Tuesday, November 23, 2010

MSK saga - what we need now

The Singaporean community has once again reignited its interest in a story that will not go away anytime soon. Like a bad movie, we learn of more and more of the lapses at each stage of the journey that saw alleged JI leader Mas Selamat escape from Whitely Detention Center to Malaysia and back again.

Though we can live in hindsight and nitpick on every mistake that now seems so obviously avoidable, we shouldn’t be entirely surprised by this latest revelation that Mas Selamat sought shelter at his brother’s house and the assistance provided by his brother’s family helped him evade detection. Afterall, what did we really expect to learn?

Or rather, were we actually expecting a story that would be so mind-blowing in its complexity, that it would be deemed acceptable? A story of escape that we could digest and accept that there is no more blame to go around?

TOC writer Mohammad Hydar's article Lipstick Jungle: Why we might have helped Mas Selamat escape is as thought-provoking as a cereal box, but at least it did end with a sensible statement:
In order to curb more public speculation and prevent a possible decline in trust towards our security agencies, I urge Mr Shanmugan and the relevant authorities to disclose more information on the current investigation of Mas Selamat’s escape.


Let us not kid ourselves. Mas Selamat’s escape, no matter what evidence is surfaced over time, was a lapse on multiple levels. We knew this from day one and we, and the ministers, should not be under any illusions that any evidence will be vindictive in nature.

That said, it is also not in our hopes, nor interest, that the apparatuses of government fails as we are the ones to suffer in the end. It is however in our interest that they learn from their mistakes, take remedial actions, and make damn sure they don't make that mistake again.

What I believe we would like (and need) to see now, is someone stepping forward to acknowledge that there were failures, and to take ultimate responsibility for those failures.

One man or organization cannot be blamed for everything and having one or two fall guys will not make things better. But it will at least be a gesture that if nothing else, gives us the assurance that no one is infallible or too big to fail (to borrow a catch phrase form the credit debacle over the last 2 year).

Baby Steps

This parliamentary speech by Minister Shanmugen, in my opinion at least, is a good (but baby) step towards accomplishing this. The Ministry of Home Affairs could have easily swept this piece of information under the carpet and persist with the posture that Mas Selamat is not cooperating and his accounts are unreliable and unverifiable; and we wouldn’t be the wiser.

The fact that they likely knew they would attract more flak for this and went ahead anyway with the information release, at least shows to me that they want to be accountable and answerable to the public.

In the end, it is the trust that needs rebuilding; because disappointment works both ways.

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