As the week progresses without any news of his capture or the reasons for his escape (read Alex Au's excellent piece on the great stonewall of Singapore gahmen), the local papers continue to astound us with their ability to scrape the bottom of the news and letters barrel to fill the void.
Here is a letter from someone who did not teach Mas Selamat, did not know him, but may have been in the same building as he was when he was a child, expressing his views on the man.
Perhaps tomorrow we can have letters from people who used the same toilet he escaped from, sharing their disappointment in having used the same cubicle as he did.
"No pride in having a pupil like him
IT IS common for teachers of a school to feel gratified when a pupil becomes a well-known figure. But sometimes, it doesn't work that way.
After reading the profile of escaped detainee and Jemaah Islamiah terrorist Mas Selamat Kastari last Sunday, I was surprised to learn that he is a former pupil of Kaki Bukit Primary School.
I started my teaching career there in 1964 and taught at the school for five years. The school building still stands today at Bedok Reservoir but it is now a drug rehabilitation centre.
Mas Selamat probably studied in Kaki Bukit Primary while I was teaching there. I did not teach him as I taught the upper classes when he started Primary 1 in 1968.
The pride and joy of seeing your students do well in their career is always a special feeling when you are a teacher.
Three of my former pupils, whom I dub my very own 'Charlie's Angels', are an example. They are my family friends now and featured in one of my earlier books, an autobiographical novel.
But, sadly, I doubt if any former teacher of Kaki Bukit Primary would feel proud that someone like Mas Selamat was part of the school... (Read more)"
I showed this to a friend and he msn-ed "go n sad by yourself la, teacher". Hey, I know! I can send my own letter of disappointment too!
"No pride in having fellow Singaporean like him
IT IS common for citizens of a country to feel gratified when a fellow Singaporean becomes a well-known figure. But sometimes, it doesn't work that way.
After reading the profile of escaped detainee and Jemaah Islamiah terrorist Mas Selamat Kastari last Sunday, I was surprised to learn that he is a Singaporean.
I was born in 1969 and lived in Singapore for all these years. The country is still there.
Mas Selamat probably lived in Singapore while I was living here. I did not know him as I lived in Aljunied while he lived in Kaki Bukit in 1969. But now I am sad I breathed the same air as he did..."
In other news, the escape is covered by news agencies like AFP:
"Singapore gov't butt of jokes after prison escape
SINGAPORE (AFP) — Terrorism is usually no laughing matter, especially not in security-conscious Singapore, but the escape from custody of a limping Islamist extremist suspect has led to scorn on the Internet.
Barbed jokes and irreverent spoofs have sprouted up on websites five days after Mas Selamat bin Kastari, the alleged Singapore chief of regional terror group Jemaah Islamiyah, escaped with apparent ease from a detention centre... (read more)"
And Sam Leong of Sammyboy forums (yes Da Man hisself) has a view about the Wong Kan Seng apology:
"There is a big difference between saying
"This should have never have happened. I am sorry that it has"
"I apologise to the country for this serious breach of security".
The words he chose to utter in parliament were carefully crafted so as not to admit liability or accept any form of responsibility whatsoever.
Suppose my friend was injured in a hit-and-run accident and ended up in hospital.
When I visited him, I could say "This should have never have happened. I am sorry that it has.".
In no way could the words be construed to mean that I was the person who caused the accident. I am merely expressing sympathy for his predicament."
And we seem to be living in some time warp when it comes to this escape. Let's see:
1. The public knows about the escape only 4 hours later.
The reason given? "Public not told of detainee's escape earlier to avoid causing panic: Police" So research has shown that after 4 hours, the public will not panic if told that their country's top terrorist has escaped? And they gave their reason after 3 days.
2. First you tell us limping, then days later, you tell us only if he runs.
3. We find out what he WAS wearing that day he escaped, after 6 days. And we are asked to look for his discarded clothes.
"Releasing details on what the fugitive was last seen in for the first time since his escape, Police Assistant Commissioner (AC) Wong Hong Kuan told reporters on Tuesday morning that Mas Selamat was wearing the baju kurong - a very loose blouse with just a small neckline, worn over a sarong usually wrapped around the lower part of the body - while he was being taken to meet his family last Wednesday."
Maybe in next few days, they will let us know what colour Hello Kitty underwear he was wearing.
Tellingly, someone else is also missing besides Mas Selamat. Our Prime Minister has been silent all this while. Funny, he was very out there when we won the bid to host the 2010 Youth Olympics leh. Maybe he is busy lah.
Wah, let a terrorist escape can actually be a GOOD thing! Help the people bond!
Maybe we should let a few more escape then. Once a year, have an Allow a Terrorist to Escape Day to facilitate national bonding.
From the Straits Times:
"S'poreans' response as 'one people' lauded
THE response by Singaporeans to Mas Selamat's escape from detention is a good example of how the community should respond in such a situation, said Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Zainul Abidin Rasheed yesterday.
He said people's reactions to the incident at the grassroots-level Inter-Religious Confidence Circles (IRCCs) have been the same, regardless of race, and that it is good the community is taking the matter as seriously as the Government.
'It shows we are responding as one people and in times of need, we are there to help Singapore, which is reassuring,' he said."
Even Finance Minister Tharman weighed in:
"S’poreans showing united front in efforts to capture Mas Selamat
SINGAPORE: Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said Singaporeans are displaying a united front in efforts to capture Mas Selamat Kastari.
Speaking to Channel NewsAsia at a community event on Saturday, Mr Tharman said he is also heartened that the Malay—Muslim community is taking a lead in this search.
He said: "From the initial reactions, Singaporeans are confident that Mas Selamat will be found, but more importantly this is an opportunity where Singaporeans are coming together, reassuring each other and also reassuring the Malay—Muslim community who have themselves taken the lead.
"What you read on the Internet is sometimes different from what you observe on the ground. They’re calm, they’re alert, but no one is giving anyone a cold shoulder.""
By the way, the Limping Terrorist is not really a limper. Limper ka lee gong, Mas Selamat's limp is only visible when he runs. Police Assistant Commissioner Wong Hong Kuan helpfully clarified that "Mas Selamat's limp in his left leg is evident only when he walks briskly or runs. Otherwise, he has the normal gait of any man."
Now then come and tell us. Wah lau eh. Ok change of plans, united Singaporeans! Watch out for a sometimes-limping terrorist.
Meanwhile, an interesting poll sprang up on STOMP, entitled, "Who should resign over the terrorist escape issue?" spotted by blogger "Life at Anchorvale". At the time of that blog entry, the results were:
Chief Of Police: 14.39%
Wong Kan Seng (Minister Of Home Affairs) : 16.55%
Both should resign: 69.06%
Sorry if you want to vote on this poll though, because the poll has just been removed from STOMP (the link now points to an invalid thread).
You know, I doubt if Singaporeans are giving anybody a cold shoulder. We just want our questions answered. No, we don't need to know stuff like "Manhunt continues" and "Manhunt still continuing" and "Community feels lovey-dovey and bands together".
The questions on most people's lips are:
1. HOW in the hell did he escape?
2. Was it an inside job?
3. Who is going to take responsibility for this screw-up?
Cherian George thinks the bunker mentality is not helping the government or the mainstream media's credibility. I think Cherian is being kind.
It took a minute for Mas Selamat to escape. We don't need a whole month for an "independent" board of inquiry to reveal how he did it, do we?
After all, it only took days to pull out CCTV footage of James Gomez at the election department.
These are photos of Mas Selamat bin Katsari, leader of the Southeast Asian Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) terrorist group, and one of Singapore's Most Wanted detainees. The Singapore government had this middle-aged man who walks with a limp under detention in a supposedly high security Internal Security Department-run detention centre in Whitley Road, but he escaped from the toilet there.
Seriously, if you see him, do call 999 immediately and help the police catch him back.
We only found out about it 4 hours after he escaped on Wednesday 27th February 2008, 4pm, because according to the Minister of Home Affairs DPM Wong Kan Seng, Mas Selamat "was of no imminent danger to the public" and "there is no information that he has any plans that threaten public safety".
This Limping Terrorist was the same guy who planned to attack Changi Airport, the US Embassy, the American Club and the Singapore American School before.
But if the Deputy Prime Minister says "was of no imminent danger to the public", then ok lor.
Perhaps they should take a leaf from school exams, where security seems to be tighter than ISD detention centres. Students needing to go to the toilet are accompanied by invigilators during school exams here.
Anyway, Singaporeans need not worry we will lose any million-dollar senior talents like ministers, in the light of this debacle. They won't be asked to resign or even take a pay cut. We are not like those free-wheeling and chaotic governments from Western democracies that make their leaders accountable for every little thing.
In fact, the government is so confident of their own competence that Minister of Foreign Affairs, George Yeo, said, "Naturally, there's a sense of disappointment, but they know we will recover from this."
I am not sure who he means by "we". Because it's not like you or I misplaced the terrorist. So I assume he means "we" as in the government. And if you mean "disappointment" as in "outrage", yes, that too.
Mr Yeo feels that Singaporeans are confident of the country bouncing back from this incident.
I agree. The country will bounce back very quickly, because the country did not lose the terrorist. You guys did. But don't worry, we will take the DPM Wong's advice and not speculate and ask awkward questions until the government decides what to reveal to us.
Promises Minister George Yeo, "There will be a proper inquiry and what can be made public, will be made public. We will put things right."
Update: A three-member independent Commission of Inquiry (COI) has been set up to investigate the escape of terrorist Mas Selamat. The three commission members appointed to carry out the inquiry are retired High Court judge Goh Joon Seng, former Commissioner of Police Tee Tua Ba, and Dr Choong May Ling, Deputy Secretary (Security and Corporate Services) of the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Excuse me ah, but having a current Deputy Secretary of Security from the Ministry of Home Affairs on an independent COI also can meh? Ownself inquiry ownself ministry ah? Are you sure COI stands for Commission of Inquiry and not Conflict of Interest?