Screening for servicemen, new coalition among anti-drug efforts

Drug screening exercises will be conducted for all recruits and cadets entering the military.
Drug screening exercises will be conducted for all recruits and cadets entering the military. PHOTO: ST FILE

Drug screening exercises will be conducted for all recruits and cadets entering the military, while those found abusing substances will face stern disciplinary action.

If caught, these servicemen will also undergo supervision and treatment programmes, as part of the rehabilitation process, said the Ministry of Defence (Mindef).

A spokesman said the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), which conducts regular drug screening among its servicemen to deter and detect drug abusers, has recently ramped up urine screening in SAF units to increase detection efforts.

"Mindef/SAF will continue to emphasise its zero-tolerance approach against drug abuse message to servicemen," said the spokesman.

Separately, a spokesman for the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said in response to queries that mandatory surprise screenings are conducted for all full-time national servicemen (NSFs) in the Singapore Police Force (SPF) and Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF).

"In addition, random urine testing is conducted for SPF and SCDF NSmen during their in-camp training," the spokesman added.

As agencies step up drug detection among national servicemen, the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) yesterday launched a new coalition of groups that have pledged to spread the anti-drug message as well.

Among the 47 partners of the United Against Drugs Coalition launched at the CNB's workplan seminar yesterday are private firms and education institutions. Other partners include firms such as SingPost and Pastamania.

"They are well-known names and brands that youth are familiar with," said Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Amrin Amin in launching the initiative.

"We want to expand our reach to even more organisations to join this platform."

Such moves come as more young drug users have been arrested, with close to two-thirds of new abusers caught aged below 30.

MHA previously said that 151 Singaporeans and permanent residents studying in primary to tertiary institutions were caught for drug offences last year, up from 83 in 2014.

"The way CNB approaches preventive drug education has changed, with the focus on educating and engaging the community," said CNB director Ng Ser Song.

The Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association (Sana), which is also a partner, said it expects the new coalition to foster regular information sharing, as well as wider outreach in drug prevention.

Mr Abdul Karim, executive director of Sana, added that information sharing is critical. CNB does this regularly, he said, informing partners of the types of drugs abused and the profile of abusers arrested.

This means coalition partners can be aware of trends and the need to constantly review and modify materials as well as their prevention strategies, he added.

Madam Fauziah Rahman, youth manager at the Association of Muslim Professionals, said the coalition partners can learn from one another's strategies.

This year, the association started monthly sharing sessions between CNB and students who visit its youth hub in Jurong Point. She added that it will be inviting the agency to help train mentors in drug education and prevention.

New partners such as Central Perk cafe said they hope to engage youth through various ways, such as music, meeting new friends, and building a dependable and accepting community, committed to maintaining a drug-free society.

Singapore Management University dean of students Ong Siow Heng said it is timely that the school has been invited to support the promotion of the anti-drug message as "our students travel extensively outside of Singapore" and "are constantly being exposed to new information, both accurate and inaccurate, about drugs".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 26, 2017, with the headline 'Screening for servicemen, new coalition among anti-drug efforts'. Print Edition | Subscribe