48 per cent of drug offenders held last year were Malay

Nearly half of all drug offenders arrested last year were Malay, Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs Masagos Zulkifli said in Parliament on Wednesday.

He highlighted the worrying trend even as he called for a more concerted effort to fight the drug abuse problem.

"In principle, the Government's approach is to treat drug abuse as a national problem," said Mr Masagos in Malay.

"However, we have to come to terms with the fact that Malay abusers continue to form the majority of abusers arrested."

Last year, 1,603 Malay drug abusers were arrested - a 16.5 per cent increase from a year ago.

They formed around 48 per cent of offenders arrested last year.

The Government is particularly concerned about the rising trend of new abusers aged below 21, he said. The number of young Malay abusers arrested quadrupled from 41 in 2007 to 166 last year.

Most abused methamphetamine or Ice, a synthetic drug.

Dealing with the problem requires a "concerted approach" involving the Government, community, families and the abusers themselves, said Mr Masagos, who chaired an inter-agency task force on drugs. He now heads a steering committee that oversees the implementation of the recommendations of the task force.

"This will put this effort at the national level," said Mr Masagos.

He rejected a suggestion by Mr Muhamad Faisal Abdul Manap (Aljunied GRC) that a Malay committee be formed to manage the community's anti-drug fight.

"What we need is the increase in concerted effort, not another new committee," said Mr Masagos, adding that communities can tap national resources through his steering committee.

He noted the ongoing efforts by Malay-Muslim organisations to help inmates, ex-inmates and their families, but called for more support to prevent children from being influenced by drugs.

This is so "they will see drugs as something that is revolting and not as something that they should try", he said.

Several MPs had noted the importance of preventive education during Monday's debate on changes to the Misuse of Drugs Act.

On Wednesday, Mr Masagos reiterated the Government's commitment to preventing abusers from relapsing. Starting this month, all long-term offenders deemed to be at high risk of relapse must go through stricter supervision on their release. Besides regular urine tests, they will be placed on curfew, monitored electronically and go for compulsory counselling.

Some 500 high-risk inmates will be placed on this regime next year, he said. About 2,000 repeat abusers sentenced to long-term imprisonment will be released over the next two years.

There will also be more targeted intervention for young offenders.

For instance, they will report to a separate centre for urine tests, to reduce contact with older abusers.

First-time young abusers will be moved to a Community Rehabilitation Centre following short detentions in drug rehabilitation centres.

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