Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association pivotal in war on drugs: President Halimah

(From left) Sana peer leaders David Chong and Mustakem Mohamed Rais, and volunteers Gopalakrishnan Nair and Percival Shepherdson. ST PHOTO: EUGENE GOH

SINGAPORE - The Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association (Sana) has played a pivotal role in the fight against drugs, President Halimah Yacob said on Saturday (June 25).

She was speaking as guest of honour at the voluntary organisation's 50th anniversary at Nanyang Technological University's one-north campus in Buona Vista.

President Halimah said: "Sana has come a long way since its establishment in 1972. In the 1970s, the hippie culture led to the prevalent abuse of cannabis and heroin in Singapore, particularly among the young.

"Sana was (set up) in August 1972 to complement the work of the (Central Narcotics Bureau), particularly in educating the public on the dangers of drug abuse and providing recovering abusers with counselling and aftercare services."

Singapore has been successful in keeping its drug situation under control and in reducing instances of reoffending, said President Halimah, with the country's two-year recidivism rate for the 2019 release cohort being the lowest in 30 years at 20 per cent.

"There is no doubt that Sana played an important role in that," she added.

Madam Halimah acknowledged Sana's contribution in the rehabilitation and reintegration of drug abusers, as well as in supporting their families.

Having begun work in this area in 1977, when Sana recruited, trained and mobilised 1,000 volunteer aftercare officers in less than five months, Sana continues to provide aftercare support to aid the reintegration of former abusers through the Sana Religious Group of Volunteers and the Sana Befrienders programme.

Sana also tailors its services to meet the needs of its clients, President Halimah said, highlighting the female support groups and female peer leaders who assist its female clients.

She also acknowledged Sana's step-up centres, which are one-stop facilities incorporating essential aftercare support services and recovery support groups.

The first two centres, located at Sengkang Community Hub and in Taman Jurong, have served close to 2,400 clients over the past seven years, and last month, Sana officially launched its third centre - Step-Up@Northwest - in Ace The Place Community Club in Woodlands.

President Halimah also paid tribute to Sana's work on the preventive drug education front through its campaigns and mentorship programme conducted by former abusers, as well as its advocacy work for Singapore's harm prevention approach on drugs at international platforms.

SANA president Gillian Koh Tan and President Halimah Yacob at Sana’s 50th anniversary celebration. PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN

She said: "We are increasingly seeing more countries decriminalising drug use and legalising drugs such as cannabis for recreational use. Against this backdrop, Sana has taken its efforts overseas, playing an important role in the international discourse on drugs.

"Sana has established a strong international profile, being a member of the International Federation of Non-Governmental Organisations (for the Prevention of Drug and Substance Abuse) since 1981 and actively participating in various regional and international conferences."

In 2018, Sana was accorded Special Consultative Status as a member of the United Nations Economic and Social Council. Since then, the organisation has been an active contributor during events held by the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs, President Halimah said.

She added: "Through its international advocacy work, Sana has been able to explain the importance of Singapore's drug abstinence approach and share Sana's aspirations for a drug-free Singapore with an international audience."

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