SPEECH BY MR AMRIN AMIN, PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY,
MINISTRY OF HOME AFFAIRS
OPENING ADDRESS FOR CNB WORKPLAN SEMINAR 2016
AT Health Promotion Board (HPB) Auditorium
25 APRIL 2016
Mr Ng Ser Song, Director, CNB
Ladies and Gentlemen
I am pleased to join you this morning at the CNB Workplan Seminar 2016.
- CNB continues to do well in keeping Singapore safe from drugs. The number of drug abusers arrested last year was about 3,300. This is less than 0.1% of the resident population in Singapore.
- However, the global drug situation remains challenging, and this in turn affects Singapore. We have observed certain local trends that are of concern, such as the online distribution of drugs, the threat of new psychoactive substances or NPS, and the
increasingly casual attitudes of our youths regarding drug abuse. Hence, it is important for CNB to continue its efforts in 3 areas – engage, educate and enforce – to attain its vision of a Singapore without drugs.
- First, engage. CNB must continue to engage our local and regional partners and beyond that, at the international level to make Singapore’s voice heard at international platforms. This is crucial as many countries are shifting their positions and
approaches in handling the drug problem.
- For example,
- Some countries are considering decriminalising drug use, or legalising cannabis.
- Some have advocated for the adoption of harm reduction approaches, such as needle exchange or opiate substitution.
- Others have framed the drug problem as purely a public health or medical issue.
- Last week, Minister Shanmugam delivered a statement at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem, or UNGASS. This is an important platform for the international community to discuss the future of global drug policy.
I will highlight the key points he made:
- First, drugs are a serious threat to societies and to Governments who want to build a better life for their people.
- Second, the drug abuse situation in Singapore is under control. We have adopted a comprehensive and sustained approach to tackling both drug supply and demand.
- Third, Minister explained that decriminalisation, legalisation and the harm reduction approach does not work in Singapore as:
- Our focus is on building a drug-free Singapore, not a drug-tolerant one.
- Harm reduction programmes do not fundamentally recognise that drug abuse impairs the individual’s cognitive ability. In addition, we have little to no HIV infections from injecting drug users.
- Instead, Singapore adopts a demand reduction approach. This is the best way to keep our families and children safe from drugs.
- ASEAN member states also delivered a joint statement at UNGASS, to reaffirm our collective commitment to a comprehensive approach in both demand and supply reduction efforts in realising the regional vision of a Drug-Free ASEAN.
- UNGASS 2016 culminated in the adoption of an outcome document where member states remain committed to the goals and objectives set out in the international drug control conventions. This is a good outcome as the conventions stand firm against calls for
decriminalisation and legalisation of drugs. I would like to commend CNB for their hard work, working in close collaboration with MHQ and MFA, in the negotiation of the outcome document.
- Singapore, together with our ASEAN counterparts, must continue to put forward our views and actively shape the new global drug strategy in 2019. Singapore will host the 5th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Drug Matters later this year, in October.
This will be a key platform to rally ASEAN member states for a common position towards 2019.
- Second, educate. Preventive Drug Education (PDE) remains our first line of defence. Our work to educate youths to say ‘no’ to drugs is made more urgent with the increase in new, young drug abusers arrested in Singapore. Our survey and research
studies have also shown a significant proportion of older youths thinking that “it is ok to try drugs”.
- CNB has been working with post-secondary institutions, MOE and MINDEF to strengthen our PDE efforts and outreach. CNB has also developed PDE toolkits and information brochures to support parents and educators in guiding youths to stay away from drugs.
The information brochures for parents will be launched in June, and distributed to parents of all secondary and post-secondary students.
- Apart from parents and educators, we must also enable the community and other agencies to play a bigger part in PDE. The Health Promotion Board (HPB) is one such partner. I am pleased to launch the revamped Addiction Alley at the HPB Healthzone today
[new initiative]. CNB has worked with HPB to revamp the Addiction Alley by refreshing and updating the exhibits. Through the interactive exhibits, we hope youths can learn about the addictiveness and harmful effects of drugs. We
must also encourage parents and educators to visit this exhibition, as it showcases many interesting facts that they can use to initiate conversations with youths.
- To deal with the youth drug problem, the Ministry has set up a Committee Against Youth Drug Abuse, which I chair. This is an inter-agency committee, which comprises young people and representatives from MHA, CNB, HPB, Institute of Mental Health and post-secondary
institutions. The Committee will explore new methods to engage youths, such as through online platforms, youth-led participatory action, or enlisting anti-drug ambassadors that youths can relate to. We will also conduct research studies and literature
reviews to inform us on how best to tackle youth drug issues.
- Third, enforce. We must continue with our enforcement efforts to tackle both drug supply and demand. For instance, to tackle youth drug abuse, CNB has committed more resources in investigating youth abuse cases. Suspected youth drug abusers are quickly
brought in for investigation so that CNB can:
- First, assess their risks and needs to provide the most appropriate interventions;
- Second, prevent them from influencing their peers to abuse drugs; and
- Third, follow up on leads involving drug suppliers of these youths so that CNB can take them out swiftly.
- We have also enhanced our laws to give CNB more levers to deal with the emerging threat of NPS. In May 2013, the Fifth Schedule of the Misuse of Drugs Act was enacted to allow CNB to control the proliferation of NPS. NPS can be temporarily listed in
the Fifth Schedule for up to 12 months, with a possibility of extension for another 12 months. This allows CNB to seize these substances so that circulation is restricted while research and industry consultation are conducted. Subsequently, if there
are no licit industrial or medical uses, the NPS will be re-classified as Class A controlled drugs. Given the speed at which new variations of NPS are emerging, we need to closely monitor global developments, review our laws and enhance our detection
capabilities for NPS.
- To deal more decisively against drug trafficking syndicates, many of which operate across national borders, CNB will soon have additional powers under a new law. The Organised Crime Act (OCA) was passed in Parliament last year and will soon come into
force. The OCA will give CNB more powers such as Organised Crime Prevention Orders, Financial Reporting Orders and Civil Confiscation Orders to disrupt and dismantle transnational drug trafficking syndicates.
- In conclusion, I want to acknowledge the hard work of our CNB officers. The work that you do has made Singapore a safer home, towards our goal of a drug-free nation. I urge you to continue to uphold your values of professionalism, integrity, dedication
and courage in all that you do.
- I wish all of you a fruitful workplan seminar. Thank you.
SPEECH BY MR NG SER SONG, DIRECTOR CNB, FOR CNB WORKPLAN SEMINAR 2016, AT HEALTH PROMOTION BOARD, 25 APRIL 2016 (MONDAY)
Mr Amrin Amin
Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs
Distinguished guests, Home Team colleagues and fellow officers
A very good morning and welcome to CNB’s Workplan Seminar 2016. I thank you all for gracing this event.
CNB’s Key Achievements in 2015
2015 has been an eventful year for CNB. We had successfully hosted the 36th Meeting of ASEAN Senior Officials on Drug Matters (or ASOD). CNB was also involved in the first-ever Asia-Pacific Forum against Drugs (or APFAD) organised by
National Council Against Drug Abuse or NCADA. Both were major regional events which brought together local and foreign policy and enforcement agencies as well as NGOs dealing with drug matters. These events provided the opportunity for Singapore to showcase
the success of our holistic anti-drug strategies and rally our regional partners to stand united for a drug-free aspiration.
- At the national level, many of us were called to be part of the Home Team security effort to maintain law and order during the lying in state of Mr Lee Kuan Yew and the 2015 General Elections. The responsibilities were heavy. I am proud that our officers
went beyond the call of duty to support the Home Team in these major events.
- I am heartened to see that even with all these additional responsibilities, our officers persevered with intensive enforcement efforts. These included the routine and major anti-drug operations, as well as joint operations with Police and ICA.
- I would like to thank our officers for working tirelessly and our partners for your support in helping to keep Singapore drug-free.
CNB’s Operating Environment and Challenges
- Today, our drug situation is largely under control even as our operating environment continues to be challenging and ever-changing.
- First, local demand and supply of drugs is influenced largely by global and regional developments. Drug seizures and production in the region have increased. International drug syndicates have also formed networks within Southeast Asia to manufacture,
receive and distribute drugs to the region.
- Second, while traditional drugs like heroin, ‘Ice’ and cannabis remain the main drugs trafficked and abused, the emergence of non-conventional drugs like New Psychoactive Substances or NPS are gaining popularity.
- The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (or UNODC) recently reported that more countries are detecting NPS in their drug seizures. Globally, more than 640 NPS have been reported to the UNODC monitoring database. This is a very significant
increase, from only 126 NPS reported in 2009.
- Despite the prevalence of these substances, little is known of their toxicity and long-term adverse effects. Traffickers also continue to promote them as safe substitutes to known illicit drugs.
- Third, the online market place provides convenience and privacy to users. It also facilitates a new mode of drug trafficking which will make detections and investigations difficult.
- Fourth, we observe a change in the demographics of youth abusers. They are better educated and some come from middle or upper income families. Our current strategies may not be the most suitable to tackle this emerging trend. This evolving drug abuse
landscape presents new challenges for us and we need to rethink the way we do preventive drug education, enforcement, rehabilitation and supervision.
- Lastly, the Home Team is also facing manpower constraints amidst increasing workload and higher public expectations. This is a challenge that is not confined to CNB. We must think out-of-the-box and improve the way we operate to optimise resources.
The Fight against Drugs at the Global Stage
- Beyond domestic and regional challenges, we also need to pay attention to international developments on drug control policies. In recent years, there has been an increasing shift towards liberal policies such as decriminalisation of drugs and legalisation
of cannabis, and advocacy for harm reduction approaches in treatment. These developments have the potential to impact our domestic policies, and erode the support for our zero-tolerance approach to drugs.
- I attended the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs or CND in March and have just returned yesterday from another international meeting on drug matters - the UN General Assembly Special Session on World Drug Problem or UNGASS.
- It was apparent from discussions at such international platforms that many countries no longer strive for a drug free society. They have instead, turned to address secondary effects of drug use such as reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS and other
infectious diseases rather than addressing the main issue which is to eliminate drug addiction altogether.
- Our key message at the CND and UNGASS is clear: We understand that each country has its own unique set of circumstances and hence has the right to implement drug control policies which best addresses its needs. Likewise, Singapore and ASEAN have the
right to chart our own course and implement policies that are reflective of our circumstances and aspirations. For us, we don’t want to focus on curing the symptom. We want our people to be free from drug addiction.
- As Parliamentary Secretary has highlighted, we secured Singapore’s key positions in the UNGASS Outcome Document. We had also worked closely with our ASEAN counterparts on a joint statement to reaffirm our commitment to a drug-free region at the
- Come this October, Singapore will be organising the 5th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Drug Matters (or AMMD). At the strategic level, the meeting will continue the momentum from UNGASS to sustain our response for a drug-free aspiration. It
will also adopt a new ASEAN work plan for the next ten years. We need to be engaged in the international and regional movements so that we are coordinated with our partners, not only to protect our common interest, but also simply because the drug syndicates
operate across borders.
- At the tactical level, CNB has maintained close ties with our neighbours such as Malaysia’s Narcotics Crime Investigation Department (or NCID). For example, we had worked with NCID to uncover the plans of an international drug syndicate. Through
our cooperation, the Malaysian Police seized RM 1.3 million worth of ketamine in their largest ketamine bust yet in 2016. This is just one of the many examples of how we work closely with foreign counterparts to contain the drug problem.
- In short, it is important for us to proactively participate at various regional and international platforms to shape drug control policies and maintain our international space.
- Next I would like to focus on the theme of this year’s WPS: ‘Transforming Towards A Future-Ready CNB’. We live in a fast-changing world and thus we need to transform to keep pace and to stay ahead.
- CNB has traditionally adopted an enforcement-focused approach to tackle the drug problem. This has helped to keep the drug situation in check. It has enabled us to provide a safe and secure home for families to bring up their children in. However, we
cannot be complacent and believe that the same strategies will provide us with the same success over the next few decades.
- We will need to adapt if we are to face ever-evolving challenges. What happens if we fail to transform?
- Let me highlight the case of Nokia. Many of us would have owned a Nokia phone at some point in time. Nokia was at the top of the market in the 1990s and early 2000s. But within a decade, how many of us owns one or would actually still want to own a Nokia
- How did this happen? Nokia CEO gave us the answer. At a press conference to announce the company being acquired by Microsoft, he said - “We didn’t do anything wrong, but somehow we lost.” Nokia continued to pursue the same strategies
that had brought them success. Even though the market had changed due to advances in technology, Nokia did not transform. When the mobile phone market became the smartphone market, Nokia became redundant and obsolete.
- The same lesson holds true for CNB. We will not be able to win tomorrow’s war with yesterday’s strategies. Today we have a relatively stable drug situation. This did not come by chance, but through the hard work of the generations of CNB
officers who came before us. They have also adapted to the changing landscape over the past 45 years of CNB’s history.
CNB’s Transformation Journey
- We started on the change process with a re-visioning exercise in 2014. We refreshed our Vision and Mission statements to reinforce the commitment that each and every officer has to building a drug-free Singapore.
- Since then, together with the rest of the Home Team, CNB has developed a set of transformation plans to address the challenges and constraints.
- Our strategies will be aligned to our three operational strategies of (i) Preventive Drug Education & Engagement, (ii) Enforcement and (iii) Supervision to ensure a holistic approach in dealing with the complex drug problem. Our transformation efforts
in these key areas will be supported by robust policy and research, long term planning in technology adoption, as well as effective resource and manpower plans.
- I will just highlight two examples in the areas of preventive drug education and the supervision of ex-drug abusers:
- Preventive Drug Education
- Preventive Drug Education (PDE) is the first line of defence in CNB’s overall drug control approach. As the saying goes – “Prevention is better than cure”. If done effectively, this would reduce the downstream impact on CNB. What
could this mean in actual impact to us? A reduction in the abuser population and fewer supervisees for us. This will in turn free up more resources to focus on reducing supply.
- We have adopted a targeted and differentiated approach through specific outreach platforms for our PDE offerings. We also have in the pipeline, collaboration plans with the NCADA to empower youths and key influencers to be strong proponents of Singapore’s
- Next Generation Reporting Centre
- Another project, the Next Generation Reporting Centre. There is an expected increase in the number of drug supervisees. We recognise the need to seek the best approach to optimise resources and processes. We have to find a way to improve the current
situation to reduce reliance on manpower and better redeploy our resources.
- We are exploring the use of self-service technology and automation in the management of drug supervisees.
- The times ahead will be challenging but also exciting. Yet this also presents us with a chance to chart the future direction that CNB will take.
- To my fellow CNB officers, you will be part of the future. I urge you to take an active role in the transformation process. Seize the chance to make an impact. This process can only take place if all of us actively support, participate and champion this
idea. Let us move forward together on this journey to future-proof CNB and fulfil our aspiration for a Drug-Free Singapore.
- I look forward to a fruitful discussion with the officers later on. To our guests, thank you once again for attending CNB WPS 2016.
Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, Mr Amrin Amin, giving the opening address at CNB's Workplan Seminar 2016. Photo credit: Home Team News
Director CNB giving a speech at CNB's Workplan Seminar 2016. Photo credit: Home Team News