Veteran drug-buster now rehabs addicts

Deputy superintendent Muruganandam joined the Central Narcotics Bureau in 1981.
Deputy superintendent Muruganandam joined the Central Narcotics Bureau in 1981.PHOTO: MATTHIAS HO FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Over the past 34 years, veteran Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) officer Muruganandam Arumugam has conducted numerous drug raids.

He remembers the shock of confronting a violent knife-wielding drug abuser during one raid when he was a young officer in the 1980s. It was in the kitchen of a two-room Housing Board flat; fortunately, he regained his composure and gathered the abuser's family members behind him and his team.

"Our priority is always to ensure the safety of everyone present," said the 55-year-old, who remembers that he then spent close to 30 minutes reassuring the man, who was a cannabis abuser.

"I told him that he would be treated fairly if he came with us. I also asked him to think about his young children and their future," he said.

The deputy superintendent, who joined the CNB in 1981 after completing his A levels, is now a senior officer in charge of the Drug Rehabilitation Centre (DRC) and supervisory unit. He recalls being touched by a statement written by one drug abuser who lacked family support.

"He was previously in a boys' home and when he came out, he said he had no one to turn to.

"He took drugs to escape his problems," said DSP Muruganandam, who is married with two daughters, aged 22 and 17.

Family support was what kept him going, especially when he had to pull long hours in the major investigations branch from 1998 to 2001. Once, he returned home with a missing tooth and 10 stitches on his face and lips after arresting a drug trafficker. "My wife cried so badly when she saw me," he said with a laugh.

These days, he oversees the admission of drug abusers to the DRC. "Treatment and rehab are important aspects of the process. It addresses the drug abuse problem directly and also the underlying issues the person may have with his family and society," he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 11, 2015, with the headline 'Veteran drug-buster now rehabs addicts'. Print Edition | Subscribe