Singapore PM says top home ministry officials not responsible for terror escapeWell, at least for the time being, it seems that DPM Wong will escape any serious fallout from Mas Selamat’s escape. But it would be jumping the gun to think that this is the end of the story.
The Associated Press
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
SINGAPORE: Singapore's prime minister Tuesday voiced support for the city-state's top Home Ministry officials following a government probe that showed several security lapses allowed a top terror suspect to escape a prison.
Speaking in Parliament, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong acknowledged that Muslim terror suspect Mas Selamat Kastari's escape from a detention center should never have happened.
"We must admit our mistakes openly and honestly, put them right, and act against those who have been culpable," Lee said.
But Lee said he remained confident in Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng, as well as the top management of Wong's ministry, whom the leader said were not to blame. Wong is also a deputy prime minister.
"I am satisfied that the ministry has taken the correct remedial and disciplinary action, and that the minister and top management were not to blame for what has happened," Lee said.
The Home Ministry oversees the Internal Security Department, which runs the Whitley Road Detention Center where Mas Selamat, like other terror suspects, was being detained without trial.
AFP has published a news article on this issue, extract below:
Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng told parliament on Monday that security agencies believe Kastari is still in Singapore, the smallest country in Southeast Asia with a population of 4.6 million.We are, after all, talking about a manhunt not in the Himalayas, the Arctic icecaps, or the Ural Mountains. We are talking about a manhunt in tiny Singapore. Surely with the amount of manpower and resources deployed to catch the man, you would have thought that we would have caught him by now. Instead, the wily suspected terrorist remains off the radar and has successfully evaded the efforts of the internal security forces and sections of the military to capture him. That one man is capable of such a feat, must be truly embarrassing to the local forces, and the individuals who lead and coordinate them. And don't forget, Wong Kan Seng is the overall man in charge here. Wong will bear ultimate responsibility for a failure to capture Selamat.
But terrorism expert Clive Williams thinks otherwise, suspecting Kastari is somewhere in the vast archipelago of Indonesia, whose nearest islands are clearly visible from Singapore.
Williams, from the Australian Defence Force Academy, said that for Singapore to maintain Kastari is still in the country only adds to the embarrassment.
"It's been a long time now and I would think that they would've searched every place that he'd likely be in Singapore," Williams told AFP.
"It's not a good reflection on the internal security system, is it?"
He called for an independent review of Singapore's entire terrorism-related security structure.
And if Mas Selamat has indeed escaped Singapore, then the ICA, the Navy, the police force and other government bodies will have been deemed to have failed in their duties to protect Singapore. And that would be the direct responsibility of DPM Wong, the Minister of Defence, and the Prime Minister himself, whose leadership must surely be questioned (don’t forget, PM Lee was no less than a Brigadier General in the army).
I think Singaporeans should demand a full account of the resources that have been spent to catch Mas Selamat, and inquire as to why the government has yet to capture the JI terrorist. The account should be just as thorough and transparent as the COI report on Mas Selamat's escape.
This issue is just as important, if not more so, than the actual escape from the detention center, for it is in the aftermath of Mas Selamat's escape that the real cost of the mistake is realized. Millions of dollars (if not billions) have been spent, not just on the manpower to catch him, but also the equipment deployed (helicopters etc.). Economic disruption to several businesses that was caused by the massive traffic jams at the causeway also has cost our country millions more. And if Selamat truly makes an escape and manages to engineer a revenge attack on Singapore, the ultimate cost would be quite unimaginable.
The real test of the government's leadership began after Mas Selamat had escaped. And so far, I don't think they've done as well as they should.
The Game Has Only Just Begun!