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.