Where is our "full account", independent Committee?

The day after Mas Selamat Kastari (aka The Limping Terrorist) escaped from prison on 27 February, Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng told Parliament that there will be an “independent investigation” into this “security lapse”.

Then Singaporeans found out that our government has a different definition of the word “independent” when it was revealed that this Committee of Inquiry (COI) included the Deputy Secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs, who “oversees security policy” as part of her regular job.

But the COI is independent, we are told, because “she does not have any line relationship over ISD or any operational departments”.

I guess since I didn’t get 4As in my A-levels like those 600 potential prime ministers, I should just shut up and accept that my England is not very powderful because I wasn’t paying attention when my primary one teacher taught me what “independent” means. Obviously my definition must be wrong, otherwise it would mean that our Deputy Prime Minister told Parliament something that wasn’t true.

(But wait a minute…if she is a DS overseeing security policy, but does not have anyone at the Internal Security Department or any operational departments reporting to her, then what is her superscale salary being used to pay for?)

On 2 March, Channel NewsAsia reiterated Mr Wong’s “independent Committee of Inquiry” comment, and went on to say that the “report should be ready within a month”.

I just checked the calendar, and I think it’s 11 April today, which means that the report is more than 10 days late.

What could be the reason for the delay? The DS on the COI team is from the elite Administrative Service, well trained in report writing. Surely she would have been able to whip up a report within a matter of days.

Perhaps the report really was ready long ago, but it needs time for “inter-agency consultation” so as to soften any potentially embarrassing findings, particularly for the political elite. MM Lee has already foreshadowed what the report might contain, when he pinned the blame for the escape on the goats…I mean…guards, whom he accused of being “negligent”.

But fret not, Singaporeans. Two “facts” may have turned out to be untrue, but I’m still holding out for a third fact to come true: That when the COI completes its inquiry, the Government will give a full account on how Mas Selamat escaped.

(It’s notable that it is only after the Workers’ Party expressed concern that the Committee will “submit its report to the Minister, and no part of the proceedings may be released to anyone except with the Minister’s written permission”, did the MHA come out and declare that there will be a “full account”.)

So where is our full account, “independent” Committee of Inquiry?

Or maybe I should be asking MHA: Why have you not released the COI’s full account to the public yet? Does the Government think that Singaporeans are all saying “what to do? He’s escaped” and are moving on with their lives?

Singaporeans are waiting…

Personally, I’m equally interested to find out the outcome of the separate CID investigation which is looking into whether there was any criminal wrongdoing, and “if any person is found to have abetted the escape”. I had asked on the second day after the escape whether this was an inside job and I still maintain that this is the most likely scenario.


Author: Gerald Giam

Gerald Giam is the Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC. He is a member of the Workers' Party of Singapore. The opinions expressed on this page are his alone.

11 thoughts on “Where is our "full account", independent Committee?”

  1. Gosh, 10 days late with a key report that has ramifications on our security landscape and public confidence! Are they taking our trust for granted or what? Mana eh sai (Hokkien translated: How can like that one!) Was there a news release saying that its delayed or something? Honestly, I’m not confident we’re ever going to get a full account of what happened. I hope to be proven wrong on this but the full truth is going to require more than simple apologies on the part of those involved and for this gahmen, they must always appear ‘right’ and maintain the ‘moral high ground’ and control over us. We are ‘complacent’ people who need to be reminded who we are.

  2. Full account – that is for the senior ministers

    Basic account – for the mid level officials and maybe MPs (to explain to their people)

    No account – this is it, for the citizens

    If you notice, the media has been concentrating other issues that are not so important, like Tibet unrest. They jacked up the rice shortage, housing, transportation, inflation, economy issues to mask the greatest escape of the century.

  3. I suppose the report still has to be vetted by the various hierarchy of governance, namely MM, SM, PM, DPMs, Ministers and lastly of course our President (don’t say he no use, OK), just like in the communist countries, before it can really be approved as “independent”.

    Obviously the report seems to have been vetted by our MM, hence his warning about our complacency.

    Just be patient, OK, it has to be made into a very “independent” report.

  4. Gerald,
    the government own us 3 very important reports:

    1) How Excessive surplus due to 2% hike can happen after heavy analysis and study. If such a thing can happen, isn’t study on compulsory annuity scheme be even more scam ! How about the probability of statistic given by the government as fake ?

    2) How is the surplus used ? Use in earthquake research , cancer hub ?

    3) Mas Selamat’s toilet break.

    Did you notice that our surplus of $16.4 billions (Yes, $10 billions addition as reported by Sylia Lim due to property profit) are now forgotten by the government and replaced by unimportant events that no even related to Singapore directly ?

    Surely, the gov want to do the same for Mas Selamat’s case.

    Now that you revitalize the case again, rest assure the government will use even more distractions in mainstream media. Wanna guess what distraction ?

    Finding clown’s successor ?
    Bird Flu, SAR strike again !
    How to make a gracious society ?

  5. Dear Gerald,

    This whole Selamat Saga has been one disappointment over another.

    First: we allow a limping terrorist to escape from a tight security.

    Second: Goverment’s inept response and search for him.

    Third: Goverment’s evasiveness and reticent response to public queries.

    Fourth: integrity of goverment. The exploitation of the word “Independent” and how they had went around their word of having a Independent COI

    Fifth: Failure to release the report for Selamat’s escape as per stipulated date.

    It is a sad indictment of the goverment’s performance in this whole fiasco that the trust between the citizen and goverment is shaken. Just as Watergate had seriously broken the trust of the Americans with their President, I wonder if the Selamat’s escape will cause a similar situation.


  6. The whole saga only shows how they think of us. We are nitwits who cannot think and see through the wayang – and they do it because they CAN – Thanks to the 66.6%.

  7. mmmm Maybe the COI report is already circulated in closed circles. Don’t mind waiting a bit longer..but the report better be good and juicy!

    Also wonder what is the penalty on negligence which led to the great break – who will be removed, dismissed, condemned.

  8. Dear Patriot,

    Once the report – what is left of it after all the internal censorship and vetting – is made public, a few things will happen:

    1. Govt will say: “We fully accept the COI’s report”.

    2. Scapegoats will be slaughtered. Of course, WKS will be let off completely. He’s not a goat. He’s an “extraordinary minister”.

    3. Govt will say all loopholes will be closed with regards to security in detention centres. They may even offer a review of the security measures.

    4. Then, the big wayang will take place: Our silent-for-11-days Prime Minister will come out and, instead of “what to do, it’s happened”, he will say, “Lets close ranks and move on.”

    And then the compliant media will trumpet how greatly the govt has dealt with the whole saga.

    I have no doubt that somehow the media will also trumpet the abilities of the ministers and may even use this to justify the millions we are paying them.

    It’s the same wayang over and over again, Patriot.

    This is what a compliant media can do for you – they can actually keep you in power. Make no mistake about this.

    Why do you think LKY has such a tight fist on the media?

  9. salary – Yes, we’ll probably hear the govt’s version of it at the next Parliament sitting. SOme MPs have already tabled questions on it. But the next sitting is April 21 (or 22?). That will be almost 2 months from Mas Selamat’s escape.

    Newcastle – yes you’re right. Not only has the govt’s much-trumpeted competence been eroded by this fiasco, but so is their integrity. I have a feeling their repeated assertions that Mas is still hiding in our “jungles” is all hogwash too. And all this time our PM has not made a single substantive statement on the Great Toilet Break, besides saying, “What to do?”

    We truly have a crisis of leadership in Singapore.

  10. I think this will be a throwback to the question by the late Ong Teng Cheong about Singapore’s reserves…

    The government’s reply would probably be that it would take 30 man-years to give us a full account…sigh

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