The past year has seen an NSF going AWOL from camp with a SAR-21 rifle and live ammunition, a limping JI terrorist making a toilet break from custody, and an attempted breakout from the Subordinate Courts making headlines around the world.

A new addition to the fray, however, is a security lapse at Changi Airport, though thank goodness this did not arise as a result of a deliberate escapade. Interestingly, Singapore is so well-known for its security that this lapse even made the papers in Azerbaijan.

Here’s a quick recap of the story:Changi Airport - Security Passport Lapse

  • Retiree Ang Heng Soon (61) checked in at the Tiger Airways counter using his son’s passport, which he had grabbed by mistake in his hurry to catch the flight
  • The counter officer issued him a boarding pass in his own name.
  • The Certis Cisco Airport Police officers on duty checked Mr Ang’s boarding pass and the passport he was holding before clearing him for entry into the restricted area
  • Mr Ang failed the fingerprint verification checks at the enhanced Immigration Automated Clearance System and could not pass
  • The Immigration Duty Officer did a ‘face-to-face verification’ and cleared him to go
  • Mr Ang realised the folly only on his flight to Ho Chi Minh City where he owned up to immigration authorities there and he was placed on a return flight to Singapore.

Deputy Prime Minister / Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng is naturally, not a very happy man. It is difficult to foresee him actually being happy with the recent unfolding of events which has tarnished Singapore’s squeaky-clean reputation as a security-tight state.

Obviously, he should be taken to task for this (as well as the many lapses which occurred under his charge), instead of delegating the blame down the command chain and emerging relatively unscathed, which is probably akin to soldiers trying to fight a war with their commander retreating to his bunk and watching primetime television.

Have all calls against complacency and for utmost vigilance gone unheeded in the wake of the recent escapades? It remains to be seen the punishments which will be meted out for the airport officers, though some sackings and demotions will certainly be in the air.

Instead of talking about the “should have”s or “should have been”s, what next for the ICA? What will the “review” of the security systems and processes which DPM directed the Ministry HQ’s Homefront Security Division to front throw up?

These are definitely questions which have to be answered.

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The Manhunt Is On

March 4, 2008

It has been more than 120 hours since Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) terrorist Mas Selamat Kastari made his successful prison break (or as most online spoofs go, “Toilet Break”) from the Whitley Road Detention Centre.

He is Singapore’s most wanted man, believed to pose a threat to the public considering how the fugitive had once planned to crash a hijacked plane into our very own Changi Airport in 2002.

All visitors to this blog are strongly encouraged to be vigilant and to keep your eyes peeled open for this man, and to notify the police immediately upon any possible sight of him.

Seriously, with his face currently plastered all around the island, and with the three telecommunication companies (M1, StarHub and SingTel) mass MMS-ing his photograph to all their subscribers in an unprecedented move, his face is literally everywhere. Or as Mr Miyagi snidely puts it, a free terrorist wallpaer.

What amazes me is the minimal amount of credit the authorities are willing to give him, considering quotes from the press releases and interviews which have been released in the papers so far.

Yes, the authorities claim not to want to cause unnecessary public panic, but on the downside, all these cover-up measures may lead to the public being caught unawares should anything bad happen.

We see Police Assistant Commissioner Wong Hong Kuan explaining that “When he escaped, we believe he was unaided, and therefore he does not have access to money, vehicles, modes of transport.”

Some food for thought here – Mas Selamat Kastari held a day job as a mechanic. It certainly wouldn’t surprise me if he manages to hotwire a vehicle! In addition, as locals would probably know, the recent brouhaha over CashCard thefts.. … If he’s lucky enough to hotwire a vehicle with a CashCard in its CashCard slot, there you have it – he has access to money, vehicles, and modes of transport.

And in a bid to conceal his identity while on the run, he will supposedly match the following description to look out for – “Any person wearing ill-fitting clothes, avoiding eye contact, or trying to conceal his appearance by wearing a cap, sunglasses or coat” What I cannot fathom is how indelibly stupid the authorities assume him to be, while putting themselves in pole position. He had experience in escaping confinement before, he will probably know what to do and what not to do.

All this don’t quite seem to add up to me.

In addition, I came to the realisation that if the authorities did not adopt the initial wait-and-see approach, resulting in the four hour lapse time between his escape and the time when the news was broken to the public, Mas Selamat Kastari will not have gotten that four-hour headstart over the whole of Singapore.

It was revealed that about an hour after the escape, the manager of a petrol kiosk on Whitley Road said he saw a man resembling Mas Selamat limping up a flight of steps on a hill slope near Malcom Park. There you have it – if he saw the man and if he knew the man was a wanted terrorist by then, the police could have been alerted by then and he wouldn’t have had the least bit of opportunity to escape or go into hiding.

By the way, what’s with the sudden relevation that his limp is not pronounced while walking but only visible when running or brisk walking? Seems like the information being leaked is rather misleading!

But in the meantime, Singapore can relish in Nation Bonding #2, following how the grassroots bonded to pull off the successful Youth Olympics Games bid. mrbrown offers an interesting write-up on how Singaporean ministers are pretty much a positive-thinking lot, with them enthusing on how the nation has united strongly together in its will to detain and bring down the fugitive.

Oh well, the Catch 22 (no pun intended) is that, despite all the above illogicalities put forth and the grievances against said party, Mas Selamat Kastari still must be caught.

As such, I appeal to one and all yet again to be vigilant and keep your eyes open for the above man. (Picture taken from blog “Alvinology“, which took the picture from CNA)

PS: On a lighter note, does it seem to anyone else that the picture of the shaved Mas Selamat Kastari (without his moustache and goatee) is actually a Photoshopped version of the original picture?