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1 National Archives of Singapore Library 29 MAY 1997 Release No.: 09/APR 11-1/97/04/05 KEYNOTE ADDRESS BY MR WONG KAN SENG, MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS, AT THE 1997 NATIONAL SEMINAR ON DRUG ABUSE AT SHANGRI-LA HOTEL ON SATURDAY, 5 APRIL 1997 AT 9.00 AM Introduction Good morning and welcome to this years National Seminar on Drug Abuse. The theme for the seminar, Improving and Sustaining Community-Based Drug Prevention Efforts emphasises the thrust of Singapore s anti-drug approach, which is to spread the message about the dangers of drug abuse. It also conveys the message that the anti-drug effort cannot be the sole responsibility of government agencies. Community involvement and support are essential. Voluntary organisations and self-help groups have taken on a greater role in preventive drug education efforts in recent years. In 1996, the National Council Against Drug Abuse, or NCADA, made a special effort to involve the community to combate the menace. The Council got community leaders together to work out strategies to better counter the drug threat, Management of Halfway Houses had the opportunity to exchange ideas at a Halfway House Seminar. Selfhelp groups such as the Association of Muslim Professionals (AMP), Chinese Development Assistance Council (CDAC), MENDAKI and the Singapore Indian Development Association (SINDA) organised anti-drug activities during the National Anti-Drug Campaign.

2 All these helped improve the drug situation. But there is scope for the community to play an even greater role. This, I am sure, will be discussed at today s seminar. The Drug Situation The drug problem hit an all-time high in The situation has improved, with concerted action. a b c The number of drug addicts arrested dropped from about 6,170 in 1994, to 6,020 in l995, and 5,740 in The average daily population in our Drug Rehabilitation Centres (DRCs), decreased from 8,700 in 1994, to 7,760 in 1995, to 6,990 in The relapse rate has declined from 81 per cent in 1994 to 73 per cent last year. Although these are encouraging, Malay and Indian drug addicts in the Drug Rehabilitation Centres (DRCs) are still over-represented. Although the number of Malay and Indian drug addicts arrested has been declining since 1994, Malay and Indian drug addicts still accounted for 52 per cent and 16 per cent respectively of total DRC admissions in Chinese are not spared of drug abuse problems. The Central Narcotics Bureau tells me that 98 per cent of the 661 arrested for Ecstasy abuse in 1996 were Chinese.

3 Ecstasy first surfaced in Singapore in 1995, and quickly became popular among young people last year. The problem of Ectasy abuse is not just confined to Singapore. In its report, the United Nations International Narcotics Control Board warned that synthetic drugs, particularly amphetamine+ type stimulants, will be an international problem in the 21st Century, surpassing the threat posed so far by plant-based narcotic drugs such as opium, cocaine and cannabis. This is because psychotropic drugs are relatively easy and cheap to produce, and carry the misleading image of being fashionable and harmless. This danger should not be underestimated. Ecstasy abuse can lead to death. You may have read about the case a British girl who wanted to try out Ecstasy at her 18th birthday party. All it took was one Ecstasy pill. She collapsed into a coma, and died several days later. There have also been other Ecstasy- related deaths reported in other countries. Research shows that long-term Ecstasy abuse destroys the liver and damages the heart and brain. A 22 -year old reformed Ecstasy abuser posted a warning on the Internet to people thinking of trying out the drug - His message read, You may think you re in Heaven. But you could be going to Hell. The emergence of such psychotropic drugs empbasises the need for all agencies involved in the anti-drug fight to be alert to new trends. They must spot warning signs early and not allow such drugs to gain a foothold here. We cannot afford to let up on this. The Government, working with NCADA and the community, will continue to adopt a multi-pronged approach to fight the drug menace in the coming year. We will continue to push ahead with prevention, enforcement and

4 4 rehabilitation. Of these three components, we will place special emphasis on preventive drug education- because prevention is always better than cure. to warn people about the dangers of drug abuse NCADA will organise a bigger and better National Anti-Drug Campaign this year. The Campaign will start on 26 June, which has been designated as Singapore s Anti-Drug Day, and last for about a month The campaign will focus on the damaging effects of heroin, Ecstasy and glue sniffing. NCADA, together with the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) and voluntary organisations, such as the Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association (SANA), will coordinate their Preventive Drug Education efforts to ensure that it reaches both students and out-of-school youths. NCADA is currently working with the advertising industry and media owners to explore the best way to involve the advertising industry in the anti-drug cause. I am encouraged by this and I look forward to the outcome of this collaboration. The Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises (SCORE) will continue to work with the Halfway Houses to provide better programmes, as well as to extend the coverage of counselling. In the coming year, SCORE will work with the Hindu Endowment Board to set up the first Halfway House in Singapore for Indian addicts. With a capacity of 40, this would cater to the projected number of Hindu and Sikh addicts released to the hallway house each year. SCORE is also currently working with Pertapis to expand their halfway house operations at new and bigger premises. When operational towards the end of the year, the new halfway house will be able to accommodate 200 residents, making it the largest halfway house in Singapore. With Jamiyah s capacity of 70

5 5 residents, there will be a total of 270 places for male Malay/Muslim drug addicts. This is sufficient to meet the projected number of drug addicts to be released to Malay/Muslim halfway houses by the Prisons Department annually. In the area of aftercare counselling, SCORE will be recruiting 14 more counsellors, so that it can reach out to 1,200 additional clients and their families. Besides expanding its own Aftercare Counselling Programme, SCORE will also work closely with SANAs voluntary aftercare officers to integrate both agencies aftercare services and extend aftercare support to more ex-addicts. It will also train SANA s voluntary aftercare officers and provide them with opportunities for attachments. Conclusion Despite the generally favourable 1996 drug statistics, this is no time to be complacent. The fight against drug abuse is far from over. The experience in other countries shows than once the Government and the community slacken in their efforts, the problem creeps back in no time. The Government, community leaders, voluntary organisations, self-help groups, Halfway Houses, teachers, parents, and everyone fighting drug abuse must never slacken. The fight against drug abuse will be a long-drawn one which requires determination, perseverance, patience, and a belief -A belief that whatever small part we play in this cause will all add up and help some person in need. It will help some to throw drugs away and re-discover their lives. It will help prevent others from taking up drugs and throwing their lives away. I urge all of you to persevere in this worthy cause. Together, we will be able to make Singapore a drug-free society. I wish you a fruitful and successful seminar. 97/pBl-s

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