Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Minister of State for Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs
Madam Halimah Yacob, Minister of State for Community Development, Youth & Sports
Dr Varaprasad, Chairman National Council Against Drug Abuse
Distinguished guests and fellow officers,
Good morning and welcome to CNB Work Plan Seminar 2012. We are honoured by your presence this morning. In particular, I like to thank MOS Masagos, our Guest-of-Honour, and MOS Halimah for taking time off your busy schedules to grace this event.
Ready for Challenges, Building for the Future
Last year, CNB commemorated its 40th Anniversary. We took stock of what we have done in the past which we can improve upon. We also looked at what we need to do differently in the future as new challenges emerge and our operating environment changes.
The theme for this year’s CNB Work Plan Seminar - ‘Ready for Challenges, Building for the Future’ - reaffirms what we have reviewed. That we are aware of the challenges facing us and we are putting in place building blocks to tackle the challenges head-on.
Tough Enforcement Remains Key
Tough and vigorous drug law enforcement remains fundamental to CNB’s approach towards drug control. While emerging challenges may change the context of our operating environment, our two-pronged strategy of supply and demand reduction remains relevant. We need to stem the supply of drugs in Singapore to make it as difficult as possible for drug abusers to have access to illicit drugs. On the demand side, we need to suppress drug abuse by promptly detecting and rehabilitating drug abusers until they are able to lead a life without drugs.
Recap of CNB’s Enforcement Efforts
Since 1971, CNB has been the key agency responsible for drug law enforcement in Singapore, safeguarding our philosophy of zero tolerance towards drug abuse. To stem the supply of drugs in Singapore, CNB had built up intelligence capabilities to deal with the increased sophistication of transnational and local drug trafficking syndicates. We also brought the fight beyond Singapore by deepening cooperation with our key foreign partners. Since year 2000, CNB had conducted 53 joint operations with Malaysia’s Narcotics Crime Investigation Department, in a concerted effort to tackle the problem upstream. In Singapore, we have also crippled an average of 26 drug trafficking syndicates per year over the same period.
CNB had also built a strong presence at the various entry points. Working closely with the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority, we conducted high intensity checks and joint operations to detect and deter the flow of drugs into Singapore.
On the demand front, CNB had sustained a high tempo enforcement strategy through regular anti-drug raids and island-wide operations to weed out drug offenders. This will be the hallmark of CNB’s operations and it will continue. To complement our enforcement efforts, we took over the remaining drug related investigations functions from the Police in April last year. This would give us a holistic view of all drug related arrests in Singapore and ensure that drug offenders are dealt with promptly and consistently.
Enforcement – Challenges Ahead
Despite the successes we have had in keeping the local drug situation under control, we are experiencing headwinds ahead of us. We have seen a gradual increase of number of drug abusers over the past 3 years. More than 90% of these abusers are heroin or methamphetamine abusers. Over the next 3 years, we are also expecting a large number of long term repeat drug abusers to be released from Prisons. These abusers exhibit a higher propensity to relapse and will pose a contaminating influence on other abusers and the public.
We are also seeing a worsening drug situation in the region. In the first 3 months of this year alone, our counterparts in Malaysia have seized drugs worth 16.8 million ringgit. This is almost half of what they have seized for the whole of last year. This will definitely have an impact on our local drug scene.
Enforcement – Strategies arising from Drug Task Force
While tough and vigorous drug law enforcement remains fundamental, we will have to adjust our methods and strengthen our capabilities in response to these emerging threats. To this end, recommendations from the Taskforce on Drugs in two key areas of strengthening the legislative framework and CNB’s capabilities will ensure that we remain effective on the ground.
As highlighted by MOS Masagos earlier, amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Act will be made to strengthen the punishment regime for drug traffickers.
Under the MDA, we will also introduce a new framework to control new psychoactive substances that have no legitimate industrial or pharmaceutical use. This will allow us to deal with new emerging substance of abuse proactively.
On the enforcement front, intelligence must continue to be the cornerstone of CNB drug enforcement strategy. We will enhance our capabilities to ensure that our intelligence coverage remains effective on the ground as well as helping us to deploy our resources more efficiently. We will also build on our strategic intel capabilities so that we are able to anticipate developments in the drug situation and take decisive pre-emptive actions. This would include enhancing our research and analytical capabilities to better understand the profile of abusers and determine the drug trend.
We recognise that technology is a force multiplier and will leverage on technology for effective control of the drug situation. For example, CNB will adopt the use of hair analysis to supplement existing technologies in our enforcement work. This will greatly enhance our detection capabilities, achieve a higher deterrence on drug abuse and complement our efforts to better supervise ex-drug abusers. CNB will also work with our Home Team partners and leverage on existing platforms to further our technology exploration efforts. These will include drug detection, forensics and other law enforcement applications.
Importance of Upstream Intervention – Preventive Education
However, CNB is not all just about tough and rigorous enforcement. Since 1994, CNB has also been given the mandate to lead and coordinate Preventive Drug Education or PDE efforts. This is critical to forge and sustain our national consensus of zero tolerance towards drug abuse. Besides garnering community support for a drug free Singapore, successful upstream intervention can help to reduce the substantial downstream cost associated with drug addiction.
Preventive Drug Education – 1994 to present
CNB’s PDE efforts have systemically targeted primary and secondary schools and community groups. We have in place multiple platforms to disseminate PDE within the education system to ensure that no student is left unaware of the dangers of drug abuse. Our initiatives in the community such as the annual anti-drug abuse campaign have also created greater awareness among the general public on the importance of supporting the anti-drug cause.
CNB’s PDE strategies have continually adapted to the changing environment and demographics of the target audience, pioneering interest based platforms to reach out to more youths. For example, DanceWorks!, which was started in 1999, is into its 14th run. To date, more than 15,000 youths have taken part in the competition, and later, one of the winning team from this year’s DanceWorks! competition will be showing us their winning performance.
In the latest NCADA Youth Perception Survey conducted in 2009, 92% of the participants surveyed were confident that they can say no to drugs. This is a reflection of the effectiveness of our PDE efforts.
Preventive Drug Education – Challenges ahead
However, with the more liberal societal attitudes and values as well as more choices and interests competing for youth’s attention, ensuring that our PDE messages reach out to the right target group has become increasingly challenging. We are seeing a rising number of young drug abusers arrested in recent years. This can be attributed to factors such as changes in attitudes that include permissive use of drugs. We have also observed strong peer contamination, which further compounds the problem.
PDE – Strategies arising from the Task Force
We are concerned about this trend. This group of young abusers could potentially form the next generation of drug addicts, perpetuating the drug abuse cycle within our society. To address this, CNB will increase collaborations with educational institutions, government agencies and the community to ensure that PDE messages and programmes reach our target audience.
CNB’s PDE efforts will take on a more calibrated approach by targeting at-risk groups such as out-of-school youths. These groups tend to be more susceptible to drug abuse and timely PDE has to be disseminated to prevent them from getting involved in drugs. CNB has begun to create specialised PDE programmes for out-of-school and at-risk youths through activities that foster teamwork and build up their confidence, as well as to internalise the anti-drug messages.
Besides at-risk groups, CNB efforts will also reach out more to students from institutes of higher learning and full-time national servicemen, through innovative and interactive offerings that will appeal to this generation of youths.
Beyond PDE – Diversionary measures for young abusers
For the young abusers who have slipped through our PDE outreach, there is a need for them to be properly rehabilitated and reintegrated back into society. Following up from the Young Drug Reporting Centre which CNB has set up earlier this year, we will work with our partners, such as MCYS and community partners to implement the Enhanced Drug Supervision Scheme (or Enhanced DSO).
The Enhanced DSO will be supplemented with counselling and casework to reduce the risk of young abusers from relapsing back into drug abuse. To do this, the young abusers would be assessed holistically and objectively to determine his or her optimal rehabilitation pathway.
To sum up, the fight against drugs is a constant battle that CNB cannot fight alone. This is a battle that many countries have given up, tolerating drug addiction within their society. This is not something we want for our society. My officers have experienced first-hand on a daily basis, the untold harm and damages that drug addiction has done to the abuser and his/her family. We need everybody to come on board and fight this battle together.
To my officers, our job is not going to be easy moving forward. But I have confidence that with the building blocks we are putting in place now, and with our passion for the cause, we will be able to overcome the challenges together and make Singapore a safer place to live in.
On this note, I thank our guests for taking time off to attend CNB Workplan Seminar and I am also looking forward to having a fruitful session with my officers.