As of the writing of this post, it has been no less than 65 days since Mas Selamat made his escape from the Whitney road detention center (WRDC). Most of the attention and writings in the blogosphere and the press to date surround the question of whether DPM Wong Kan Seng should resign from his post. Especially taking center stage has been the manner of the government's accountability and the way PM Lee Hsien Loong exonerated DPM Wong from any fault with regards to Mas Selamat's escape.
While these are certainly important and valid issues to raise, I fear that harping over whether WKS should resign is to risk losing the forest for the trees. Yes, WKS is the minister overseeing the ISD and the WRDC. But demanding his resignation because of the operational lapses at WRDC is a tough act, as WP Opposition leader Low Thia Khiang found out when he was forced into an embarrassing silence by the PM. This is simply because it is difficult to draw a direct link between Wong Kan Seng and the lack of grills on the window that Mas Selamat used to escape.
What, perhaps, is more telling about the competence of the government, and what netizens need to turn their attention to, is the fact that the cabinet ministers are now directly responsible for the recapture of Mas Selamat. There is no doubt about their responsibility for the coordination of National Security and there is no question that they are ultimately responsible for a failure to recapture Mas Selamat.
Here is the low down on the main characters involved:
1. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as the head of the government will bear overall responsibility for the coordination of the various ministries and government bodies responsible for the capture of Mas Selamat. The Prime Minister's Office oversees the National Security Coordination Secretariat (NSCS), tasked with national security planning and the coordination of policy and intelligence issues. A branch of the NSCS, the Joint Counter Terrorism Centre (JCTC), is a multi-agency centre which provides strategic analysis of terrorism-related issues to support policy-making and the development of counter-terrorism capabilities; as well as providing strategic early warning of terrorism-related developments.
2. Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng is the Minister for Home Affairs, and oversees the following government bodies directly related to Mas Selamat's recapture:
- Singapore Police Force (SPF) - The SPF is the main agency tasked with maintaining law and order in the city-state. Part of the SPF is the Special Operations Command (SOC), a frontline unit grouping together various specialist units into a single strategic reserve of the regular forces to be called upon in any contingency and serious case of public disorder. They will no doubt be the frontline involved in the domestic search and recapture of Mas Selamat.
- Internal Security Department (ISD) - The ISD's mission is to confront and address security threats, including international terrorism, foreign subversion and espionage. The ISD also monitors domestic counterterrorism, international counterterrorism, surveillance, apprehension of suspected militants or terrorists and protection of Singapore's national borders.
- Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) - The ICA is in charge of the security of the territory of the nation and goods entering the country as well as foreigners entering the country. Conversely, it will also be in charge of preventing escaped terrorists from passing through the checkpoints under its jurisdiction.
3. Deputy Prime Minister Shunmugam Jayakumar is the Coordinating Minister for National Security. The Co-ordinating Minister chairs an inter-ministerial committee comprising the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Minister for Home Affairs and the Minister for Defence. His responsibility is to oversee counter-terrorism in Singapore, by co-ordinating the NSCS, mentioned above.
4. Minister of Defence Teo Chee Hean is entrusted with overseeing the defence needs of the Republic of Singapore. The Ministry of Defence oversees the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), of which at least 2 branches are directly involved:
- The SAF Military Police Command is the military police unit of the Singapore Armed Forces, and whose men have been directly involved in the search for Mas Selamat.
- The Singapore Navy will no doubt be tasked with patrolling the shores of Singapore to prevent the escape of Mas Selamat by water.
The leadership of Government Singapore is to be truly tested in the coming days.
Let's see how well it holds up.
Wong Kan Seng Off the Hook? Not So Fast. The Game Has Just Begun!