From NEws (Weekly Edition), brought to you by nexus (see http://nexus.gov.sg)

In Singapore…where is Mas Selamat?

Following the escape of Mas Selamat Kastari, the leader of the JI terrorist group, from the Whitley Road Detention Centre, some Singaporeans have been critical of the security lapse. As one Singaporean put it,

“As a regular public transport commuter, thousands of other Singaporeans and I hear and see daily, vocal reminders and announcements over the audio and video system to be alert and vigilant. We are told to be wary of suspicious articles or people. If security was indeed tight, … how did we allow a highly dangerous and the most wanted terrorist in Singapore to escape? … Such a slip is professionally unforgivable.”

Yet, others have rallied behind our security agencies.

“What was disheartening was to find a virtual absence of positive feedback or encouragement for the hardworking members of our Government and our law enforcement agencies in their efforts to recapture Mas Selamat. Is this what we are as a nation? That in a time of a crisis, we complain and criticise? … Wouldn’t it be more effective to offer our support … and then calmly examine what went wrong and who should have been more vigilant?”

And thankfully, Singaporeans have shown their support. Individuals have posted on their blogs, encouraging others to be on the lookout for Mas Selamat. The three local telcos sent out 5.5 million free cellphone alerts to subscribers with a photograph of the fugitive. Around 100 volunteers, including grassroots leaders, members of the Khadijah Mosque committee, staff from the Malay-Muslim welfare organisation Taman Bacaan, representatives from local merchants and hawkers, and other concerned individuals, distributed 10,000 “wanted” posters of Mas Selamat. Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Zainal Abidin Rasheed praised the community effort, saying it was a good example of how the community should respond in such a situation:

“We come together as one multiracial team and we show that we have full confidence in the Government and we want to do what we can to help … It shows we are responding as one people and in times of need, we are there to help Singapore, which is reassuring.”

DPM Wong Kan Seng, who had apologised for the escape, praised the “spontaneous community efforts to help in the search efforts”. Describing it as “a nation’s effort”, he said that “families and individuals must take the necessary precautions but they must lead life as normal … this is a test whether Singaporeans are resilient or not, and, therefore, let us not be cowed by this”.

[Source (I think this means the quotes are from): The Straits Times, 28 Feb – 3 Mar 08]

A classic instance of “National Education” in Singapore. Looks like a fairly balanced article upon first sight, but on a closer look it leaves out many reasons for public dissent – most notably the Government’s handling the crisis (e.g. the drip feeding of confusing, even contradictory information to the people). In fact, the article seems to suggest the government’s response was highly appropriate – pointing out the cohesion shown by the population as a result of the government’s “vigilance” – “we show that we have full confidence in the Government and we want to do what we can to help”.

What’s more worrying is how this article can be intended as “education” to the student, which raises the question of what our education is fundamentally directed at. This, to me, is evidently an example of disempowering education – will this always be better for Singapore’s future? Are we losing a large group of potential thinkers by restricting what can go into their heads? Will the benefits always be greater than the costs?

One for all, All for one, Venturez’ 06

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