Speech by Mr Desmond Lee, Senior Minister of State (Ministry of Home Affairs & Ministry of National Development) at the CNB Pioneer Appreciation Dinner, 15 Oct 2015, at Orchard Hotel Grand Ballroom

15 Oct 2015

Home Team Pioneers
CNB officers
Ladies and Gentlemen




  1.            The Home Team celebrates 50 years of nation building with a series of SG50 events to honour our Home Team Pioneers.

  3.            Today, I am delighted to join you at this Appreciation Dinner, to thank past and serving CNB officers who have contributed to Singapore’s fight against the drugs scourge over the past 44 years.

  5.            We gather here today to recognise and honour our Pioneer Officers who have built a strong foundation for the CNB, which has grown from strength to strength, to become a well-respected drug enforcement agency.

  7.            The theme for today’s event - ‘‘Our Home, Our Memories” - is apt to recognise the contributions of  CNB Pioneer Officers in ensuring a safe and secure home, where fond shared memories are made. We can live, work and play safely because you have done your duty for the country. I am sure the CNB Pioneer Officers would also recall the shared memories of the CNB, which many of you have regarded as your “Second Home”.

    Being proud of our past


  9.            Drugs destroy lives and families. The opium problem dogged Singapore for more than a century since the 1900s. While the use of opium slowly declined after opium smoking was made illegal in 1946, new drug threats, such as heroin, MX pills and cannabis, emerged in the late 1960s.

  11.            Drug activities continued to be widespread into the 1970s, leading to downstream social problems. CNB Pioneer Officers recognised the ill-effects of drugs not only on the addicts, but also their families and the society. Many have witnessed first-hand, how families were torn apart when a member became involved in drugs.

  13.            CNB was formed in 1971 to tackle the worsening drug situation. CNB had a humble beginning in the early days as a small force with less than 20 officers seconded from the Police and Customs.

  15.            You did not have an enviable job then. There was rampant social unrest, drug and crime rates were high, and work conditions were tough. CNB Pioneer Officers would remember the early days when high-speed car chases in rural areas like Lim Chu Kang and shophouse rooftop chases were common occurrences in a day’s work. Even when they were off-duty, the Pioneer Officers would need to go to a public telephone to call the hotline every hour to check if there was any recall, as many homes did not have telephones then, let alone handphones. In spite of all these challenges, you were fearless and united in a common purpose to keep our streets free of drugs.

  17.            CNB’s work did not stop with the arrests drug offenders. The Pioneer Officers also made sure abusers stay clear of drugs after their release from the Drug Rehabilitation Centre (DRC). Work was from dusk till dawn for many officers in the Supervision Division in the 1970s. Mornings were spent at the Supervision Division in the former Rumah Miskin Police Station, where officers would talk to supervisees about their problems. In the evenings, officers would travel to the Police Division on bicycles to supervise addicts reporting for urine tests.

  19.          Take Mr Kandasamy Renganathan, a veteran CNB officer with more than 40 years of service, for example. His greatest satisfaction was seeing former supervisees wean off drugs, and reunited with their families. I am sure many of our CNB Pioneer Officers seated here tonight share his sentiment. Work might be arduous, but it was rewarding, especially when you played a key role in turning around the lives of abusers and their families.

    Contributing to our present


  21.          In May this year, CNB unveiled its new vision and mission statements which underscore every CNB officer’s commitment to build a drug-free Singapore. CNB’s work is indeed a calling that officers past and present have answered with a lifelong commitment.

  23.          I am delighted to hear that many of our Home Team Pioneers have gone beyond their call of duty to continue to contribute to the Home Team and Singapore after their retirement, in different roles and capacities.

  25.          Mr Poh Geok Ek, who served as Director/CNB and Director/Prisons during his service with the Home Team, continues to serve as President of the Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association (SANA) after his retirement in 1998*. He also continues to be an active member of the anti-drug community, working alongside CNB. 

  27.          We can have no better anti-drug advocates than you, our Home Team Pioneers. All of you here are well-placed and well-equipped to champion our anti-drug cause within your respective communities with your vast experience and knowledge.

  29.          You have played a key role in building up the CNB that we are proud of today. Through the years, you have built capabilities and transformed the CNB.  Notably, the success of Operation Ferret provided the strong foundation for our rigorous and tough enforcement against drug abuse.

    Securing our Future


  31.          But it is not sufficient to rest on the laurels of our past successes. With the passage of time, the modus operandi and profiles of drug offenders have evolved.  We now have drug syndicates who exploit the speed, convenience and anonymity of the Internet to commit drug activities that know no physical borders. We are now seeing new psychoactive substances entering the market, and a worrying trend of youth abusers.

  33.          To deal with this myriad of challenges, the current generation of CNB officers will need to constantly review your operating paradigm, to create new approaches and solutions to tackle new emerging threats and maintain public confidence in your work to keep Singapore drug-free. 

  35.          To serving officers, build on the foundation set by the Pioneer Officers to create a safe and secure Singapore. We must press on to plan and build up our capability to “future-proof” the CNB, to ensure that it  continues to be successful in its mission to “Enforce, Educate and Engage” for a drug-free Singapore. 



  37.          I am glad to see many of our CNB Pioneer Officers here this evening. We could not have kept the drug situation under control, without your pioneering spirit of courage and dedication. With the solid foundations that you have laid, our job has become much easier.

  39.          To show our appreciation, we have specially commissioned a Home Team SG50 medallion. This is a small token of the Home Team’s appreciation for your years of loyal service and dedication. We salute you for all that you have done for the nation.

  41.          To the family members of our CNB Pioneer Officers, let me extend my heartfelt appreciation to each and every one of you for your strong support and understanding throughout the Pioneer Officers’ years of service in CNB. Many of them worked long hours, sometimes in dangerous and difficult situations, often called away for duties during festive periods, public holidays and even milestone family events. It was only with your support, encouragement and understanding that they were able to dedicate themselves fully to the important work of keeping Singapore drug-free.

  43.          Let us dedicate ourselves to building a safe and secure home, so that we can achieve together another 50 years of peace and prosperity and celebrate our 100th birthday with pride.

Photo 1: Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development, Mr Desmond Lee, giving a speech at the CNB Appreciation Dinner 2015

Photo 1: Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development, Mr Desmond Lee, giving a speech at the CNB Appreciation Dinner 2015

Photo 2: SG50 Medallions given out to CNB pioneers during the CNB Appreciation Dinner 2015

Photo 2: SG50 Medallions given out to CNB pioneers during the CNB Appreciation Dinner 2015

Photo 3: Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development, Mr Desmond Lee, giving out an SG50 medallion to a CNB pioneer

Photo 3: Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development, Mr Desmond Lee, giving out an SG50 medallion to a CNB pioneer


Central Narcotics Bureau

*Mr Poh stepped down as President of SANA in 2013.