Top Stories


    Apr 22, 2016

    No let-up in anti-drug stand: Shanmugam

    SINGAPORE'S Minister for Home Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam told world leaders at the United Nations that the city state will not soften its drug policies, pushing back against calls from some nations to change its approach to dealing with drugs.

    Speaking at the UN General Assembly in New York on Wednesday, he said he was unmoved by the rhetoric he had heard at the meeting.

    He stressed that Singapore would stick with its approach until there is evidence that a different model works better.

    Noting that the country's policies have created a safe and secure environment, he said: "We are not very impressed with rhetoric alone. Good speeches are one thing. Enjoying safety and security, to the level I have identified - letting your 10-year-old child take public transport alone - that is different."

    "I say to anyone with a different view - come forward. I am prepared to compare our experiences with any city that you choose. Show us a model that works better, that delivers a better outcome for citizens and we will consider changing. If that cannot be done, then don't ask us to change," he added.

    Mr Shanmugam's remarks highlighted the rift in opinion at the meeting on whether countries should continue to take a hardline stance on drugs or switch to an approach known as harm reduction - where a drug-free world is deemed impossible and policies are designed to minimise the harms linked to drug use.

    Countries like the United States have also been moving towards decriminalising the use of certain types of drugs. Last year, Colorado and Washington became the first two states to pass laws legalising the use of marijuana.

    Asean countries, meanwhile, will present a joint declaration to the UN outlining their commitment to pursuing a drug-free Asean.

    The UN meeting was scheduled after lobbying by Mexico, Guatemala and Colombia, countries which argue that the global war on drugs has been the source of a lot of violence.

    They have called for a more "humane solution" that does not emphasise as much on enforcement.

    But the Singapore minister rejected the dichotomy presented between human rights and oppression.

    "Maybe this rhetoric is based on the experiences in some countries. To us, it sounds like a lot of straw man arguments. Because it's not based on facts."

    He stressed that there was a middle road between "locking everyone up, treating them as criminals and feeding them with drugs".

    "It is possible to work with drug abusers to rehabilitate them. This is difficult and resource-intensive. But because every life is important, we do that. Legalising and giving abusers drugs is the easier option. But not the better one," he added.

    Mr Shanmugam reaffirmed Singapore's commitment to a drug-free world, stressing that there was no argument against the harmful effects of drugs.

    "You wouldn't knowingly and happily give drugs to your teenage children, would you? You might accept it and deal with it, if they abuse drugs. But you wouldn't voluntarily give it," he said.

    And while Mr Shanmugam noted the need for a global consensus on how to tackle the drug problem, he also said that every country has the right to choose the approach that works best for it.

    "For us, the choice is clear. We want a drug-free Singapore, not a drug-tolerant Singapore," he added.