PUTRAJAYA: The National Drugs Council has decided on all-out action to free the country of the drug menace by 2015 by creating an atmosphere of war and involving all sections of society.
In a statement to the media after a three-hour meeting, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said the governments efforts to combat drug abuse among Malaysians have not been entirely successful.
The drug menace covering the network of addiction, trafficking, smuggling and manufacturing continues to be a main threat to national security.
Therefore, a new approach has to be taken immediately before this gets out of control to ensure Malaysia and Asean are free of drugs by 2015. This is the approach we have taken, said Abdullah, who is also Home Minister.
Among the strategies outlined during the meeting are to conduct a blitz against the menace in the electronic media, instil an anti-drug culture, activate all agencies and NGOs to organise programmes to enhance discipline and morality among the public and tighten enforcement on addicts, traffickers and drug laboratories.
Deputy Home Minister Datuk Zainal Abidin Zin said some of the new measures to be introduced this year which the council officially declared as the Year of Total War Against Drugs would include recruiting one million students to be friends of Pemadam and allowing drug addicts at rehabilitation centres to work in the private sector.
Drug addicts will be given training in areas like plantations and electronics during their stay at the rehabilitation centres which would enable them to be placed with factories and offices in the private sector.
These addicts will work at these companies during office hours and return to the rehabilitation centres once their jobs are done.
Once they have recovered from their addiction, we would encourage these factories and offices to absorb them into their workforce or for them to go into the sectors they have been trained for, he told reporters after the meeting at the Home Ministry.
He said allowing addicts to be employed would prevent them from going back to their old habit as many later found it difficult to find jobs or return to their families after being released from the centres.
The addicts will be paid for their work and they will get to keep part of their pay while a small sum will be deducted by the rehabilitation centres for feeding and accommodation costs, he said.
Currently, 70% of addicts who went to rehabilitation centres later lapsed into their old habit. The country has 28 rehabilitation centres housing some 10,000 addicts.
Last week, Abdullah had announced to give Pemadam - the national association for the prevention of drug abuse more bite in its fight against drug abuse. The Government would fully fund all the administrative costs of the non-governmental group.
Zainal said that to ensure these measures were successful, all districts and states had been directed to set up a committee to put the new approach into action.
Pemadam will work together with the Education Ministry to rope in one million students as friends of the NGOs. So far, more than 5,000 students have been signed up.
Under the programme, students can attend or participate in events organised by Pemadam to stay away from drugs and as part of the psychological war against this menace.
These students will then be given a card as a mark of their membership in this programme and we have agreed that this be given special credit when they are being interviewed for jobs later as a recognition of their role, he said.
Zainal said the meeting was also concerned over the high rate of women smokers in the country, as theoretically this was the initial step towards drug addiction later.