09 March 2008

The great hunt: bunker chaos

Here's an alternative explanation for why information about Mas Selamat Kasteri's escape came out in ribs and drabs. Full essay.


Anonymous said...

MM had finally taken the lead to comment on Mas Selamat's escape.

I think all this while our PM chose not to make any comment because he simply did not what to say, he did not know what position he should take when making a statement as the PM of Singapore with regards to the terrorist's escape from detention.

And now that his father the MM had spoken and shown the direction and commented on the incident, our PM of Singapore finally opened his mouth .

He said these words to the journalist - WHAT TO DO, IT HAS HAPPENED, LETS CLOSE RANKS.

Wise words from our PM.

mr.udders said...

Well written.

Teck Soon said...

I think the problem boils down to poor governance. More effective management from above would not have allowed the "custodians" to be so careless. I would like to suggest that the "custodians" and all the ministers who are in charge of them, be given pay increases to ensure that the system is more effective next time. To ensure good governance instead of the current poor governance. With better pay packages, we can attract better custodians, better ISA people, and better ministers.

feedmetothefish said...

"The high-profile government-mounted campaign to publicise Muslims helping in the search for Mas Selamat discredited only themselves. It showed a government that didn't trust the people to be sensible in a moment of uncertainty. It showed the readiness of the government to manipulate its own people... for the wrong reasons, addressing the wrong question."

Mr Au,

Thank you so much for hitting bull's eye! Yes, the contempt they have for us citizens is nauseating. Why play the race/religion game to score silly points at times like this?

It's always the song & dance! The Wayang! Their continuous arrogance in treating us like bloody nincompoops is so digusting.

Most, like me, blast and rant their frustration and helplessness in blogs to release steam :)

You, in your cool logical observation, have put the sting in its right place.

Thanks again for doing it right!

Anonymous said...

At the risk of being too big headed, the why the authorities responded was unsurprising for me. If my National Service time had taught me anything, it would have been even more surprising if the authorities acted in the manner YawningBread had eluded in this blog.

What is my reasoning?

(1) The kind of "talents" drawn to run the country are those with a mindset more suited for defending the status quo than handling exceptional circumstances.

(2) Adding to point (1), when in comes to security threats, the modus operandi to countering is to protect the establishment.

(2.1) First and foremost to ensure that the establishment is not shamed in anyway, come hell or high water. So more important to spin the media than actually engaging the people.

(2.2) Dealing with known threats or the usual suspects. Which is why when it comes to surveillance of oppositions comes first. I mean the JI network, despite the denials of the establishment, was mostly likely chance upon by a video handled over by the Americans. I seriously doubted the authorities had any clues about the JI.

(3) As an enhancement to point (2). We are talking about a culture that lives by sticking to operating procedures and not deviating from it. So when an exception is encountered, the leader is clueless, which probably explains his "leave of absence" in the matter, and everyone else acted like they were in a leaderless pack.

kl said...

what really struck me was the number of deliberate conspiracy theories that came up in online comments: the escape as a cover for his death (by police torture), a distraction from the Budget; the slow trickle of info as a ploy to allow his escape after his arrest was found to be a mistake and so on... Whether or not these cynical suspicions are true, they belie, ironically, a deep-seated preconception held by many that the govt & civil service are all-knowing and infallible (ie the escape cannot be a lapse, it must be staged). If the govt manipulative song & dance reflects their dim view of citizens, then the citizens are also feeding this view by assuming too readily the govt's absolute power and all-encompassing control.

Anonymous said...

About the song & dance of Malay Singaporeans helping to distribute pamphlets in the news. I do agree that too much focus was on the Malay Singaporeans being pro-active to help disseminate info about Mas Selamat. But, being the Spore government they tend to think on different wavelengths from the fellow Singapore layman. The government only sees the big picture. Here is what their big picture is --- the authorities wanted to dispel the religious prejudice that other races have against the Malays and also mindful of racial spats that can erupt due to insensitivities. Perhaps the racial riots of the 1960's still loom large in the minds of the old guards. They were aware that in the aftermath of a JI cell publicity in Singapore, Chinese Singaporeans were having doubts about their fellow Malays.

The same strategy was employed by UK when the UK Muslim bombers born & bred on UK soil attacked London's transport system on 7 July 3 years ago. I went "Live" to BBC News website where they had live video coverage of the incident. In one segment BBC brought together an Anglican pastor and a Muslim imam side by side to emphasize that their religious communities value dialogue, unity and understanding in times of crisis like this. Also at police briefings, the most emphatic statements made by the supervising police superintendent was not to point fingers at particular races.

So that's how governments see the big picture.

Teck Soon said...

Anon 9:12, I disagree a bit. Although the BBC is funded by the government in the UK, it is not at all a government mouthpiece, so I think we shouldn't generally extrapolate what the BBC airs to what British policymakers want. The BBC seems to be completely independent, nothing like Channel News Asia for example. I think the British effort was a genuine effort by average citizens, police officers trying to prevent riots, and their tolerant culture in general to try to improve relations and not a move by the British government on a high level. Actually in democracies, I think it's hard to pin down what the government actually stands for, since the leaders are always changing and positions are always shifting. Singapore doesn't count.

Robert L said...

Dear YB

Thank you for this article. I'm pretty sure the truth is far worse than you think. And my response is certainly not belonging to the small group critiqued by "kl" of 04:58 ["... then the citizens are also feeding this view by assuming too readily the govt's absolute power and all-encompassing control."].

Take the issue of the clothing he was wearing. The official information (actually I'll call it misinformation) is that they were not sure what he was wearing.

I find that totally beyond belief. Any detention camp must have cctv. They must have images of Mas Selamat recorded on cctv on that very day in various places as he made his escape. They could easily have published these images on nationwide TV. Yet they said they were not sure what clothes he was wearing???

Even till today, authorities have never uttered a word on cctv. Let me now be their spokesman, let me give you further misinformation before the idea springs into their minds. Here it goes... Mas Selamat is so clever, so wily, that he had planned how to evade the cctv coverage... his escape route is so clever that he used all the blank spots missed out by the security cameras. Hence there are no images recorded on cctv.

Sounds absurd? Hey, wait till this story comes out of the mouths of the authorities!

When they tell the same tale, I wouldn't dare to accuse them of telling lies at that stage. (smiles)

So, dear YB, the truth is that they did not want us to identify him, they described his clothing only after 6 days, when they are reasonably sure he no longer wears those clothing. This sounds incredible, but it's the only reasoning that fits the known facts.

When government withholds crucial information, who do you blame for the ensuing speculation - the government or the population? In my reasoned view, it's the patriotic duty of every intelligent citizen to proceed with honest speculation.

P.s. Regarding the excuse that he might have changed his clothes, did not want citizens to focus on the specific clothes he was wearing... yada yada... There's no need to embark on a long argument over this. It's standard procedure for law enforcement all over the world to broadcast full description and "last known attire" of any fugitive. Enough said.

KiWeTO said...


they have plenty of resources to put CCTV in election offices to ensure that all procedures are followed to the letter; And easily accessible by the media once it is needed to reinforce a key political position.

CCTVs in detention centres are a however, a matter of state security, and no footage may ever be releases, on pain of deprivation through the official secrets act.

as they desire, let the experts handle it.

FINE. STOP Scaring the population.

AS the English king declared after a spate of Nazi bombings in London - "Stay calm and carry on"

Let us just carry on with our own little lives and the state worry about what its been appointed by us to do - protect us from external threats.

Stop making us do your work.


yuen said...

From ST:

'I think I saw Mas Selamat'

A FORTY-YEAR-OLD mother of three was on her way home from work the afternoon Mas Selamat Kastari escaped from the Whitley Road Detention Centre when she spotted a limping man along Thomson Road.

She was on Mount Pleasant Road, a short distance from the detention centre, when she saw him approach a stranger.

Although she saw him on Feb 27, it was not until three days later that she realised he might have been the fugitive Jemaah Islamiah leader.


If the man I saw was Mas Selamat, it didn't look like it was a planned escape. He didn't look like he was waiting for someone to pick him up.'
the report sounds creditable, and give support to police's view that his escape was spur-of-the-moment not pre-arranged; on the other hand, it shows the fatal delay in getting the news out - if all the police patrol cars started looking for him as soon as he escaped, there is un doubt he, without money even to catch a bus and not knowing where it would be safe for him to escape to, would have been quickly caught

johntan said...

Netizens may wish to know that Permanent Secretary (Home Affairs) Benny Lim, the top civil servant (non-political appointee) in the Ministry, was promoted to SAO Grade 4 this month. This, I believe, makes him one of the top ten civil servants (in terms of pay) in Singapore.

Depending which side of the fence you sit, his promotion could be viewed as either poor judgment or poor timing.

Robert L said...

'I think I saw Mas Selamat'

Someone posted above that the newspaper report sounds creditable.

Sorry to disagree. Out of the thousands of reports that they got, I'm confident that they can find those that support their theory. If they had theorised that Mas S flew away, they can dig up reports that people saw him flying in the sky. So considering that they have stated that he acted alone, it's only to be expected that they push stories that supported it.

But look at the flaws in the story.

First flaw. The eyewitness said that he looked like a vagrant. Now, by all accounts, we can accept as fact that he was dressed for a visitors session, and was indeed walking to the visiting area. So, how can we then accept that barely an hour later, his appearance changed to that of a vagrant?

Second flaw. The eyewitness said he was limping. But then, we have previously been told, very, very specifically, that his limp is not noticeable unless he runs. For him to reach the main road after one hour, he must have been walking very, very slowly indeed. And the report further tells us that he was also spotted at a site one mile away after another 3 hours. We have to conclude that this person was walking very slowly indeed.

I won't dismiss the report based on these two flaws, but on the other hand, I find it hard to agree that the report is credible.

yuen said...

>I won't dismiss the report based on these two flaws

indeed you should not; the eyewitness says the man she saw looked like a "vagrant"; you probably thought she meant someone that looks like a ragged begger, but vagrant simply meant "homeless wanderer" - the escapee, if he made an unplanned exit, would be unsure of the street layout, without money even to catch a bus, and unsure how safe it would be to go to the home of a family member or former follower, and was (as the eyewitness said) moving rather aimlessly; "homeless wanderer" fitted well; and because of this aimlessness, he made slow progress

however, again my main point: if news about his escape had been given out earlier, if not to the public, at least to the police patrols, he would undoubtedly have been caught