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The Workers’ Party press release – Escape of Mas Selamat

Posted by theonlinecitizen on March 11, 2008

Two weeks have elapsed since the escape of Mas Selamat Kastari from the Whitley Road Centre.

Since the occurrence, the immediate priority has rightly been placed on his recapture. Our security forces have been hard at work in an island-wide manhunt, and Singaporeans too have put up with various inconveniences at checkpoints and other areas to facilitate this massive operation.

Many questions have been raised about how this incident could have taken place in a country which prides itself on safety and security. In seeking to reassure Singaporeans, the Minister for Home Affairs has established a Committee of Inquiry under the Prisons Act “to discover how the escape occurred and to recommend appropriate actions to prevent such an incident from occurring again”. (MHA letter to media dated 7 Mar 08).

As Whitley Road Centre is gazetted by law as a prison, the government’s decision to convene the inquiry under the Prisons Act is not wrong. The problem is that the Prisons Act states that such inquiries shall not be open to the public. 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.

This raises important questions as to how much the public will eventually be told, since the Minister retains the discretion to release the findings as he sees fit. In a matter of such high public interest as the escape of a high-risk terror suspect from a government-run facility, what assurances or checks are there that the public will be given full information? In the interest of transparency, other governments have conducted public hearings into sensitive matters such as intelligence failures.

One option is for the President to appoint a Commission of Inquiry under the Inquiries Act. He can do so when he considers that having a Commission to inquire into any matter would be for the public welfare or in the public interest. This regime will allow the inquiry to proceed in public as the President shall direct. If there is concern that release of certain sensitive information will jeopardize the national interest, the President may direct that certain information not be made public.

Moreover, since Singaporeans have been marshalled to assist the authorities to hunt for Mas Selamat, the least the government could do is to keep us fully informed of the inquiry and its findings.

11 MAR 08

Read the Straits Times’ report on the press release here.

Visit The Workers’ Party website here.



25 Responses to “The Workers’ Party press release – Escape of Mas Selamat”

  1. Robert HO said

    1. Good call! Most of us did not know the implications of this COI, that, already rigged in composition, would also be SECRET! Shit! So typically PAP.

    2. I can suggest some grounds to support Madam MP Sylvia LIM’s call for an OPEN COI, and that is, although Whitley is gazetted as a prison, in actual fact, it houses no more than a dozen or 2 prisoners at any 1 time, unlike the thousands in Changi Prison.

    Thus, there is ground for considering Whitley as a non-prison. Its very name further suggests its non-prison nature. Additionally, the nature of the prisoners, mostly political prisoners, also suggests its specialness. Plus the fact that the prisoners there are tortured and punished with solitary imprisonment for no reason other than to break them emotionally, physically and psychologically. Plus the further fact that Whitley is run by the dreaded and fearsome ISD, not a prison director.

    3. Thus, there are ample grounds for Madam MP LIM’s call. Good call!

  2. LifesLikeThat said

    It’s a good suggestion to conduct a COI under the Inquiries Act.

    What I find extremely pathetic is Wong Kan Seng saying that the current COI is an “idependent commission”. But in the Straits Times report, the ST said:

    “In launching the COI on March 2, Mr Wong said he would decide on the part of the committee’s findings that can be made public.”

    So, why the hell do we need a supposedly “independent” commission to probe the Ministry Of Home Affairs when the Minister of Home Affairs will get to decide what is made public????

    This whole scam in trying to cover up the failures of the government is appaling!

  3. Hmmmm good on WP for bringing up the Inquiries Act angle, which was only passed in 2007!

    There will never be full disclosure to the public, fair enough and let’s be mature about it, but at least parliament should be given the full monty. Let the people’s representatives be in the loop at least if the Committee of Inquiry, ahem, is preferred over the Commission of Inquiry.

  4. patriot said

    To avoid speculations and wild guesses, I wish the Commission of Inquiry will release as much informations as they could.
    Wild guesses and speculations could lead to more rumours.

  5. Gerald said

    This was a new angle brought up by the WP which no one had mentioned before. This measured and rational approach certainly demonstrates their seriousness as a responsible and loyal opposition. (Loyal, of course, to Singapore, not the PAP.)

    Even if not all the COI’s findings can be released to the public for security reasons, they can be released to all MPs, including the Opposition. I believe this has been done before.

  6. Andrew Loh said


    Yes, it’s a good point by Sylvia. If even MPs – elected by the people – are not allowed to know the complete findings of the commission, then I think there would be serious questions which would need to be asked.

    And while we’re at it, lets re-constitute the commission itself. The current 3 people appointed to the COI, all distinguished people, however are or have been members of the establishment. To truly make it independent, they should expand the number from 3 to maybe 6 and include opposition members in it. I am sure Sylvia would be qualified enough as she was with the police force at one time.

    I hope the govt will take the enlightened approach and take up the WP’s suggestion in the press release.

    It’s time to stop the media and govt spin on a simple query.

  7. Weibin said

    Look for the MHA’s response to this.

    I don’t think we’ll ever know whether we got the full story, the way its going.

  8. LifesLikeThat said

    Someone please quick take a screenshot of CNA’s report! We all know how they will change it when it is found to be not so approved by those in ivory towers!

  9. I thank Ms Sylvia Lim for helping us understand better.

    I’m afraid that the present president, Mr S R Nathan is not the late Mr Ong Teng Cheong, Fifth President of the Republic of Singapore (2 September 1993 to 1 September 1999).

    Will President Nathan do the right thing?

    Or will we be “chastened” again for being to audacious or too clever by half in our question, our request?

    Pardon my cynicism, but the truth will only be known if it serves the power that is.

    Otherwise, the wayang continues. . .

  10. Ms Sylvia Lim mentioned some good points there and I believe the government will be trying very hard not to take her words into consideration just because she is from the opposition. Don’t know, just a feeling.

    As compared to “This should not have happened, I am sorry that it had.” and “What to do, it has happened.”, Sylvia Lim sounds more like a politician.

    Just my two cents worth.

  11. Joel said

    Good call, I didn’t know that the investigation’s results would be kept confidential, and now that I think about it, I’m not terribly surprised. But the President, hmm.

  12. manolett said

    I thought that was a well-written letter.

  13. screwtape said

    First thing first, fire that useless Minister of Home Affairs.

  14. Disgusted said

    Thank you Workers Party for bringing this to our attention.

    The way the whole incident was and is being handled left much to
    be desired. It seems to me that some people are determined to try
    to cover up as much as possible such a grave mistake, which cannot be declared as the popular excuse of a “honest mistake”, because
    this should not have happened in the first place. Therefore, this
    is not a simple mistake but a great blunder!

    The utterance of “It happened … what to do?” is in no way a
    defence against such a great blunder to absorb all blames.

    And if a Commission of Inquiry is not appointed to replace the Committee of Inquiry, then it speaks volumes.

  15. Gary Teoh said

    President Nathan,I doubt he can do anything,his friends are from PAP government.He can’t go against the government or else he would be like Devan Nair.If this COI can’t not be published fully, then what is the point of conducting the investigation?WP has a good suggestion which no MP from the government can suggest or afraid to suggest.So in Singapore decides 2010,let’s put Sylvia and 4 others from Aljunid into parliament to make a better Singapore.PAP MPs can’t think properly because there mind are always flooded with $$$$

  16. Adrian said

    The late President Ong Teng Cheong is so far the ONLY freely elected President of Singapore to date. Mr Ong entered public service in 1972 and has served the people of Singapore in many capacities, as MP, Minister for Communications, Minister of Labour, DPM and of course President. It is saddening that a good man like him was not given a full state funeral but only given a “state-assisted” funeral because he may have seen things differently from the ruling government. Based on the existing Presidential nomination and election process, I do not forsee to see another President like the late Mr Ong in my lifetime.

    Kudos to Ms Sylvia Lim for letting us know that Inquiries Act actually existed!! I have no doubts in her being a ex police officer and a qualified lawyer, she would be more than qualified to be involved in this inquiry.

  17. Adrian said

    And please…how can someone who reports to Wong Kan Seng within the same ministry be conducting the inquiry….harlows, which part of the word “INDEPENDENT INQUIRY” does the government not understand? Do we need another million dollar paid minister to point this out?

  18. Adrian said

    I agree with Rachael Zeng that Ms Sylvia Lim’s response was measured, pro-Singaporean & not fault finding, forward looking and looking at ways to really improve the process! I hope the folks will remember this in the next GE. Her response sure beats “what to do, happened already lor” aka LL, understand.

  19. Gary Teoh said

    I keep mentioning we need more opposition figures like Sylvia to represent us in the parliment,because the pap mps dare not speak up on our behalf.We can afford to lose George Yeo,think about it.It is easy to find a replacement minister but not easy to find a good opposition figure.

  20. damien said

    ” The problem is that the Prisons Act states that such inquiries shall not be open to the public. 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.”

    dear singaporean, you choose these minister to come out with these ‘ACT’s. so don’t complain when they chose not to tell you. you reap what you sow.

  21. Jackson said

    Govt wants the people to find MSK, but chooses not to tell us about the inquiry. Logic?

    Anyway, I hope something new can happen during the next elections in 2011. If by then, still got many people voting for PAP, then I guess Singaporeans really don’t understand politics.

  22. Mei Ling said

    No one has informed the public about this COI conducted under the Prison Act until Sylvia told us so. I had high regard for the singapore government when they decide on the COI but not now, especially when they can choose what to disclose and what not to the public. Also, out of the three panelists, two are ex civil servants.

  23. happy? said

    I guess from the latest cabinet reshuffle, we can all be ‘happy’ to know that wong Kan Seng has managed the ‘great escape’ instead of Mas Selamet (quote from Mr wang’s blog) and his staying in cabinet is a sign from PM Lee that PM Lee is satisfied with Mr Wong’s performance thus far. We should keep this in mind in the nexrt elections.

  24. Mei Ling said

    On hindsights, i wonder how did a middle aged limping man escape the custody of the police force who are known to be highly intelligent, highly trained and highly paid? Mas selamat was not paid to escape but the police force are highly paid (by tax payer)to keep him in this high security outfits called the Whitley Detention Centre.

  25. patriot said

    I appreciate MP Teo Ho Pin for asking the DPM(cum minister of Home Affairs) Wong Kan Seng about the four hour delay in informing members of the Public. No other MP including Oppositions, did pose any question during the Budget Debates, regarding Mas Selamat’s Escape from a toilet in a detention centre.

    PAP MP Dr Lily Neo is one MP that deserve some recognitions for her concerns for the poor, she has done much herself on the ground to look after the poor in her constituency and had asked frequently for more helps for them in the Parliament Debates. I believe she is sincere and genuinely cares for the people.

    NMP Sylvia Lim is a calibre opposition member who is cool and measured, making her an effective, competent and illustrious parliamentarian. It will be good for the people and the Country once she is elected. Her experiences in the Police Force and her legal knowledge will be useful for the functions of a parliamentarian. Do wish the voters in the district that she stands for election will be wise to put her into the Parliament comes the next election.


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