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Real victims of war against drugs not traffickers, but innocent children: Shanmugam
(Right) The one-year old toddler safely secured and sleeping prior to CNB officers handing him over to the care of the Child Protective Service of the Ministry of Social and Family Development. Photo: Central Narcotics Bureau
March 3rd, 2018 | 10:26 AM | 419 views
The one-year-old toddler rescued in a drug bust earlier in the week became a poignant example cited by Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam, as he drove home the toll drugs have taken on young people.
“How old is the child? One year old. In that one year, he had already been abandoned by his mother who is on the run for drug offences, and being passed around between these drug traffickers,” said Mr Shanmugam during the Ministry of Home Affairs’ Committee of Supply speech on Friday (March 2).
He said the young are defenceless and “real victims” in the Republic’s war against drugs, rather than drug traffickers facing the death penalty.
Hitting out at anti-death penalty lobbyists, he said: “The activists light candles for traffickers outside Changi Prison. They write emotive stories…
“But who cares for these very real victims? How many young lives have we saved with our policies? Would you hear a squeak from the activists about these people... the physical violence, the mental abuse?”
The authorities said on Wednesday that they rescued the toddler and nabbed five suspected drug abusers and traffickers during a drug bust.
The rescued toddler is now with Child Protective Services of the Ministry of Social and Family Development. It was unclear whether he was used for any suspected drug activities.
Citing other cases, including one involving a 10-month-old baby girl who suffered a fractured skull after her drug addict father shoved her against the wall when she cried, the minister added: “The self-styled activists refuse to talk about how the addiction of hundreds of abusers is fed with each shipment these traffickers bring in; how many families suffer as a result of drugs.”
The Republic’s tough stance against drugs has caused the number of drug abusers arrested each year to drop from near 7,000 people 20 years ago to 3,089 people last year, said Mr Shanmugam.
“If you take that as three to four thousand lives per year over a 20-year period, that is a lot of lives. A lot of people who have been saved from drugs,” he said.
Underscoring the Government’s unwavering commitment to deal with drugs, he said the severe penalties are to deter such offences, “not because we take any joy in enforcing them”.
“Think of the lives that have been saved. The misery, deprivation, the loss – we have saved a lot of people from that,” he said.
He said that Singapore is “perhaps the country that has been most effective” in dealing with the drug problem, even as the drug situation around the world has continued to worsen.
In United States, for example, almost 64,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2016 in an opioid crisis, which was declared a “public health emergency”, he noted.
Last year, the Central Narcotics Bureau dismantled 23 drug syndicates, and conducted 12 joint operations with its foreign counterparts to cut off drug supplies from overseas, among other efforts.
Mr Shanmugam added that the Republic should not ease up its tough stance, especially when the region is “home to the Golden Triangle”. He noted that the Golden Triangle is the largest methamphetamine market in the world where heroin and methamphetamine trafficking is estimated to generate more than US$32 billion (S$42 billion) annually.
“So let’s not kid ourselves. International criminal syndicates operate in this region, attracted by the lucrative profits,” he said.
“Being a major transport and commercial hub makes us susceptible both as a transit point and import market because of the wealth factor... We have to be firm in resisting those who try to force their ideologies on us.”
Different circumstances in Portugal
While Portugal is receiving international attention for decriminalising all drugs, including heroin and cocaine, Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam noted on Friday (March 2) that the European country’s softening stance was a last ditch attempt to deal with a crisis.
He pointed out that more than half of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections in Portugal are drug-related – the highest rate in the European Union.
Portugal had a “serious public health problem on its hands” as heroin abusers were sharing contaminated needles, spreading diseases such as Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV, said the minister.
“But when you start with serious HIV-related problems, hepatitis infections problems arising through drug use, contaminated needles, then I suppose you ask yourself which is the lesser evil? ... We (Singapore) are not in that situation, thankfully.”
Nevertheless, “there are some people here who tell us Portugal is a great example to follow”, he said.
He noted that less than 30 per 100,000 people in Singapore abuse opiates – almost 20 times fewer than in Portugal, adding that the city state is not in a situation where “it was not possible or unrealistic for it to control the drug situation”.
Intravenous drug use is not a significant mode of HIV transmission here, he added.
courtesy of TODAY
by WONG PEI TING
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