04 March 2008

The great hunt limps along

It's six days since Mas Selamat Kasturi escaped from Whitley Road Detention Centre. The longer he stays undiscovered, the more likely he is getting help and someone is concealing him. Full essay.


kl said...

In Today's story 'JI fugitive could break cover' (3 March):

"Four hours before the prison break, a SingPost van was stolen after the driver had left the engine running near the Woodlands Civic Centre. The stolen vehicle has still not been found. Authorities would not say if it was linked to the Mas Selamat hunt."

yuen said...

may I remind everyone of the previous internationally known security lapse: Tok Ling How, the suspect in girl Huang Na's disappearance, escaped to Penang, and he was just an individual amateur, not an experienced terrorist with an organization behind him

in the new case, the police think the escapee is still in singapore, which assumes:

1. he suddenly noticed the security lapse

2. he immmediately decide to use the opportunity

3. there was a delay in organizing a manhunt, and he managed to get to a populated area before the dragnet was in place - otherwise, I dont see how he could avoid detection with tracking dogs behind and roadblocks in front

I tend to think

1. he observed the security lapse some time ago, during previous toilet trips on route to family visits

2. he worked out a route to a near by road after getting out

3. during the next weakly visit, he asked his family to contact a follower to meet him in a vehicle
on the following visit day

4. after being picked up, the vehicle, with him hiding in a secret compartment, immediately drove to the malaysian border, before the alarm was raised while the guards were still looking for him in the detention centre

wonky said...

Actually there was a report of a stolen vehicle. I think the 2nd or 3rd day after the escape was reported, I'd read an article in ST about a stolen SingPost van. The report said that the police were not ruling it out as a possible lead in the Mas Selamat investigation. So maybe that's why there were no dogs used.

Anonymous said...

Or perhaps he was actually interrogated a bit too harshly and currently resides in a shallow grave in the prison garden :)


Anders said...

He was held without trial under the ISA, am I right? Could you or someone tell me what he is accused of?

Anonymous said...

In the bible, in the new testament, a man was incarcerated and an Angel came to help. He was never formally charged in court. I think he definitely had help from a higher being and I do not think the MHA was incompetent :)

Anonymous said...

someone made the WRONG decision of informing the public 4 hours after the terrorist had escaped from detention. Unless they wanted to cover up the escape hoping to catch him within minutes and hushed up the incident.

he could have been caught by now with "sighting information" from the public if the escape had been announced much much earlier.

later mha minister had no choice proceeds to give some infor on Mas Selamat and an apology for his escape.

police came out with differing description and infor on Mas Selamat.

minister said independent enquiry commitee will be made and will be ready in about a month's time. another commitee in the making.

the ruling party reveals that it will never change its kiasu way. another minister REMINDED the people by saying...What infor that can be made public will be made public.

to me that means dont expect the government to tell you everything as it happens, the truth nothing but the truth. What infor we get could be massaged or masked to make them look good again.

Anonymous said...

YB wrote: Then some 36 hours later, almost like a joke, the police said, oh, his limp is not actually perceptible if he walks at a normal pace. It becomes noticeable only when he tries to walk fast or runs.

Great! So the millions of police notices in buses, office buildings and everywhere are wrong and in fact are misinforming people who might otherwise be of help.

Anonymous said...

Interestingly, I was having one of those "kopi-shop" session with my fellow unemployed reservist serving pals, and one brought up an interesting, possibly, conspiratorial theory. It has not, as you have noted, been help by the way the government releases information and not too mentioned actions towards political dissenters.

Well in short, my friend's theory is that something went wrong whilst rendering Mas Selamat on behalf of the American and the government found they have difficulty hiding from the family, so decided to concoct a story about him escaping. After all, Singapore is such a small place and how could he have hidden for so long. His argument was that virtually the entire security and defence resources was deployed for the search and nothing has come of it. How was this possible?

I can't vouch for the veracity of the theory but if the government is to learn any lesson from this, they have to realised that absence of information itself could spin more such conspiratorial theories, which in turns, does it no favour.

Anonymous said...

Plenty of people got away besides the Huang Na's murderer.
The recent NKF chap not only ran off, he took his wife and his condos with him. We didn't catch him, HK did.

And about stonewalling...
I think why the story took so long to came out was because they were hoping for a quick catch, like how they had caught the NSF guy who AWOL with a rifle and some live rounds.
This is PRECISELY NOT the kind of thing to do in a crisis. Anyone with crisis management training would've known that if someone was killed or hurt due to the information being withheld or delayed from the public, the resulting backlash would be 10 folds of the incident itself.
They took a gamble for the SAF boy...they won.
They gambled again this time...
Can we entrust security into the hands of people who gambles with public safety?

Anonymous said...

I think now the gahmen needs to search for 2 things:

1. Mas Selemat
2. the missing SingPost van

Are the two events related?
If they are not how come until now they cannot locate the van?

The longer they cannot locate van, the more likelihood the 2 are connected.

But if the 2 are not connected, does it mean until now they cannot even locate a missing van?? LOL

recruit ong

yuen said...

I am skeptical about the speculation that he was tortured to death or secretly sent to USA; it would be easy to find some formula to justify his being handed over to CIA, and I dont think he, after several years in detention here and in Indonesia, has up to date information worthy of heavy torture

Anonymous said...

I too believe that he got help to escape. But it's a very sensitive issue that could trigger mistrust and suspicion among Singaporeans. At this point in time, such an outcome wouldn't be helpful, so my theory is the police preempted it by saying he was "acting alone".

Yawning Bread Sampler said...

Recruit Ong,

Accoridng to the Straits Times, the SingPost van was stolen from Woodlands about 4 hours before the escape. However, there is absolutely nothing that would link that incident to the escape. frankly I find it hard to believe that one would use such a vehicle for an escape. The SingPost logo would be exacly what the police be looking out for, once SingPost reports the theft.

Anonymous said...

"Accoridng to the Straits Times, the SingPost van was stolen from Woodlands about 4 hours before the escape. However, there is absolutely nothing that would link that incident to the escape."

YB, I won't be too sure also because...
1. What if the breakout is earlier? Meaning who is to know if the breakout time as told to us by the authorities is indeed accurate? ;)
2. The stolen vehicle can always have its appearance masked over/plates changed etc to temporary escape detection.

Still I am thinking more about the stolen vehicle, as the longer it is not recovered the fishier it gets.

KiWeTO said...

hindsight can make unrelated incidents look like a perfectly planned op. A stolen vehicle would have raised no flags at CID level, or even in the detention center, or anywhere, other than the department that records such things, and flags the license plate as stolen.

things happen. The point of YB's article is that in the absence of a official chronology of events, and facts reported, rather than half-truths (limp, if he runs), and the corrosive effects the absence of information has in the trust between the people, and those the people 'appoint' to govern their country on their behalf.

Shit happens. Its what an organization does in response to the shit happening that shows us whether it can be depended on or not. Its now looking terribly embarassing for the organization known as the SG govt.


Yawning Bread Sampler said...

Are the authorities reacting to the questions raised in this article?

I had mentioned that the police had failed to say what Mas Selamat was wearing at the time of his escape. Now I see in the Straits Times of 5 March that the police have finally released this information.

I mentioned also that it seems difficult for a person to survive alone in the forest for too long. But now I see a story in the Straits Times, headlined "He could survive for a long time in forests: Experts" also 5 March, saying he may be able to survive indefinitely.

It could be that the police deliberately chose not to give the public any info on Day One about Mas Selamat except for his limp and face pic, because they wanted to keep this info to check any reported sightings. That is, they'd ask any member of the public who makes a report what the suspicious person was wearing, or how tall he was, so that the police can decide whether it's worth following up the lead.

This seems logical, but if the police were doing that, then at least they should explain that that's the reason why they wished to hold back information. At least people can understand that they're doing things logically, rather than leave a vacuum that allows people to impute all sorts of incompetencies to the police (not that they are incapable of being incompetent, mind you).

Anonymous said...

George says:

There are lots of news coverage except about his family members. Strange. don't you think? For one, the ISD would have immediately seek them out for questioning inspite of their apparently 'perfect alabi' of being there when it all happened.

Robert L said...

Dear YB

I am absolutely flabbagasted that they announced the clothing details only after 6 days of his escape. It's as if their boss said, "Hey! Don't let the public identify him. Don't tell them what clothes he was wearing. Wait until you're damn sure he can't be wearing those clothes before you release the information. Oh, okay, 6 days will do. That will make sure he can't wear those stinky clothes anymore. Hey! And better still, throw in something fake so people will look for the wrong guy. Hmm... say, a limp? Yah. Tell them he got a limp."


[Note: if, in any case, Mas Selamat were to really keep wearing those clothes after 6 days, the public don't need to identify the clothes, we can tell by the stink from 6 days.]

Alan Wong said...

Until this very moment, the whole escapade is still shrouded in mystery. When will our Minister tell us the real details especially how did he escaped? Are there no CCTV cameras ? How come no one has come forward to say what was recorded in the CCTVs ?

Sometimes my irradical mind tells me that it will take a real bombing incident in S'pore to really bring our arrogant Ministers down to their senses before they will tell us the full details of what really happened ?

I can't help feeling there is something fishy out there.

Anonymous said...

There probably aren't any CCTV cameras in that facility--the government only needs them for elections and watching James Gomez!

Yawning Bread Sampler said...

If there aren't any CCTV cameras, then this ould be exactly the kind of thing that renders the position of Choong May Ling on the "independent" commission problematic.

It would have been a Home Affairs Ministry's decision not to equip the detention centre with such. But she herself is from MHA....

However, I find it hard to believe that they didn't have CCTV. They probably would have, though whether or not the cameras covered the exact areas in question is another matter.

Anonymous said...

Our security system is seriously in question! Have the new generation of officers become soft, soggy and relax?

This is not just the lapse of the security of the detention cell but it is the general condition of all other departments and agencies. We are sliding and very complacent indeed. Are we living in false security.

yuen said...

The Straits Times Exclusive -
Massive jams at Woodlands, Tuas
Search continues for Mas Selamat at checkpoints.
without blowing anything up nor killing anyone, he has already done massive damage to the Singapore economy

in any case, I wonder why ICA did not make some special arrangement to put more inspectors on, with lorries checked at the road side instead of the usual number of check points; ST says drivers who used to be able to make several trips a day are waiting two days to get through

Anonymous said...

I have the feeling that the rot has set in from too much self-praise and big headed mentality, so much so that they are now complacent.

We are first world, we are the best, we have the best talent for the job, we need to pay them the highest salary to keep them, all help to foster a superiority complex that has made them intolerant of alternative views. Thus they go about implementing policies despite public unease, brushing aside all public feedback and displaying their arrogant 'we know best attitude'. But of course no one above is going to admit that because that is their trait.

Anonymous said...

Is the money spent on putting up thousands of cameras on top of lighting posts along streetsand highways of use? If the sinpost van was used at all, could they not see where it was headed?
I am sure there are cameras near the PA and Whitley Road DC to help eliminate this possibility.
But clearly the drip and drab fashion of information flow from the MHA is appalling, unprofessional and unacceptable. They do themselves and the very people they claim to serve nothing in such a serious incident.

Anonymous said...

By now, if MAS could not be found, he will say: "Goodbye and see you the next time after ......"

He is not alone if he is still in Singapore. He is not alone. Do not ever rule out all-out helpers who share the same passion and sympathy in terrorism.

Anonymous said...

I heard a rumour today that Mas was mishandled till he died in the detention cell. The escape is a cover-up.

Terrorists do not deserve to live because they are mass and cold-blooded murderers. The law of our days does not make a murderer responsible for the death of another and many (Soft and soggy law promotes hardcore murderers.) It is better for him to die in the cell than escape. I am fearful that he did escape than he had died.

Why are we finger-pointing at one another for a mass killer at large? Everybody, look out deliberately for him and get him back to the cell before .... Who knows, everybody and/or anybody can be his accidental/deliberate target and nobody cannot be his target, now!

Anonymous said...

To Anon 21:59,

Is Mas Selamat a mass killer? Who has he killed to date? Why aren't his accusers hauling him to court and convict him of his crimes?

While we need to be mindful of the terrorist threat, it is quite another to use draconian laws like the ISA to perpetuate our own brand of terrorism.

yuen said...

MM blames complacency for JI leader's escape

MANAMA (BAHRAIN) - THE escape of Mas Selamat Kastari is a 'very severe lesson in complacency' and it shows that Singapore is not infallible, said Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew yesterday.
well said; now he need to do something to solve this problem, starting from the source of complacency and image of infallibility

Dee said...

If there was actually someone helping him, I think it a possibility they would've given him a change of clothing. And possibly, even a wig and spectacles or sunglasses.

Anyways, why didn't the police set up a website for the public where they'll know what exactly is going on, instead of drawing upon assumptions and conspiracy theories? Whatever you see on the newspapers and forums, SPF site, etc. is pretty sparse. A site could provide far more comprehensive information about the activities of the police, what others are doing, etc.

Why isn't there a separate hotline for the public to use, where they can receive updates about the latest situation?

And why is there no crisis/alert warning system in deployment? In America, they use the Homeland Security Advisory System when highly dangerous criminals run on the loose. Do the police actually think that repeated warnings and some posters would suffice for a terrorist who's likely itching to take revenge on the country or to regroup with his cell(likely via the internet)?

Btw, if he's intent on blending into the population, wouldn't he find a place where people would last suspect him to be found? So are the police also looking at other parts of the country like the housing estates, apartment listings, etc.?

If they really want to find him, they'd also consider looking at listings of any and all housing(private, HDB), etc. being rented within the last 6 to 8 months and residential areas where suspicious activity was detected.

And if he isn't living in a rented apartment, then he could be hiding among foreign workers. And again: why aren't the police setting up hotlines in their languages so they can report any suspicious activities?

They said he's likely stolen a car or vehicle. But that's not the only possibility, is there? There are car rental services. Are they checking up on those as well?

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous 08 March, 2008 01:27

You seem so quick to defend Mas? You sounded irate in your words. I hope you are not one of his sympathisers.

To me there is no difference in a mass killer or one in accessory to mass killings.

You said: "While we need to be mindful of the terrorist threat, it is quite another to use draconian laws like the ISA to perpetuate our own brand of terrorism."

This is unacceptable form of twisting. It is good that Singapore have not repealed the ISA. It is GOOD to use for terrorist suspects and accomplices. I, as a Singaporean, am glad that we have this law for terrorists. I do not look at ISA as the way you look at it, my friend.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Yuen, when our leader MM admitted complacency, our leaders have taken the humble-pie. All Singaporeans including Muslim Singaporeans must put all their effort to search out and bring Mas back to detention again.

Harbouring or helping Mas would only show one in deep and serious sympathy with terrorists. Let us not arm-wrestling among ourselves but unite ourselves together to find and expose the whereabout of Mas.
We must be constructive not to go beyond attacking and accusing one another.

yuen said...

>we must be constructive

sure; you can start by suggesting a solution to the lorry delay problem at the border

jason said...


About the CCTVs in the ISD detention centre.

There may be CCTVs monitoring some areas of the centre but there may not be any CCTVs in the family visitation area.

Having cameras in the visitation area would provide video evidence of ISD dealings. The visitation area could be very near to the entrance of the detention centre. Imagine that someone get hold of the video evidence of secret ISD informants walking around the area.

Or, they may have CCTVs in that area but the toilet is at a blind spot. And our MSK noticed that shortcoming.

And because they do not have no video recording of people movement in the visitation area, they rely on the interviews with the security personnel walking around the visitation area, for information.

This could be why they could not get the right information in time and they are still clueless even at this point in time.

I think that if there is any more detailed information about the ISD detention centre, they will have to move house because it is not longer a secret location.

Anonymous said...

Hello Jason,

I think they have CCTV all over. If it is installed in one area it is unlikely that it will not be installed in some and all areas. Since this is a tight security detention centre, it is unimaginable that there is no CCTV in the family visitation area.

I do not think that it is all complacency of the MHA. Something may be happening and brewing inside the detention centre. Some internal conspiracy perhaps, may be the answer to the escape. Officers' credibility may not be properly scrutinized. Outside workers who were involved with sundry supplies and repairs etc. may have a hand in it.

This escape is one of the worst things that can happen to a well reputable country with "best" in everything but indeed not so perfect. Best pay need not necessarily have the best men. This is the reality of life which often has its shortcoming.

Whatever may be the mistake, let us all look out for this character Mas. Let us call to every of his relatives to help bring him back to his detention for the security and the lives of many people.

Mas has one life but his escape put many lives in jeopardy. This escape only shows his unbending resoluteness in supporting terrorism.

Anders said...

Although, as a foreigner I'm not familiar with the details of this case, I get very worried when I read many of the comments on this website.

If Mas is a dangerous terrorist, he should of course be imprisoned and it's of utter importance that he is caught.

However, I'm very worried about how almost everybody ignores the fact that he has been held all the time without trial, and the only commentator who dared to point this out, was immediately accused of being a terrorist symphatiser. I think this point is indeed important and should be honestly discussed.

As a "westerner" I have witnessed how the "war against terror" has been used throughout the west to justify limitations of democratic rights that we previously have taken for granted. The irony is that in order to "protect democracy" we are effectively removing it.

Taking the ISA as an example, the only reason that you would need to detain somebody for an extended time without trial is that you don't have sufficient evidence that would hold in a court of law (or if you simply want to detain someone who has committed no crime). There is no other practical use for such an exception to the standard rule of law. I'm sure many people who follows YB's blog would agree on this, but why should then Mas be an exception? Please note that I'm not trying to imply that he is innocent, only that he should have his case tried and judged in a court of law.

Somehow, the argument against this seems to be that since terrorism is a very serious crime, it requires special procedures outside normal law, but if that is your answer I'd like to ask: Should we lower our legal standard if the alleged crime is serious? My own answer to that is definitely no. There are too many risks with that.

Sure, Mas seems guilty even to me, but that somebody _seems_ guilty and has been judged guilty by the media, doesn't prove that he _is_ guilty. The 13:58 post, even argues in his last sentence, that Mas's escape proves his guilt. If we succumb to this kind of mob mentality we don't deserve to be treated fairly ourselves the day somebody accuses us.

Perhaps we can argue that the risk to public security of having a terrorist loose are so grave that we must accept that some innocents may be detained. If that is your stance, so be it, but I'm not sure if it's true. You could also argue that holding people, terrorists or not, on weak grounds is provoking and will spark further antipathy.

Anyway, on this board, we are always quick to criticize the local media and the government's anti-democratic stance. Then, why are we suddenly taking the media's description of Mas as gospel truth and why are we not willing to defend democratic principles in this case? Mas should of course be caught and then put on trial. Unfortunately, it seems that the latter will never happen, regardless of the former.

Although I know this is an unusual and rather provokative thing to say, these things are just as scary to me as any terrorist threats.

Anonymous said...

It is more than 10 days now, I still see soldiers, special operation units around Bukit Batok. He needs supplies daily which will expose him by visitors to the forest - this is totally unlikely

Just thinking aloud:
Could he be hiding in a mosque? It is the only place where people move in and out. He gets the supplies and sundries from ....

Anonymous said...

Hello Anders,

Since three of you started the company Pyra Labs in San Francisco, I take you to be an American. If I am incorrect, just take this reply for your reading.

I am not working in any government agency, but a common Singaporean who hope to see the security of my nation and my people. Neither am I an anti-American as I fully supported the Americans in the gulf wars more than some of the Americans in your homeland. America did play a major role in the History of the World.

However there are two philosophy of government and life have brought America low:
1. The Extreme Democracy
2. The Extreme Human Rights

These two philosophy of Democracy and Human Rights when perpetuate in their extremity have betrayed the security of nation, and brought havoc to the social life of the common Americans.

America's social lives will continue to bleed as long as "human rights of self defence" warrant personal right to carry arms - hence, the death of hundreds of innocent youths and adults by firearms - amok killings, provocative killings, mass killings and killings in robbery. If this is the democracy you wanted, go and find it yourself. Can you walk with your gun safely in streets of America big cities in the night as you walk without gun in the street of Singapore? You want freedom but you cast security out of the window. America will bleed as long as democracy goes unchecked.

Democracy in extremity is just as frightening as detention without trial being abused. There is no one hundred percent perfect in any human governing system.

There is nothing frightening about detention without trial when there are overwhelming causes. Our government did not use ISA to apprenhend any person in the slightest suspicion of serious crime.

Kingdoms fell. Socialism restrains wisdom. Communism is in the washpot. Democracy is bleeding. Which system of human government has proven to be inerrant without shortcomings? My plead to all is to keep yourself from crossing the line of the law, there will be nothing frightening. Do right though heaven falls.

I RESPECT the law of every country when their leaders discharge the law with good judgment, equity, incorruption and justice.

ISA is good. Gangsters, crooks, offenders, rogues, hardcored criminals, terrorists, and etc. are fearful of such indefinite punishment against their "rights".
Deterent works well against will-be offenders in Asian countries. I am not brought up from the kindergarten and junior schools with the teaching of my right over my parents and institutions. So I may see things differently from your view point, Anders, my friend.

Anders said...

Dear anonymous,

Thanks for replying to my comment. I do however disagree with most of what you say :-)

First of all, I'm not American. Second, I did not intend this to be an east against west discussion. Frankly speaking, I'm a bit tired of always seeing the "look how chaotic the US (or UK) is" every time this kind of topic is brought up. As I said in the beginning, I'm equally worried about anti-democratic tendencies in the west.

Fortunately, there are plenty places around the world with both high levels of security and well developed democratic rights. Unfortunately, after 9/11, USA has neither. The US also detains terrorist suspects without trial and after several years many have turned out to be innocent. So, your comparison with the US is simply not valid.

But please, I don't want this to be an east against west or my country against your country discussion. I have issues with my own country as well, but this is not what we are discussing.

You say there is nothing frightening with detention without trial and in your last paragraph you say that it is only used against crooks. Is that really true? Hasn't the ISA been used for political purposes as well? And anyway, with the ISA it becomes entirely up to the government to decide who's a crook and who's not. That is very frightening to me. If you like the ISA and if it gives you a better sense of security, fine for you, but please try to understand that arguing against the ISA isn't about protecting the rights of the criminals as you put it, it is about protecting innocents. Real crooks can be dealt with within the law. If you think people can be detained without trial, then you also have no grounds to complain when the person held turns out to be innocent or just someone who's uncomfortable to the government. The former has happened in the US and some people fear the latter in Singapore.

Finally, in your last sentence you bring up the all too common argument that I as a westerner has been brought up to believe that my individual rights are more important than those of my government or parents. I find this insulting.

But to be clear, what I do believe in is the rule of law and that the law should work both ways. Both to stop individuals from harming the common good, but also to protect the individual from unjust actions from his superiors. Exceptions like the ISA destroy this important balance.

Anonymous said...

Hello Anders,

Thank you for replying so promptly.

Please be assured that this is not the East VS West discussions and views. If you take up the case of ISA which touched on the security of the nation then you ought to hear out the reasons and necessity of this ruling. It has kept Singapore from public disorder since the 70s to-date.

If you questioned the legitimacy of the laws of the East, be sure the same may apply to the West - in friendly disagreement ;-)

1.Those who were detained due to political reasons were evidently inclined to Communism. Singapore, a young nation in the 60s and still today, unlike US or UK etc. (with hundreds of years of history), would not stand a chance in just one social and political disorder.

2. When a country is big, an outbreak of disorder in one city does not bring the whole country down. But when a little dot on the world's map turns chaotic, it is a nation that turns chaos.

3. This exception serves well indeed against the present and global threats of terrorism. Yet it is no exception but a deterent law.

4. Let me repeat this just incase you have overlooked this comment:
"Democracy in extremity is just as frightening as detention without trial being abused." So I am not saying ISA has no shortcomings but both have their shortcomings. In my view, I have seen too many drug cartells, gangster chief, notorious child and minor prostitution operators and etc. and etc. walk out of the Western court STARK FREE for the lack of admissable evidences to convict them, while the whole world know their opened infamy. I would choose to have the latter - the ISA for my country.

5. As for the kindergarten and junior school matter, I would not want to press on, though it is there.

Lastly, I am not an anti-democratic person. In every thing, there must be moderation. In democratic reforms, cares must be taken that liberty does not breed corruption and gives away security.

I am not a politician nor am I a spokesman for my Government. I have seen their good rulings through the forty and more years in this little nation. I am not proud but thankful for their good governance. We are not the best but still striving to be better. But one thing I feel that we cannot compromise - security for CARELESS liberty in the smokescreen of human rights.

Mas detention is legitimate according to Singapore law. Whoever habours him must give him up for security sake.

Most certainly, I am not troubled by your comments. CHEERIO.