a community of singaporeans

Why a lapse of four hours before public was notified?

Posted by theonlinecitizen on February 29, 2008

This is a letter by student Lee Weijia sent to the Straits Times Forum Page.

TOC thanks Weijia for allowing us to publish it here.

Dear Sir,

The escape of Mas Selamat, and the subsequent response to the escape, has raised many queries. However, I would just like to touch on one sore point that struck me immediately upon hearing the news.

Why was there a lapse of 4 hours between his escape and the notification to the public? Remember the area is surrounded by houses and schools.

I would like to quote Mr. Wong Kan Seng. During parliament, Mr Wong replied: “Our security agencies assessed at the time of Mas Selamat’s escape there was no imminent danger to the public. The focus then was to lock down the Whitley Road Dention Centre and then start a systematic operation to find and arrest him. The priority is to arrest him. No efforts will be spared to track him down.”

Mr Wong added: “The picture of Mas Selamat is splashed all over the country. Look out for him and if there is any information of anyone that looks like him, report the case to the police and you can be sure the police will look into it thoroughly.”

What a disappointing answer!

Are there techniques that can accurately predict the behaviour of a person? Can the authorities be certain that Mas Selamat, a desperate terrorist on the run, will not harm the public? What then has changed over the period of 4 hours? Why is the public’s help being sought now, and not from the very start?

Mas Selamat would understandably be desperate and feeling the heat. A simple, plausible scenario where Mas Selamat had limped to a nearby road and approached an unknowing member of the public to borrow a hand phone to contact his accomplice. Within an hour, Mas Selamat could’ve been anywhere in Singapore! Furthermore, we can only count ourselves lucky that he did not hijack a car, or take a hostage in his bid for freedom. Any number of people could’ve been injured or killed if that had happened.

Why wasn’t the public notified immediately?

I believe both such scenarios could have possibly been prevented by alerting the public to his escape and placing them on alert. Remember his limp would have made him easy to spot.

Furthermore, the area is bound by busy roads and residential areas. I dare say many motorists listen to the radio while driving. Would an immediate radio broadcast through all stations helped? Perhaps one of the drivers would have noticed something. Could immediate news bulletins through various avenues like TV Mobile, or SMS alerted the people?

Once again, why was there a gap of four hours? Did the authorities think that the public will riot in panic and fear if we found out about the escape? Well, the answer is all around you. Are we panicking? Or are we keeping our eyes peeled for a man with a limp?

All this has led me to one conclusion: that the authorities were hoping to apprehend him without alerting the public. It seems that the public was only alerted when the authorities recognized the fact that Mas Selamat could not be apprehended any time soon.

And this leads us to perhaps the most important question of all: If Mas Selamat had been apprehended within the four hours, would this have been reported and made known to the public at all?



39 Responses to “Why a lapse of four hours before public was notified?”

  1. matt said

    I have a bone to pick with your letter. He is not a terrorist ‘on the run’, but one ‘on the limp’.
    And also, the idea that a limping man can hijack a car or take anyone hostage is ludicrous to me. Not only will Singaporeans not stop for a shaggy, limping, dark-skinned, middle-aged man in prison clothes with a limp waving at massive over-priced cars in the most expensive part of Singapore, they will avert their gaze in an embarrassed fashion, like they do for all seemingly homeless people.

  2. Welcome Mat said

    why a 4hr lapse on top of the security lapse? simple answer, cover up. n no, if the limping idiot was caught within 4hrs, none of us would have known about this.

  3. Ned Stark said

    Why should it be ludicrous? A man in danger is one who can be willing to do anything. He could well arm himself with a weapon for all u know. And the fact that notwithstanding his limp he is able to escape goes to show that this man is rather capable and would be in a position to do something which threatens someone…or to put it in terms that we are all familiar with; he is capable of being a threat to public interest.

  4. V said

    Will post as anonymous coward here.

    Why is everybody so surprised about this? Detainees escape, and as much as you’ll never hear from it, and it _has_ happened before. It’s always a coverup, which explains the 4 hour delay. If he was caught within the 4 hour window, the media _WILL_ not have reported it.

    They shut you up by forcing you to sign the Official Secrets Act as a requirement for ORD, but who cares when you’re emigrated! There was this incident where 2 detainees escaped from the SAF Detention Barracks and a massive manhunt was conducted. Never got into the news, and surprise, surprise, they were never caught. It was rumoured that the escaped to Malaysia. How, is anybody’s guess. You can never underestimate the resoucefulness of subversive elements.

  5. ent said

    I think to have alerted the public earlier on than that would have been to cause public alarm, which could in turn have caused the escapee to become even more desperate. By all means situations like a hostage/-taker incident should be avoided; and a stealthy approach to search in the public areas surrounding performed, before that mass manhunt.

  6. kingfisher said

    Ministers justify vigorously why they have to be paid so much! When this type of screw-ups occurs, they should resign, not apologize!

  7. aygee said

    i have a conspiracy theory…

    by the reaction of the police to inform the public only 4 hours later, could it be that Mas Selamat is NOT actually the big terrorist threat that he is made out to be?

    if he’s the #1 wanted guy on the list of all the anti-terror agencies etc etc, the biggest threat to national security, and the way the police has handled him, maybe he’s just a guy with big ideas and threats, but no capability to carry out the threats.

    we never really can tell, can we? he’s not been brought to trial, and we’ve not heard him in court, and we have not heard any third-party assessment of his capability to hijack a plane and crash into Changi.

    BUT…on the other hand..if a limping man in prison clothes can escape from a high-security detention centre and disappear, PERHAPS he IS capable of flying a plane into Changi.

    questions, questions, questions….

  8. LifesLikeThat said

    F**king Wong Kan Seng! You have embarassed the whole of Singapore and all Singaporeans! Look at all the world news now! Every country is carrying the news!

    You want to fix the opposition but CANNOT FIX A F**KING TERRORIST WHO IS LIMPING????


  9. freedom loving singaporean said

    who runs faster? a limping terrorist or a singapore gurkha police?

    answer: limping terrorist….

  10. Robert HO said

    1. I can explain the 4 hour lapse. Remember the game we played as kids where we face the wall, closed our eyes, count to 10 [in this case, 4 hours] then shout “Ready or not, here I come!” then go search for the hiding playmates? Same thing. More fun this way and bigger publicity stunt. Now, our little 42km x 23km islet is world news and Bush’s ‘anti-terror’ agenda gets dusted off and reburnished, which is the aim all along. [See my Comments 21 and 36 in Responses to ““Limping Terorist” escapes – 10 questions for Wong Kan Seng”].

    2. The fact that we are all, as are the world, all generating huge volumes of ‘interest’ prove that the publicity stunt is successful. The ends have, once again, justified the means. Which is the primary philosophy of LIE KY LHL PAP.

    3. Just to remind everyone, during the ‘marxist conspiracy’ of 1987/8, a similar media frenzy was also created, with the Straits Times [if you can, go revisit all those days and days and dozens of pages to see how frenzied were the write-ups and how hyped everything was, now in the light of exposed truths] and other PAPaganda media all producing millions of words and charts [purporting to link TAN Wah Piow of London to the arrestees] and ‘proofs’ of intentions to ‘violently overthrow’ the ‘elected’ [actually UNelected] govt of Singapore! Once you compare the media frenzy then and now, it will be clear that Mr Mas Selamat Kastari, like TAN Wah Piow or the 22 RCs, are all just pawns like us, in the manipulative hands of the powerful. They have unlimited power and money so what do they do with their time and resources? Play games. Almost like a cat toying with a mouse it caught, letting it go then pouncing on it, again and again until tired of the game. 1 of the many perks of power.

  11. Robert HO said

    1. Just to add further to my Comment 10 above, FROM MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE of being arrested and interned some half dozen times, which you can read from my 2 blogs [in Martyn SEE’s interview with me], all these penitentiary facilities are PURPOSE-BUILT. This means that from the very blueprints and plans for the construction or renovation of these facilities, EVERY SINGLE POSSIBLE ESCAPE ROUTE IS STUDIED, FROM BEST PRACTICES OVERSEAS AND HERE, AND CLOSED, SO PRACTICALLY IMPOSSIBLE. EVEN HUMAN GUARD LAPSES ARE TAKEN INTO CONSIDERATION TO ELIMINATE ESCAPES. Thus escapes are impossible because these facilities are built and renovated that way. There are also cctv cameras everywhere, which are monitored 24/7 by police/guards. Procedures for toilet breaks, meeting family, etc, are all structured to make escape impossible. Toilets have no escape windows. EVERYTHING IS PURPOSE-BUILT.

  12. Daniel said

    With this terrorist thing blow out of proportion and in main headlines everyting above all issues, it will astute for our government to bail another ailing bank, hiking any form of increases, implement PayAndPay old age scheme or whatever it is called, increase all public service charges. Do it at the right time and this is perfectly the right time with so much attention to the terrorist issue. Remember to hold wayang debates after these policies implemented to appease the public.

  13. Ned Stark said

    I guess it can work both ways. By not informing the public earlier u may prevent a situation where he becomes desperate, or u might cause a state of affairs where everyone goes about as if everything is normal till such time as hell breaks loose. Even if hell does not break lose, there is always the possibility that failure to inform the public would mean that the person slips free.

  14. Daniel said

    Guess what is the next statement for bootlicker ?
    “… the immense surplus by the GST hike comes at the right time and now proof to be right decision afterall. The government is indeed very prudent and farsighted. Now this surplus can be put to good use to further improve security measure against terrorist. The government will spend unprecedented amount to show the world how serious they treat terrorism and other world should follow suit.”

    The gahmen could use the above statement without permission but remember not to remind the world of how much you have spent on security previously and how world-class security you boast to the world. Remember too this is a damage control not show-off session.

  15. meesiam maihum said

    The silence from the PM is deafening indeed. If Wong Kan Seng has any decency left in him, he should just take full responsibility and resign instead of blaming it on a ‘security lapse’. With so much of taxpayers’ money spent on national security and defence and yet the authorities cannot even guard a limp. What hope do Singaporeans have on the PAP government’s competence in protecting Singapore?

  16. aygee said

    should Mr Wong resign or the head of the Whitley Road Detention Centre instead? the lapse is with the detention centre, isnt it?

    while Mr Wong did ask us not to speculate how he escaped, it still baffles me. from what i know, Whitley detention centre is quite hard-core, with dogs, double fencing, and gurkha police.

    as someone else commented before, there are strict procedures in accompanying detainees for toilet breaks.

    Did he just walk through the walls, or what?

  17. Fiemen said

    Are resources been directed to focus on the wrong ‘terrorist’ instead ?

    We want to know if the same kind of treatment is applied to the hardcore real terrorist whenever he goes compared to the really harmless opp party. I can’t help thinking that there is insider’s help with his escape or did he learn a trick of two from David Copperfield ? Maybe it signal time for another pay increment for ministers as security lapse is a sign of unhappiness over current pay. Remember they need high pay to prevent corruption. How much is enough is anybody’s guess.

  18. George said

    When I saw those pics of the Singapore checkpoint, I thought how ridiculous can the govt get! The saying of ‘closing the gate after the horses have bolted’ comes immediately to mind.

    I agree there should have been an immediate alert put out to the public to look out for him. But no, the ISD have to spend 4 precious hours ‘locking down'(whatever that means?) the detention centre. Tell it to the marines, MHA.

  19. jamsywhamsy said

    Not only was he unarmed, but he was defeeted. Hehe.

    Ok, that was lame. =\

    Nevertheless, in case anyone is interested in reading my diatribe on this issue and reading the views of online forummers, please do go here:

    I’m pretty lazy to copy and paste the arguments and discussions that lapsed, but there were some pretty interesting points raised up in that thread.

  20. Alan Wong said

    Conspiracy theory :

    Wouldn’t this be the best solution if he had already been exterminated. Then nobody has to account for it.

    Looks like someone has to answer for it but an apology from Mr Wong is all that you will get.

  21. Disappointing response indeed. Textbook response but disappointing nonetheless.

    ‘no imminent danger to the public’ – I pray for all our sakes that is so.

    Having no concrete leads after more than 48hrs suggests to me that this fiasco could last for an uncomfortably long period. I think that is something we have to prepare for.

  22. matt said

    This is a rebuttal to Ned Stark.

    Of course his guy is dangerous. He has a dangerous mind, a dangerous religious ideology, and once led a dangerous network of people. That is true. That was why he was arrested to begin with.

    But I doubt he is a physical threat to your average adult Singaporeans. He is a 1.6m tall man with a limp, and having served out time in solitary confinement, with awful food, he is not going to be Jojo Sinclair. If you have read Francis Seow’s account of detention at Whitley, you will find out that the conditions, while adequate for survival (humane or not depends on one’s subjective reading), but aren’t particularly nourishing. He may arm himself with a weapon, but just about any common criminal may arm himself with a weapon when desperate. It doesn’t justify a manhunt. Doesn’t justify people being scared of him attacking anybody. What people should be scared of his is destructive potential, but only when he is in a position to reconnect with his now broken cell.

    I think the Minister has a lot of explaining to do. In any other country all the newspapers both tabloids and broadsheets would have called for his head. But what i fear is the impact on the reputation on the Gurkhas, who were supposedly guarding the place.

  23. J said

    Just like other countries that have incidences like this, Wong Kan Seng, should resign. Being incharge neans being responsible. What would he have said in parliament about the four hours if one, or more, of the public was now dead? Would he brush it off as “no imminent danger to the public” as he claimed? The answer would be a resounding NO!

    The fact that all the news agencies are picking up this story isn’t really because of the terrorist himself but because of the image of squeeky clean, hard pressed, highest paid and iron ruled Singapore government’s embaressment to this. The news agencies probably cannot believe that such a thing can happen here. Then again we’re Uniquely Singapore.

    Going back to the four hours. Yes, the public should have been informed. If this was a murderer on the loose, what would they do? If a rapist had escaped would they not alarm the public so peoples daughters and wives would be safe? Here they have a man that’s know to the world as a terriorist, who had plans and bad intentions for Singapore, who should be on the top of any countries’ most wanted list and they WAITED. Shame on them.

    A man who limps, has no resources or friends here as they claimed, is hiding well above a twenty four hour period. For all you know he’s in someones home right now with a knife to their throats and got them all tied up. Eating their food in the refridgerator, using the PC to converse with others, making IDD calls for help and planing a way to blow himself(and the family) up with the gas tank in the house. He’s not stupid after all.

    Like others mentioned, if they had got him before the four hour period, there may have been a cover up but they may also have mentioned it on the news so as to show the Home Affairs Ministry skills at such things happening. Basically a propaganda boost for the Home Affairs Ministry. After the four hours, with futile efforts, they probably thought it was best to go public in case anyone got hurt. They realized that the search will now have to be made larger and more forces will be seen in public which will make people query. It was best to come forward. So their plans for quiet resolvment is over. If only they got the news out. A lot of people would have spotted him but his four hours has given him time to find refuge and possibly make terrorist plans. What will the Prime Minister’s Office say about the Minister of Home Affairs then.

    This is how the Singapore government works I guess. Cover ups, concealments, thight libs, helping their own, hushing things up, blowing things off, secreativity and so on. Now is the time to see what happens when someone in authority like Wong Kan Seng has in term of resposibility and integerity. Even if he doesn’t step down or resign, his fate will be sealed in the next election. The public wont take four hours to decide his fate if they see his name on the ballot sheet. So opposition take note. You have a shot at that GRC in future.

  24. mh said

    I don’t think the convict could have left Singapore. It only makes sense that when he was found missing, border security was immediately tightened before the troops were deployed and the public notified. It’s likely he’s still hiding somewhere in Singapore, which is why the warning was issued that no one is to offer him aid or shelter.

  25. Joe said

    WKS, you speak like a pro, look good on paper for whatever you’ve planned, but you’re unable to apply your theory in action and in reality…
    What a shame? A BIG groups of your people don’t even have the capability to watch after that limping guy?????

    Gosh!! you informed the public only after 4 hours when he escaped?? Why? Just because you want ‘face’? or you’re so confident that you can catch him back for less than 4 hours so that you can ‘cover it up’???

    You idiot !! What’s more important?? your face or the safety of the nation? To have you as a leader in our country is really an insult.

  26. Daniel said

    Look like the video on explanation is been pulled off but it probably be back soon.
    This time hopefully that the gahmen give us a honest account of what going on with the security lapse rather than some rosy and hard to believe stories. Everyone is tired of hearing rhetoric and Singaporean deserve an open apology from the government. Without apology, the government will continue its way of arrogance and dis-respective to citizen of Singapore and stop preaching that we need to pay top dollars for gahmen’s job. Now, it is obvious that the citizen of Singapore will play a vital role in ensuring the safety of Singapore not just the ministers and credit should be given to everyone in Singapore not attribute solely to gahmen.

  27. Daniel,

    Apologies for the video not working. It is working now. 🙂

  28. Weijia said

    Hi guys,

    I’ve sent the letter to the forums, but it bounced.
    I’m not very good at this kind of stuff… does this normally happen? or is this just another one of those… coincidences?
    This is an automatically generated Delivery Status Notification



    Delivery to the following recipient has been delayed:

    Message will be retried for 2 more day(s)

    Technical details of temporary failure:
    TEMP_FAILURE: Could not initiate SMTP conversation with any hosts:
    [ (10): 421 Temporarily unavailable service due to potential threat.]
    [ (10): Connection timed out]

  29. security guard said

    Hi ! Post 65 MPs;
    please do the citizens a favour, let us know how you feel about your senior and long serving ministers, specifically Minister Wong Kan Sengs’ performance in relation to the escape of Mas Selamat.

    Please tell us your opinions of his competency as the Deputy Prime Minister as well as the Minister of Home Affairs.

    Your opinions and impresssions of Minister Wong Kan Seng will be greatly appreciated by the Citizenry and a gauge on how you will fare yourselves from now on. We as citizens of Singapore would like our future leaders to be sincere and frank with us.

  30. Adrian said

    This clearly shows that no government, no minister, no scholar and no one is beyond reproach. No one is God. If you do make a mistake, owe it up, apologise and conduct an independent investigation to make it right and prevent such things from happening again. “Talking down” to the people with such high handness and expecting the people to treat the government like god would only create expectations that you should be perfect in all your execution. Everyone is but human, accept it.

  31. Daniel said

    Weijia, why not post your story here first as the ST editor will modify your original content to make it ‘feel good’if it ever get published just like Mr Huang’s post

  32. freedom lovin Singaporean said

    its time the authorities put the ISA detainees on proper trials, give them proper sentences and lock them up in proper prisons… locking them up in detention centres for indefinite periods will lead to these kinds of problems… Guantanomo Bay itself has its set of problems, due to these very same reasons, such as attempted suicides, hunger strikes etc…

    furthermore its only the civilized way of bringing terrorists to justice…

    on another note, if this was Japan or another civilized country, the minister or even the prime minister will have resigned…

  33. megan gale said

    wong should consider resigning , this has hurt the feminists of singapore, hes an MCP for lettin this happen to the innocent people out there, the world isnt a fair place after all.

  34. numbskull Wong said

    Wong KS to resign??? pls lah singaporean, the 2 LEEs should resign. wong is only the tip of the iceberg. Then i will celebrate National Day.

  35. Ting Ch said

    The announcement of the completely off the mark budget forecast used as a reason for the GST hike and the timing of the JI leader’s escape — Greatest distraction for singaporean.

  36. FW said

    General public has been fooled, the escape of Mas Selamat is a drama staged by someone. It is a conditional release in exchange to stop further terriorist attack.

    Think twice, will anyone resign with more than 3million package per year?

  37. Weijia said

    Hey Megan, hmmmm what’s the link with MCP and feminism and the escaped terrorist?

  38. u know what’s in his mind? You dont need to like me…as long as Im doing a GREAT job! And the best part…his cocky face gives the impression…Im INVINCIBLE! Well…he has to live with this biggest joke for the rest of his life…that’s punishment enuff.

  39. Minorityman said

    Its interesting that the government thinks that Mas Selamat posing “no imminent danger to the public” is sufficient reason to explain a cover up for four hours. They take us for morons. Clearly Singaporean politicians and securitymen are placing reputation above integrity. Has this been their guiding philosophy for too long?

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