Handy “Escaped Terrorist Spotter” Monday, Mar 3 2008 

selamatspotter

“dun kay kiang cho hero” means “don’t act clever and be a hero”. Courtesy of talkingcock.com article!

Related posts from me:

Singapore Terror Suspect’s Escape From Whitley Detention Centre

Is Mas Selamat Kastari Still Alive?

In The Murky World Of Counter-Terrorism, Things Are Often Not As They Seem

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In The Murky World Of Counter-Terrorism, Things Are Often Not As They Seem Saturday, Mar 1 2008 

A Jihadi Limps Away from a Singapore Jail, Asia Sentinel, 29 Feb 2008

In the murky world of counter-terrorism, things are often not as they seem. So the reported escape from Singaporean custody of the alleged local leader of Jemaah Islamiyah raises some questions that may be hard to answer any time soon.

On the face of it, tightly-run Singapore has egg on its face for allowing Mas Salamat Kastari to escape from the infamous Whitley Road Detention center, apparently walking away from a toilet – or limping, since government releases describe him as walking with an impaired gait. He is still on the run despite what is described as a “massive manhunt” that includes Gurkhas, police and Special Operations Command Forces.

The Singapore government took the unusual step of apologizing for the lax security and began an investigation. According to media reports, all sourced from the government, Mas is likely to head for Indonesia, where it would be easier to hide than in small, mostly Chinese, Singapore, although hiding might be difficult anywhere because of his limp.

A Singapore citizen, Mas was arrested in Indonesia and sent back to Singapore, allegedly for plotting in 2001 to bomb the US Embassy, the American Club and Singapore government buildings. He was not put on trial but detained indefinitely under the Internal Security Act (ISA) so the details and credibility of these charges has never been tested in open court.

What astonished students of Singapore security operations is that he could have escaped at all. There appears to be no record of anyone previously escaping from the Whitley Road center, which is not guarded by ordinary jailers or bored national servicemen but by the ultra-tough, non-political Nepalese Gurkha soldiers whom Singapore retains to protect key personnel and institutions.

While no one doubts the existence of actual or would-be terror groups in Southeast Asia, Singapore’s role in the counter-terrorism business has long been viewed with some suspicion by its neighbors. First, it cooperates very closely with the US, even “rendering” suspects for detention in Guantanamo and elsewhere. It also has a history of playing up Malay/Muslim threats for domestic political purposes and to emphasize its position as a non-Muslim nation in an Islamic sea.

Some conspiracy theorists think they see a link between the timing of Mas Salamat’s escape and the visit to Indonesia of US Defense Secretary Gates.

Previous incidents involving Singapore and alleged Muslim terrorists have prompted questions that are likely to remain unanswered but are relevant given Singapore’s record of using the ISA against critics of all kinds, who usually “confess” to conspiracies as a condition of release. In the past the technique was used against “Chinese chauvinists” and “Marxists” – the latter in some cases being Catholic activists who confessed to, among other things, having sent books to China, which logically could have been considered a laudable attempt to turn communists into capitalists.

The most recent round of Muslim arrests included that of a 28-year-old Singaporean Malay law student who was rendered to Singapore from an unnamed Middle East country where he allegedly had gone to study Arabic and to embark on a jihadist career. The student, a former rock singer named Abdul Basheer, is described by Singaporean authorities as a “self-radicalized” terror suspect. He was arrested in February 2007 and is held without trial under the ISA.

Doubts about whether Basheer did anything more than look at a few jihadist websites were strengthened by the announcement at almost the same time that five persons earlier arrested as JI activists had been released. The government claimed huge success for its rehabilitation program and so the five were said to “no longer pose a security threat.” Not only did that appear an extraordinarily rapid conversion but for a nation which executes people for drug trafficking offences an extraordinarily light punishment for terrorist activity.

The large counterterrorism industry thrives on rumor and speculation as well as fact. One example was in 2002 at the height of post-9/11 hysteria when Malaysia was being accused of being an al-Qaeda base. Considerable international coverage was given to a huge story, supported by documents and other “evidence” in Singapore’s Straits Times newspaper, about an Indonesian terror network. Indonesia’s Tempo, a publication long noted for its independence and investigative credentials, looked at the allegations in detail and found that key names and places in the Straits Times story were fictitious.

So although Mas’s escape may be simply a matter of incompetence, the history of arrests, releases, confessions, renderings and imprisonment without trial in Guantanamo as well as Singapore, inevitably raises doubts about whether the story so far is the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Is Mas Selamat Kastari Still Alive? Friday, Feb 29 2008 

Media Release: Questions that Wong Kan Seng must answer, Singapore Democrats, 29 Feb 2008

The shocking revelation by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs Wong Kan Seng about the escape of ISA detainee Mr Mas Selamat Kastari does not pass the smell test. At the minimum, it raises troubling questions that require urgent answers:

One, were there breaches of physical security? The detainee could not have walked through walls. The Minister has not told the public whether Mr Kastari had dug a burrow, punched hole through the wall or cut the wire fencing surrounding the detention centre. If there were no such breaches, then did Mr Kastari push his way past the security personnel guarding the doorways and gates?

The time Mr Kastari took to go to the toilet is at most several minutes. How does one effect an escape in that short span of time? This apparently occurred at about 4 pm and just before his family visit which means that the officers on duty had to be on heightened alert. The situation becomes even more incredible when we are told that the detainee walks with a “distinct limp”.

Mr Wong Kang Seng expects us to believe that a detainee who could not walk properly got past able-bodied officers from the confines of a toilet, in broad daylight and without an escape route?

Two, where are the footages of security cameras? There are cameras mounted in all prison facilities precisely to prevent such situations. The Whitley Detention Centre is no exception. If the Elections Department has a CCTV camera and can produce video footages, surely Mr Wong can now produce footage of the moments that led to the detainee’s escape.

Cameras would have recorded Mr Kastari’s movements as well as movements of the police officers guarding him. They would also show Mr Kastari walking, running, jumping, or limping through the compounds of the Centre if he had escaped. The Government must show the people such footage.

Three, what are the officers’ accounts? So far we have only heard from the Minister. This is not sufficient. The ISD officers involved in the matter must now give their accounts in a public, independent inquiry whose panel should include the SDP.

In addition, officers handling Mr Kastari must give an account of the detainee’s condition in the months and weeks leading up to his escape. This is important to establish the detainee’s physical condition at the point of his breakout.

If the Government cannot satisfactorily answer the above questions and produce the video footage of Mr Kastari’s movements just prior to his escape, then the question of whether an escape had in fact taken place necessarily arises. The logical follow-up to this question then is: Is Mr Kastari still alive?

The media and Parliament have been derelict in their duties in not raising the above questions and grill Mr Wong on the matter. The kids’ gloves that journalists and MPs have been using to deal with this disturbing issue is revealing as it is instructive.

At the very least, the debacle calls into question the competence of the Home Affairs Minister and his cursory statement given in Parliament is woefully inadequate, negligent even. The SDP demands that the Minister comes out in the open immediately and answers our questions.

All this mystery surrounding this incredible gaffe must, however, not distract us from the fact that Mr Kastari has not been convicted of a crime with the Government having proven its case in a court of law. Singaporeans must remember that he ISA remains a tool of the PAP to serve its own political ends.

If we decry the ISA in detaining Singaporeans like Mr Chia Thye Poh, Ms Teo Soh Lung, and Mr Francis Seow and depriving these citizens of their right to defend themselves in an open and fair trial, then we must also extend that right to Mr Kastari and all other detainees currently incarcerated at the Whitley detention centre. Let the charges be made against these suspects, let the prisoners defend themselves, and let the evidence, if any, convict these persons.

Chee Soon Juan
Secretary-General
Singapore Democratic Party

Singapore Terror Suspect’s Escape From Whitley Detention Centre Thursday, Feb 28 2008 

Before going on to the AP report below, do also read what I wrote back in June 2007 in Taking It At Face Value And Keeping Quiet AND Singapore’s Guantanamo. Apart from what I’ve already written in these earlier posts, I guess what will be on everybody’s mind this time round is the question “How the hell did he do it?!”. To escape from a place where even truth cannot get out.

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Singapore Terror Suspect Escapes by Gillian Wong, 28 Feb 2008

SINGAPORE (AP) — The suspected local leader of a Southeast Asian terrorist network, who allegedly plotted to crash a plane into Singapore’s airport, escaped Wednesday from a detention center, authorities said.

Mas Selamat Kastari, said to be commander of the Jemaah Islamiyah militant group’s Singapore arm, was allegedly involved in plans about seven years ago to attack Singapore targets including the U.S. Embassy, the American Club and government buildings.

“Mas Selamat was the leader of the Singapore (Jemaah Islamiyah) network. He walks with a limp and is presently at large,” the Home Affairs Ministry said in a statement. “Extensive police resources have been deployed to track him down.”

It did not say how he escaped.

Several riot police trucks were parked along main roads near the Whitley Road Detention Center, from which Mas Selamat escaped. Dozens of police officers checked passing cars.

Singapore, a close ally of the United States, was named as an al-Qaida target in a transcript from alleged al-Qaida operative Khalid Sheikh Mohamed’s Combatant Status Review Tribunal, held last year at the U.S. military detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The ministry said Mas Selamat also plotted to hijack an airplane and crash it into Singapore’s main airport, Changi, in retaliation for the country’s arrest and detention of some of his fellow Jemaah Islamiyah members in a crackdown on the militant group’s operatives here. The alleged schemes were never carried out.

Mas Selamat left Singapore in December 2001 following the arrests of nearly 40 other suspected Jemaah Islamiyah members.

The ministry’s Web site said Indonesian authorities detained him in February 2003 on charges related to possession of falsified identification documents. They deported him to Singapore in February 2006, the ministry said.

Mas Selamat has since been held in custody under Singapore’s Internal Security Act, which allows indefinite detention without trial.

Since 2002, Jemaah Islamiyah has been blamed for a series of terror attacks that killed more than 250 people, most of them in Indonesia. Scores of its suspected operatives have been arrested across Southeast Asia since 2000.

VIDEO: Montage of Seelan’s 5-Day Hunger Strike Sunday, Jan 13 2008 

Related posts:

Singaporean Activist On Hunger Strike To Support Malaysian Hindus

VIDEOS: First Day Of Singaporean Activist’s Hunger Strike

VIDEO: Seelan Palay Ends Hunger Strike For Hindraf 5

VIDEO: Seelan Palay Ends Hunger Strike For Hindraf 5 Monday, Jan 7 2008 

Read Seelan Palay’s message

Palay ends hunger strike for Hindraf five, AP, 6 Jan 2008

A Singaporean artist calling for the release of five ethnic Indian activists detained in neighboring Malaysia ended his five-day hunger strike yesterday.

Seelan Palay, 23, had been camped outside the city-state’s Malaysian High Commission since Monday, consuming nothing but water. Seelan, an ethnic Indian, was protesting the arrest and detention of leaders from the Hindu Rights Action Force who led a massive rally on Nov. 25 in Kuala Lumpur to highlight what the group says is racial discrimination faced by ethnic Indians.

The group’s leaders were arrested last month under Malaysia’s Internal Security Act, which allows indefinite detention without trial.

Yesterday, a crowd of supporters gathered around Seelan and presented him with a garland that he wore around his neck over a placard that read: “Give them fair trial.”

“What I have done is only what I can do as an individual. If we had a hundred, we could make a difference,” Seelan said. “One day, we will all achieve freedom.”

Seelan said he hoped his hunger strike would draw attention to the detentions.

“I hope that the international community, regardless of race and religion, to look into this issue and pressure the Malaysian government to release the Hindraf five,” he said.

Two men hoisted Seelan up and pumped their fists in the air as Seelan completed his protest.

“We are so proud that there is at least one Indian in Singapore supporting our cause,” said Mayil Sapapathy, 36, an ethnic Indian from Malaysia who works in Singapore. “Indians like us don’t get the same privileges in Malaysia like the ethnic Malays do.”

Ethnic Indians form about 8 percent of Malaysia’s 27 million people, and complain that the government denies them opportunities in jobs, education and business. They say that years of systematic repression have kept them at the bottom of society.

The government denies this.

Officials could not be reached yesterday at the Malaysian High Commission, which was closed, while Singapore police said they had no comment on Seelan’s protest.

Protests are rare in Singapore, where police permits are required for outdoor gatherings of more than four people.

Join Seelan Palay As He Ends Hunger Strike At 9am On 5 Jan Friday, Jan 4 2008 

SeelanPalay - uncleyap

Show your support by joining Seelan Palay as he ends his hunger strike tomorrow at 9am in front of the Malaysian High Commission.

Updated at 2050hrs on 5 Jan: Click here for reports, videos and photos of the day’s events

VIDEOS: First Day Of Singaporean Activist’s Hunger Strike Tuesday, Jan 1 2008 

Related post: Singaporean Activist On Hunger Strike To Support Malaysian Hindus

Videos from Seelan Palay’s Singapore Indian Voice blog

Singaporean Activist On Hunger Strike To Support Malaysian Hindus Monday, Dec 31 2007 

Singaporean says on hunger strike to support Malaysian Hindus, 31 Dec 2007

SINGAPORE (AFP) – A Singaporean artist said Monday he had begun a hunger strike to seek the release of Malaysian Hindu rights activists detained under a tough security law.

“At 9:00 am (0100 GMT) I began,” 23-year-old Seelan Palay told AFP from near the front gate of the Malaysian High Commission.

SeelanPalay - AP
Singaporean artist Seelan Palay, 23, sits outside the Malaysian High Commission on Monday, Dec. 31, 2007 in Singapore. Seelan went on a hunger strike Monday to protest the indefinite detention by authorities in neighbouring Malaysia of five leaders of an ethnic Indian group. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

Palay said he would drink water but not eat during the hunger strike, which will last five days — one day for each detained member from Malaysia’s Hindu Rights Action Force.

The five are being held under Malaysia’s Internal Security Act, which allows for indefinite detention without trial.

“I’ll sleep on the ground on a straw mat,” Palay said, adding he was wearing a sign around his neck that read: “Give them fair trial.”

The activists were detained after they enraged the government in November by mounting a mass rally alleging discrimination against Indians in Malaysia, where the majority are ethnic Malay Muslims.

Police used tear gas, water cannon and baton charges to break up the street protest by at least 8,000 people. Palay said he attended that rally.

In a statement released before the hunger strike, Palay called for global pressure on the Malaysian government to free the five and to prove allegations against them in open court.

“In line with the greater focus on human rights in ASEAN today … we surely cannot turn a blind eye to this matter,” his statement said.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) last month signed a charter calling for the establishment of a regional human rights body.

Singapore currently chairs the 10-member ASEAN and Malaysia is a member.

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Lone protestor stages hunger strike, Malaysian Star, 31 Dec 2007

By NELSON BENJAMIN and GLADYS TAY

SINGAPORE: A lone protestor is staging a “hunger strike” outside the Malaysian High Commission here against the arrest of the five Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) activists under the Internal Security Act (ISA).

The man, also carrying a placard containing photographs of the detainees, has been outside the commission at Jervois Road since early Monday.

This is the second protest at the high commission in the past month. On Dec 17, several members from the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) presented a memorandum urging the Malaysian Government to respect human rights.

Malaysian High Commissioner to Singapore Datuk N. Parameswaran when contacted confirmed that a man was holding a placard outside the high commission on Monday.

“This incident is the second protest at the high commission.

“We are not sure whether he is a Malaysian. We leave it to the Singaporean authorities to handle the matter,” he said, adding that so far the man has not passed any memorandum to the high commission.

On the SDP protest, Parameswaran only said that a memorandum was received and sent to Kuala Lumpur.

Pseudonymity: More photos, videos and reports HERE

VIDEO: SG Human Rights Celebrates Human Rights Day At Speakers Corner Thursday, Dec 20 2007 

Related post:

Tomorrow is Human Rights Day

SG Human Rights to commemorate Human Rights Day on 9 Dec

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