SDP Calls For Wong Kan Seng’s Resignation Tuesday, Apr 22 2008 

Media Release: Mr Wong Kan Seng, resign, Singapore Democrats, 22 Apr 2008

The SDP has hitherto refrained from calling for Mr Wong Kan Seng’s resignation in the wake of the Mas Selamat fiasco even though a strong case could be made for it. We were waiting to see if Mr Wong showed any contrition for the debacle.

But the Minister has ducked, parried and done everything except assume responsibility for what happened. With the release of the Committee of Inquiry (COI) report and his utterances in Parliament, calling for Mr Wong’s resignation is now imperative.

We present the SDP’s case against the Minister and his top officers:

With the partial revelation of the security arrangements at the Whitley Road Detention Centre (WRDC), it is clear that there was systemic failure within the operational structure of the facility. It was not just missteps on the part of lower-ranking police officers but rather wholesale negligence at the most senior levels.

If the COI report is to be believed, the junior officers should not be the only ones to bear responsibility of Mr Mas Selamat’s alleged escape.

For example, security fixtures such as the installation of window grilles is the responsibility of administrative planners, not Gurhka officers or Special Duty Operatives.

Likewise, the effective and fail-safe operation of the CCTV system is beyond the control of officers charged with the day-to-day guarding of the detainees.

Similarly, the guards cannot be responsible for the “cement ledge” that enabled Mr Selamat to climb out of the toilet or for the positioning of the so-called “weak perimeter fence.”

Such physical structures can only be put in place by planners and administrators of the Centre. Who in the Singapore Police Force is responsible for the installation, design or construction of the WRDC’s features?

The Director of the Internal Security Department and his superior the Commissioner of Police, of course. They, and not just those handling Mr Selamat, must be held accountable. There is no wriggle room here: Commissioner Koh Boon Hui and his ISD chief are culpable of the security meltdown. Their resignation is a must.

What about their political boss, Minister Wong Kan Seng? It may be argued that Mr Wong cannot be in charge of the minutiae of the running of the WRDC. It must be pointed out, however, that the “security lapses”, to use Mr Wong’s words, were not fleeting moments of distraction. The structural weaknesses within the ISD Centre were yawning holes waiting to be exploited.

For instance, how can the Minister-in-charge of prison security not tell his subordinates what must be the ABCs of prison security: Secure all windows and doors so that prisoners cannot run, walk, or crawl out through them to escape.

And didn’t he give a directive that surveillance cameras had to be working 24/7? He wouldn’t allow the CCTV cameras outside his own residence to be left unmonitored or the security personnel not guarding his home for any period of time, would he?

But this is not the end of Mr Wong’s culpability. His personal handling of the saga right from the get-go had incompetence written all over.

It took 49 seconds for Mr Selamat to escape, 11 minutes for the prison staff to realise this, but a whole four hours for Mr Wong to sound the alert to the public.

It took another week before his Ministry told people what the escapee was wearing. Then Mr Selamat was walking with a “distinct limp”, then that the limp was obvious only when he ran. Again this came only days after the escape during which time the prisoner could have already made his way to the North Pole.

One would have thought that within minutes after he was alerted of the escape, Mr Wong would have gathered his top security officials, collate data of the situation giving priority to the description of Mr Selamat and his possible whereabouts, and disseminate them to the public. This could all have been done within the first hour of the breakout.

But instead of acknowledging his own misjudgments and making a genuine effort to get to the bottom of the mess, the Minister cocks a snook at the public by appointing, or at least agreeing to the appointment of, his subordinate Deputy Secretary Dr Choong May Ling and former subordinate and police commissioner Mr Tee Tua Bah to sit on the three-member COI.

Has the Minister no self-respect to at least insist that the COI be not only independent of his influence but also seen to be so?

As a result the COI report, or the little that has been revealed, has been lampooned and ripped to shreds for its contradictory, incomplete and poorly explained findings. It raises more questions than answers.

The last straw for the Singapore Democrats is Mr Wong casting blame on the junior officers while not-so-subtlely exonerating himself. Mr Wong announced that junior officers “all the way up” to the supervisory and management levels of the WRDC will be disciplined and penalised.

He unabashedly avoids mentioning his own role in the episode. This is the hallmark of a man without honour and pride in his work and his responsibilities. When things go wrong leaders – true leaders – step up and take responsibility.

They don’t make fall guys of their subordinates to save their own skins.

In truth Mr Wong’s reputation is in tatters. He has demonstrated beyond doubt that he is unfit to continue with his job.

Mr Wong Kan Seng, the SDP calls on you to stop passing the blame. Enough is enough. It is not the officers, it is not the window, it is not the toilet. It is you. Now do the right and decent thing: Resign.

Chee Soon Juan
Secretary-General
Singapore Democratic Party

COI Report Raises More Questions Than It Gives Answers Tuesday, Apr 22 2008 

A Tour de Farce, Singapore Democrats, 21 Apr 2008

First, the Government appoints former civil servants and even a subordinate of Mr Wong Kan Seng to conduct an inquiry into the escape of suspected terrorist Mr Mas Selamat.

The Committee of Inquiry, or COI, then takes more than a month to conduct its work in secrecy.

It then writes a report that Mr Wong, who is responsible for Mr Mas Selamt’s escape in the first place, “agrees with and accepts.”

The farce continues…

The COI finds that the limping detainee is able to climb through a toilet window in a maximum security facility, climb down a water pipe, run 20 metres, scale another building and jump over a perimeter fence – all in 49 seconds.

For good measure, it just so happens that no one was monitoring the – not one but two – surveillance cameras during the time of the escape.

In addition, no one was watching the detainee change out of his prison garb into his own clothes. In a regular prison, prisoners are made to change under the watchful eyes of the guards. In addition, every time a prisoner leaves the cell for yard, he needs to strip bare for inspection. Yet, all this was not done at the ISD Centre.

That’s not all. A packet of seven toilet rolls were found. (Why would Mr Mas Selamat or his fellow JI detainees, being Malay Muslims, need toilet paper?)

Also, a close examination of the Straits Times photograph shows two urinals with no space for a latrine. Why would there be toilet paper in a cubicle without a latrine? And if there are only urinals, why would Mr Mas Selamat have to remove his trousers instead of just pulling it down like all males do when they urinate?

There doesn’t even seem that there is a tap in the cubicle. How did the detainee turn on a non-existent tap and leave it running?

The toilet paper, the COI tells us, could have been used by the prisoner to break his fall as he jumped out of the window. The SDP is surprised that the COI didn’t also report finding a ladder in the cubicle.

Let’s put things together:

1. The guard neglects to watch the prisoner as he changes out of his prison clothes.

2. Toilet rolls were left in the toilet which has no latrine and the prisoners don’t use them.

3. The guard sees the detainee “flipping” his trousers over the top of the door and doesn’t find it strange, and hears tap water running when there doesn’t seem to be a tap in the cubicle.

4. The prisoner knows exactly where to run to, scale a fence, climb a walkway and jump to freedom in less than one minute when he doesn’t have a clue as to the surroundings.

5. Two cameras are either not working or no one paid any attention to them during the escape.

What are the odds of the above all coming together at the same imperfect moment to facilitate Mr Mas Selamat’s escape? This Government must think that Singaporeans all just graduated from nursery school.

Let’s get real. Even if it is to be believed that two of the surveillance cameras were not being monitored, surely there must have been the tapes. What did they show? Did the COI not look at these?

Even if these two cameras were not monitored, or working, at the time of escape, there are other cameras within the detention centre which will capture the movement of the security officers immediately after the alert went out. What did these show?

Did the COI question doctors and medical professionals who attended to Mr Mas Selamat? If no, why not? If yes, what were their reports of the prisoner just prior to his escape? When did they last observe the detainee? What was his physical condition then? Can the COI confirm that reports show that Mr Selamat was still alive on or before 27 Feb 08?

It is even more bizarre that through all this, there is not any press report about what the detainee’s family think and feel. One would imagine that Mr Selamat’s parents, siblings or spouse who have something to say especially now that he has disappeared under the most mysterious of circumstances. And yet, there is only silence. What about the foreign press? Have they been prevented to interview the family?

This COI report raises more questions than it gives answers. There is just so much farce that people can take. Now tell us the truth.

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