Singapore will keep tough anti-drugs stance despite external pressure: Shanmugam

Hannah Teoh
Senior Content Producer

It would be “delusional” to think that Singapore would bow to international pressure and remove the death penalty as a deterrent against illicit drugs, said Minister for Law and Home Affairs K Shanmugam in Parliament on Friday (3 March).

The minister called such a notion a “myth” while also saying that “a penalty will be in the books if we believe it to be right, and it will be removed if we believe that removal is the right thing to do”.

Shanmugam was responding to a January 2017 Economist article on drug enforcement in Asia, which criticised the region’s policies as “needlessly severe and probably ineffective”, although it noted Singapore in particular had admirably low drug consumption.

The minister – who in the article was characterised as “fearsome”, a term he disagreed with – said that low drug consumption was not by circumstance; rather, this was due to Singapore’s tough laws and strong public support for a drug-resistant society.

In addition, intensive efforts to educate the public about the dangers of drug abuse, as well as comprehensive rehabilitation measures, complemented the tough legal framework.

Still, Shanmugam said, illegal drugs are an encroaching threat with Southeast Asia a major market and producer of “ice” and heroin, among others. This lucrative black market attracts criminal syndicates from all over the world, and Singapore could be “overrun” by them if a tough approach was not taken.

“We have to remain steadfast in our resolve to keep Singapore drug-free. We will continue to work with our partners at regional and international platforms to safeguard our position.”