Sebastian Tan

A Calling Beyond A Career

Sebastian Tan

Senior Director (International Cooperation & Partnerships Division), MHA
Deputy Director (Operations), CNB [2017 to 2021]

I joined CNB in 2002 when heroin was the drug of choice. It was also the period when the abuse of amphetamine-type stimulants and synthetic drugs was emerging. Enforcement was CNB’s key strategy in curbing drug abuse, especially when there was global and domestic consensus that drugs were debilitating to society and required a harsh response. It was hard work and long hours chasing down drug offenders, but every CNB officer took on this responsibility with pride, united by a single purpose in the fight against drugs – a trait of CNB since it was formed in 1971.

Fast forward to today, the drug situation in Singapore and around the world has changed drastically. While enforcement remains a key pillar in our strategy, we also recognise that prevention plays an increasingly important role in today’s context. Our youths have unbridled access to information online, and we have made significant investment and progress in our Preventive Drug Education programmes. Our rehabilitation approaches have also been refined, veering away from a one-size-fits-all system to one that is calibrated to the needs of individual abusers. Even as we move forward with the times, one thing remains constant – our sense of purpose in keeping Singapore drug-free. 

A career in CNB is like no other – there is never a dull moment. Apart from the opportunity to experience exciting operations and frontline enforcement work, I also had the privilege to be exposed to different portfolios at various levels, from policy-making and international engagement to training and organisational development. I also received a sponsorship to pursue full-time post-graduate studies.

Like a number of my colleagues, I also had the privilege of being posted to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) HQ and was exposed to other areas of MHA work in safety and security beyond drug enforcement. I have been through eight postings during my 18-year career with CNB. Each of them has offered me the opportunity for growth. While not everyone in CNB may follow my career path, there are ample opportunities for our officers to be exposed to different aspects of our work, and to receive developmental opportunities.

When officers join CNB, they can expect an exciting and meaningful career. It is a job that requires our officers to put in long and irregular hours. They need to have the courage to deal with drug offenders, as well as the compassion to help individuals and families who have been affected by drugs. For those who heed this calling, it is a rewarding career. There is a sense of purpose and an everyday satisfaction knowing that you are helping to keep Singapore drug-free.