Parliament: Misuse of Drugs Act should be regularly reviewed: Christopher De Souza

In explaining the need for tough drug laws, Mr Christopher De Souza emphasised the effect of drug abuse on families, among other issues.
In explaining the need for tough drug laws, Mr Christopher De Souza emphasised the effect of drug abuse on families, among other issues.PHOTO: ICA/CNB

SINGAPORE - The Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA) should be regularly reviewed to ensure it has the "legal muscle it needs" to deter supply and demand of the controlled substances, said Mr Christopher De Souza (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC) on Tuesday (April 4).

He made the call while tabling a motion in Parliament on strengthening Singapore's fight against drugs.

Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam will outline Singapore's anti-drug efforts after several MPs speak about the issue in Parliament.

In calling for reviews of the MDA, Mr De Souza, chairman of Home Affairs and Law Government Parliamentary Committee and a lawyer, gave a series of suggestions on how the act could be improved in the light of recent drug trends.

First, the act should give due consideration to the potential harmfulness of drugs when they are mixed with other substances, instead of just focusing on weight, said Mr De Souza.

 

Contaminants may affect drugs' potency and addictiveness, he said. In America for example, heroin was mixed with elephant tranquiliser, creating a deadly mixture that claimed the lives of many.

 

"This contamination is driven by greed - more effect, with lower cost to produce," he said.

Second, controlled drugs should be incorporated more quickly under the First Schedule, which lists the most harmful and addictive drugs class and attracts the most severe penalties.

 

This is because syndicates are constantly attempting to come up with new types of substances, added Mr De Souza.

Third, the sale of drugs over the Internet should be made a unique offence, attracting a higher penalty, he said.

His fourth call is to make it an offence to recruit people online to traffic drugs - and this should fall under an enhanced punishment regime similar to that of recruiting young persons.

These calls to action follow a spike in people being arrested for buying drugs and drug-related paraphernalia online, according to latest figures from the Central Narcotics Bureau in February. While the number was 30 in 2015, it rose to 201 last year.

There have also been 20 per cent more young abusers - aged under 30 - being arrested since 2014, said Mr De Souza.

With more youth experimenting with drugs and the Internet having much potential to facilitate sales to this group, Singapore should consider how to legislate an aggravated offence if social media or the Internet is used in procuring sales, he said.

"This may deter drug traffickers from using the Internet to advertise sales, potentially leading to reduced drug sales to youth," said Mr De Souza.

His fifth suggestion was to have a different tier of punishment for traffickers who target abusers under 30, as well as those who use the Internet to do so.

In such cases, he said, in giving a sixth suggestion, the Internet could refer to websites, social media platforms and applications.

"In particular, messaging applications such as WhatsApp, often used by the younger generation, should be covered," he said.

In explaining the need for tough drug laws on Tuesday (April 4), Mr De Souza emphasised the effect of drug abuse on families, among other issues.

"How many people, does one think, are affected by a drug trafficker who has trafficked the amount of drugs which may attract the death penalty? 250 grams of meth feeds 185 abusers for a week and 15 grams of diamorphine sustains about 180 abusers for a week," he said.

With 180 abusers, this translates to about 900 people affected if each addict has four family members.

He said: "That is equivalent to about 30 platoons. If a person ran towards 30 platoons with a grenade, should not a lethal shot be fired to protect the 900 people?"