itu haram” from young, then I think the battle is half won.

     

  63. We are also involving youths, we have friends from SMU, NUS, SIM, and of course we work with polytechnics and ITEs. The problem of drug offending is not just a Malay issue in the ITEs or polytechnics. In higher education institutions, we have also seen people from well-to-do backgrounds, homes, getting into this.

     

  64. So moving forward, I think there are several initiatives but we each need to ask ourselves how we can reach out. As family, as peers, as neighbours, as community leaders, as educators, as business owners, as religious leaders. If there is one thing, if I’m allowed to make an advertising pitch, is we need more befrienders. We need more befrienders, especially Muslim males in their mid-thirties and forties. We are looking for more males, because the abusers also need role models. They need people to look up to, because usually they have an absent father and they need that positive role model, they need their peers to support them in the process.

     

  65. The community has worked strongly in support of various initiatives, let me just give two examples. Assyafaah Mosque has engaged youth drug abusers at the community rehabilitation centre, and we are also currently working closely with Jamiyah, to revamp the halfway house.

     

  66. The closeness of the community is a strength. I mentioned just now about a survey that we did – where majority of the Malay-Muslim drug offenders have indicated their preference for mosques and Malay community groups to work with them. So I think this is an opportunity, and it is important that we step up and provide them with the support that they need. Let me share briefly, on what we are doing – we are re-thinking, there is NCPR, the National Committee on Prevention of Re-offending, and various others. At the Ministry, I look into this very closely. We are looking at Prisons capabilities, social support, religious support, housing support, educational support, and employment support. So I’ll be reaching out to many of you today, and I hope I can get a positive response.

     

  67. Finally, I end with this – this is a personal wish and I think it is a wish that all of us share today. It is in Malay - “Ini adalah masalah yang sudah lama menghantui masyarakat kita dah marilah kita bersama-sama menghentikan masalah kita ini di generasi ini. Cukuplah!” In English, it reads: “This problem has plagued our community for a very long time. Let us eradicate this problem together in this generation. Enough is enough!”

     

  68. So on that note, I wish you all the very best and let’s continue this fight. Thank you.


[1] Or are currently in prison for drug offences.

[2] Referring to number of people admitted to emergency departments at hospitals for drug-related issues.

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