‘Kids didn’t ask for this’ & other hard truths by K Shanmugam on S’pore’s war on drugs

Parents discombobulated or in a comatose state due to drugs abuse while their kids around them are helpless and crying.

This, according to Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam, is the state of affairs in the United States.

“You see US various state police departments putting out videos: kid is in the car, both the parents are in front, you know, discombobulated with drugs. The kid is crawling all over and crying. Or kid is in a supermarket crying while the mother is sort of comatose with drugs. You know, kids didn’t ask for this,” he said in a One FM radio interview on Jul 20.

He then cited a case in Singapore where a toddler, known as Nonoi, was killed by her stepfather who was under the influence of drugs.

“What did she do wrong? You will get so many of these cases around the world, much fewer in Singapore. This is serious and around our region, too many people are into drugs. One of the key problems in many countries face is the inability to enforce, inability to deal with the drug situation. And we have been one of the few places that have managed it.”

In a segment on drugs, Minister Shanmugam delivered a few hard truths. Here are some of the highlights.

1. On young people’s views on drugs

DJ The Flying Dutchman described the result of a 2020 National Council Against Drug Abuse (NCADA) survey as “a little worrying”.

It found that support among youths aged 18 to 30 for Singapore’s zero-tolerance approach against drugs was 82.5 per cent, lower than the 88.3 per cent for those above 30.

To this, Minister Shanmugam said that the support remains good but education is key.

“You get places, first world cities where you have entire neighbourhoods which are slums and the young kids are growing up – bright young kids, but what choices do they have (when) faced with drugs, dealing in drugs, needles and otherwise? They don’t really have access to education because these are the choices they are forced upon them in where they live. Their parents are often in jail or unavailable. And they are surrounded by this.

Imagine that thousands of young lives that are destroyed every year in major cities around the world. That doesn’t happen here.

If we bring this across to people, I think they will understand better.”

2. On neighbouring countries loosening their drug laws

With neighbouring countries loosening drug laws, Minister Shanmugam was asked whether he sees at any point in the future, that the youth of Singapore wanting the same for the republic.

He admitted that such moves from our neighbours make it more challenging for Singapore to keep drugs at bay but the Government needs to present the choices in “very vivid terms”.

“There will always be a group of people who might want that to happen here and each time our neighbours do something like that it increases the challenge that we have. And it really is incumbent upon us to present the choices in very vivid terms and persuade our people including young people that we have to make the right choices for themselves and for society.”

3. On keeping drugs out of Singapore

Singapore’s anti drug stance is well known, even to the masterminds.

“The masterminds are clever enough not to come into Singapore, because they know that unlike some of the other countries in the region and elsewhere in the world, in Singapore there is no safe haven. They come in? They are done,” Minister Shanmugam explained.

And so they stay out, which has a salutary effect because the amount of drugs flowing into Singapore is substantially reduced.

Minister Shanmugam cited a Ministry of Home Affairs survey, which he commissioned, conducted in the region where many drug traffickers come from.

It found that about 83 per cent said the death penalty made people not want to traffic substantial amounts of drugs in Singapore, while 69 per cent said the death penalty was more effective than life imprisonment in deterring people from trafficking drugs.

“It’s because of the death penalty that they won’t come in, or they will traffic below the amounts so it’s a very important point,” he emphasised.

4. On the difference between drug abusing and drug trafficking

“We want to make a clear distinction between those who abuse drugs and those who traffic drugs. Those who traffic drugs are doing it cynically, to make money and profit from the misery of others. 15 grams of heroin is enough to feed 800 people for a week,” he explained.

While drug traffickers face stiff punishments including the death penalty, abusers are treated as medical issues.

“We don’t treat them (drug abusers) as criminals. We want to help them so the entire correction system has been remodelled to try and help drug abusers.”

He added that those who are in the Drug Rehabilitation Centre, voluntary or otherwise, will receive no criminal records and are supported by an ecosystem, consisting of NGOs, religious and community organisations, that aims to rehabilitate.

Cover photo credit: One FM Facebook page.