Passport blunder: It’s Singaporeans who are negligent

First they let a dangerous terrorist slip away during his toilet break, and Singaporeans were told we were complacent.

Then, they let a retiree get through the checkpoints with the wrong passport. Now we are told we are negligent.

Straits Times, 25 June

Passport blunders leave S’poreans stranded
By Jessica Lim

SINGAPOREANS are a negligent lot when it comes to passports, travel agents told The Straits Times on Wednesday.

It is not common for travellers to make a mad dash to the airport with the wrong passport, some said, but added that,more often, they show up at the airport with expired passports or without the required visas.

Some forget their passports altogether.

Travel agencies contacted by The Straits Times say they make it a practice to call travellers before their flights with reminders to pack their passports and check that everything is in order.

Despite this, one in 10 will goof up every month….

Dr Teo Ho Pin, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Law and Home Affairs, also called on travellers to exercise some responsibility.

He said: ‘In the most recent case, it is a genuine mistake, but that is not an excuse. If you travel with the wrong documents, you’re breaking the rules.’

It seems this government and the press that they control are intent to shifting the spotlight to Singaporeans’ shortcomings whenever they make an embarrassing blunder.

In this case, the GPC chairman for Home Affairs, the ministry responsible for this blunder, has the nerve to lecture Singaporeans on exercising responsibility.

When will a real leader stand up and accept responsibility for these “appalling” mistakes?


My Response to MP Lam Pin Min’s blog

Well at least some of our P65 MPs are writing about the Mas Selamat issue and its aftermath.

Dr Lam Pin Min wrote a piece defending the PM and DPM’s arguments about how they see government responsibility. Here’s an excerpt:

Yes, the Minister is ultimately responsible for his ministry’s policies and operations, which was why a COI was necessary to account for the lapses and to be answerable to the public. Just like the PM is accountable for his cabinet ministers. But, does that mean that the minister is culpable for all the mistakes that his subordinate (sic) commits? This cannot be.

Here is a comment I left in response:

Dear Mr Lam,

I have already read PM’s speech. Why bother copying and pasting it here?

The more you defend your bosses, the deeper a hole you are burying yourself and others in your party in, simply because the Executive’s self-righteous arguments lack merit on their own.

I urge you and your PAP colleagues to put down your cheerleading pom poms for a moment and do a better job reflecting the feelings of the people on the ground.

Most of us are not asking for Mr Wong’s resignation. We just want some admission of personal accountability.

And for goodness sakes, don’t tell us that by punishing the Minister, it will demoralize the whole Ministry. On the contrary, but putting all the blame on the small guys at WRDC, the officers at MHA and ISD will get the message that when push comes to shove, they will be the fall guys when something goes wrong.

I’d like to end with a quote from Newcastle, one of the readers of my blog, who left this comment:

“Is this then the precedent being set among the ministers where things go right, I get my million dollar pay package and take the credit. When things go wrong, I get my million dollar pay package and blame my minions.”

Gerald Giam

Afternote: It should be “Dr Lam” not “Mr Lam”. My apologies to the good doctor.


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.