Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Minister, Prime Minister’s Office / Second Minister for Home Affairs / Second Minister for Foreign Affairs
Mr Ng Ser Song, Director, Central Narcotics Bureau
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Welcome to the Asia Pacific Forum Against Drugs!
- The National Council Against Drug Abuse (NCADA) is the voice of Singapore’s anti-drug movement. Bringing together members of Singapore’s anti-drug ecosystem across both the private and public sectors, NCADA rallies community support for Singapore’s zero tolerance stance against drug abuse.
- Zero-tolerance means:
- We reject the scourge of drug abuse;
- We do not want harmful drugs in our society;
- We tackle both supply and demand aspects of drug abuse;
- We are tough against those who profit off drug abusers; and
- We rehabilitate drug abusers, while deterring repeat abusers.
Resisting the Pro-Drug Lobby
- Like other anti-drug advocates and community leaders across the globe, I am alarmed by the progress of the pro-drug lobby. Driven by greed and profit, the pro-drug lobby aims to remove the prohibitive provisions of the UN drug conventions, and pave the way for eventual legalization of drugs.
- It may surprise you that drugs were once legal in Singapore. When Singapore was a British Colony, the Customs Department in 1910 collected levies from the legal sale of opium. By 1932, the revenue collected from opium reached S$5.9 million, an enormous sum in those days. However, the social cost of legalised opium proved too high. Opium consumption was linked to crime, violence and the breakdown of the family unit. In 1946, opium was banned. We are better off after the ban, but the harm done to opium addicts and their families was to persist well into the 1970s. It would be a tragedy if history were to be repeated and drugs made legal again.
- Drug legalisation will not solve the drug abuse problem. On the contrary, legalisation sends the wrong signal about the harm caused by drugs. In fact, it may lead to more addiction, as well as other health and social problems.
- Arguments to legalize the drug trade are cunningly couched in eloquent socio-economic and health related cost-benefit arguments. One major motive is profit. This is clearly seen in the excited Wall Street talk about the “Cannabis Dividend” by financial and business interests. The profits will be squeezed out from the millions more drug abusers that the pro-drug lobby is seeking to ensnare. These future drug abusers being sought by the pro-drug lobby are our children!
- As anti-drug advocates, we must unite and take a stand for the sake of our children. NCADA hopes to rally like-minded anti-drug advocates to resist the relentless money-driven march of the pro-drug lobby, starting first in Asia, before linking up with anti-drug advocates across the globe.
- To this end, I championed the idea for APFAD after attending the 2014 World Forum Against Drugs (WFAD) in Stockholm. At the WFAD, I met many like-minded anti-drugs NGOs and civil society groups. I was impressed by their resolve to resist the drug scourge as they shared best practices and presented scientific evidence to debunk the pro-drug lobby. However, Asia Pacific anti-drug advocates were noticeably absent.
- I am therefore heartened to see almost 200 like-minded anti-drug advocates across 18 countries gathered here today at the first APFAD. I warmly welcome each one of you as well as ASEAN Senior Officials, fresh from your 36th ASEAN Senior Officials’ Meeting on Drugs. I wish to thank the NCADA Secretariat, the Central Narcotics Bureau and the Ministry of Home Affairs for making this historic and important event possible. In particular, I wish to acknowledge the encouragement and support of Minister Masagos in this challenging but satisfying anti-drug cause.
- This APFAD is a timely networking and resource sharing platform for us like-minded anti-drug advocates. We will learn much from the presentations about youth drug abusers by Ms Vasuki Utravathy, Singapore Health Promotion Board (HPB) and Dr Jasmin Kaur of the Singapore Prison Service (SPS).
- Mr Pubudu Sumanasekara, from the IOGT Alcohol and Drug Information Centre (ADIC), Mr Tay Bian How of the Colombo Plan Secretariat and Mr Abdul Karim from the Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association (SANA) will share their respective organisations’ experiences on preventive education, treatment, rehabilitation and the reintegration of drug abusers into society.
Preparing for UNGASS 2016
- The UN General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem (UNGASS) will be held in April 2016 in New York. UNGASS in 1998 espoused the aim of a “Drug Free World” and the total eradication of drug supply and abuse. However, today, many countries are considering decriminalising drug use – and for some, legalisation – as well as taking a public health approach to tackling drug abuse.
- ASEAN is the only regional bloc that has maintained a consistent drug-free stance in drug control policies. I trust that the 36th Meeting of ASEAN Senior Officials on Drug Matters (ASOD) hosted by Singapore in the last few days will strengthen the resolve to coordinate our respective government’s positions ahead of UNGASS 2016.
- UNGASS 2016 is an inclusive process. Member states are encouraged to engage civil society organisations and NGOs on the world drug problem. Therefore, I urge all of you to work closely with your respective governments to have your voices heard and resist the pro-drug lobby. We must not allow the pro-drug lobby dismantle or weaken the UN’s anti-drug stance as a first step to hooking our children into consuming drugs. Ultimately, we are fighting for the rights of our children to grow up in a drug-free society.
- I am glad that Mr Erik Leijonmarck, Secretary General, European Cities Against Drugs (ECAD) – is here with us at APFAD. He will share insights on the “Road to UNGASS 2016”. Please tap into Eric’s wealth of knowledge in this subject – and build up our case to resist the pro-drug lobby.
The Cannabis Trojan Horse
- The pro-drug lobby has a Trojan Horse in its spearhead cannabis legalization agenda. We must prevent it from reaching our shores. In May 2014, Uruguay became the first country in the world to legalize the production, sale and consumption of cannabis. In the USA, 23 states have moved to legalise medicinal cannabis while four of those have done the same for recreational use. This violates US Federal Laws and the UN drug conventions. But the US Constitution limits the powers of the Federal Government to enforce its laws on the states. This US incapacity to enforce federal drug laws has dire global consequences.
- The USA has been the leading light for other countries to adhere to the UN drug conventions. However, the pro-drug lobby’s progress in undermining domestic USA drug policy will embellish weak countries to backpedal on their anti-drug efforts, with consequential escalation in organized crime and money laundering.
- This is the global drug policy conundrum as the USA, the leading international enforcer of drugs prohibition is being undermined at home by the pro-drug lobby’s “medical cannabis” Trojan Horse. Moreover, the soft power of the USA is being exploited by the pro-drug lobby to change societal attitudes towards drugs. US pop culture, celebrity endorsements and misguided campaigners are promoting the false notion that cannabis is harmless – all to build a new multi-billion dollar drug market targeting our children.
- The scientific evidence is damning. Cannabis use affects brain development and lowers the IQ of adolescent users, leading to cognitive problems in everyday life. Other research shows that cannabis addiction is several times higher if the abuser is a teenager. Cannabis is a gateway drug, with cannabis abusers highly likely to abuse other drugs. Yet, the cannabis legalization movement ignores such scientific evidence - only to wax lyrical about medical use to push its agenda. This is nothing more than an evil guise for ruthless profiteers.
Adopt Green & White Ribbon as our Anti-drug Symbol
- Minister Masagos has shared with you the significance of the Green & White Anti-Drug Symbol - ‘Health’, ‘Vitality’ and ‘Strength’. In Singapore, we encourage our students to put on this Green & White Ribbon on World Drug Day (June 26) each year as a sign of their solidarity with our anti-drug cause.
- I am happy to learn that the ASEAN Senior Officials’ Meeting on Drug Matters which concluded yesterday – has proposed to adopt the Green & White Ribbon as the anti-drug symbol for ASEAN. But this symbol belongs to the children of this world, whose future drug-free society we are fighting for.
- I urge you as APFAD participants to recognise and adopt this Green & White Ribbon as our common anti-drug symbol. Upon return to your home countries, raise awareness of our collective anti-drug cause by promoting this symbol through social media initiatives and your anti-drug campaigns. NCADA will be happy to work with you wherever possible in this outcome.
- As anti-drug advocates, our voices must be heard collectively, loudly and clearly. To this end, it is important for every APFAD participant to endorse the APFAD Declaration which espouses the vision of a drug-free society for our children. Please read it and let it resonate within your hearts as fathers and mothers, as brothers and sisters – as members of humanity – for the sake of our children. Sign it and help us speak with one voice for our children at this APFAD.
- NCADA will make the Declaration available online and propagate it via social media so that like-minded individuals and the community can also speak up and make a similar stand against drugs. I implore you to do the same for your respective countries upon your return.
- Our children’s future is at stake. Our strong anti-drug stance is about our values and the kind of society we want our children to grow up in. Unlike the pro-drug lobby, there is no profit to fund anti-drug advocacy. Instead, we are driven by our fundamental duty to protect our children’s future. We need to stand together and oppose the legalisation of drugs. We must speak up for our children at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem (UNGASS) in April 2016.
- As pointed out by Minister Masagos, the support of the community is vital for our vision of a drug free society for our children. APFAD participants must take this lead to rally our respective peoples. As we return to our home countries, I call on each of you to discuss with your respective anti-drug organisations to join hands with NCADA to achieve the following outcomes:
- Endorse, uphold and promote the APFAD Declaration in your home countries.
- Adopt and promote the Green & White Ribbon as our common anti-drug symbol to your respective communities.
- Work with NCADA to build an online APFAD advocacy network
- Link up with WFAD and other like-minded anti-drug advocates internationally to speak up for our children at UNGASS 2016
- Let us unite in our common vision to build a drug free society for our children. The time to act is now.
National Council Against Drug Abuse