SPEECH BY ER DR LEE BEE WAH, MP FOR NEE SOON GRC, AT THE SECOND READING OF MISUSE OF DRUGS (AMENDMENT) BILL IN PARLIAMENT ON 15 JAN 2019
Despite repeated efforts by law enforcement agencies, the problem of drug trafficking and drug abuse is still an issue in Singapore. A whole menu of drugs from cannabis, heroin, methamphetamine and others are commonly abused by the teens and older persons, including women. In light of this, it is indeed timely to review the Bill and implement much needed revisions to address the issue. In 2018 a number of large drug seizures, including one 8.8 kg of heroin, the largest heroin haul in three years, and a 5kg haul of cannabis in June that year. Drug offenders nabbed by various CNB-led operations included Singaporeans and foreigners. The number of new drug abusers also remained high.
But what is even more worrying, however, is the increasingly liberal attitudes towards drugs abuse among young people. A news report in 2017 revealed that in line with rising trends of drug abuse among young people, more of them expressed that they are willing to experiment with drugs for a new experience. Among youth aged 13 to 21, 16 per cent of those polled held such views, up from about 11 per cent in 2013. Furthermore, one-third of the correspondents had misconceptions about cannabis, believing it to have medicinal properties and overlooking its harmful side effects. This would not come as a surprise as more prolific use of social media means exposure to pop-media and a large population of youths in the West that normalises drug use. And, with more youngsters traveling, studying and working abroad where drugs are more accessible and even legal, certainly they would be able to find more opportunities to consume drugs.
The Bill seeks to criminalise acts of contamination, which include teaching and instructing others about drugs that could lead to the person carrying out drug-related crimes and usage, and introducing a drug trafficker to the person. Criminalising such acts of contamination is a form of deterrence that could save the lives of many young people who could potentially become drug offenders.
However, I am concerned about how this can be effectively enforced. We don’t expect an offender to engage in a conversation say on how to use drugs, in an open setting. The conversation is likely to be held in private, and would only come to light if there is a whistle blower. Perhaps the only time this would come to light would be when the offence has been committed and the perpetrator squeals while under interrogation and there are records of text messages as evidence. Otherwise I think its difficult to enforce.
Having said that criminalising this act could serve as a deterrent to get people to think twice before intentionally influencing others to do drugs.
The question that arises then, what is the definition of instruction? What if someone asks a question about manufacturing drugs and another person gives answers. Would that constitute an act of contamination? I am sure the authorities do not mean to restrict genuine public education to create awareness as a deterrent against drug abuse. But we must also be aware that those who are curious about drugs can turn to the internet where there is an abundance of materials to get information. How will the Ministry address this?
I am pleased to note that the existing rehabilitation programmes will be improved. Drug addicts and offenders will certainly benefit from the increased counselling, supervision and longer detention.
However, do we have sufficient resources, and skilled counsellors to execute these programmes? How many prison counsellors do we currently have versus the population of drug abusers? How many more will we need to meet the requirements of the amendments? Prison counselling is intensive work, so I wonder if we have the relevant support networks for our prison counsellors? I know someone who does prison counselling work, and the nature of her job is such that she sometimes gets negatively affected, getting insomnia and even depressive feelings. I hope our prison counsellors and other professionals have a good care network as we have to ensure that their mental wellbeing is not being compromised in order for them to do their work well.
Additionally, what kind of benchmarks will be used to determine whether one is completely rehabilitated and ready to commit to a life that is completely drug-free and thus no longer requires supervision?
The bill introduces some thoughtful new measures to enhance rehabilitation programmes and curb drug abuse through peer influence. But we have to get to the root of the problem. It is far more important to equip young people with the correct mindset and knowledge about drugs. It is far more impactful if they make the decision to say no to drugs, rather than for authority figures to make the decision for them.
Sir, I support the Bill.
Chinese please. 调查显示本地的年轻人对毒品的开放度越来越高，16%愿意尝试毒品，三分之一觉得大麻是无害的。现在的年轻人可以轻易接触网上的宣传，而且更多人出国，更容易受到毒品的诱惑，相信这种趋势以后会越来越明显。