Sunday, April 20, 2008

COI Findings: Will the Government be Honest?

Come Monday, the Home Affairs Minister will face Parliament and disclose the findings of the Committee of Inquiry (COI) into the escape of Jemaah Islamiyah member Mas Selamat. The Minister mentioned soon after the escape of the JI leader that the COI would leave no stone unturned (read no cover-ups and excuses) and an "independent inquiry" would get to the bottom of the matter. I previously laid out that we wait for the COI report before we set loose the lynch mobs. We won't have to wait long now and by Tuesday we would know whether we have need of the tar and feathers.

Unanswered Questions

The government promised that they would belatedly release details of the escape - a burning question we had from day one, but not other parts of the report which infringes on national security. We shall see if the ministry in-charged of the ISD and police would keep its end of the bargain and give details. Here is a checklist of what I want to be revealed when Minister Wong Kan Seng submits his COI findings to Parliament.

1) The detailed sequence of events that led to the toilet escape.
2) Who was responsible for the escape?
3) Was it negligence, complacency, conspiracy?
4) Was the escape planned and did Mas Selamar have help from the outside?
5) Could the escape have been prevented?
6) What recommendations are made?
7) How will the government make those responsible accountable for the escape?
8) How much responsibility the government is going to shoulder for the escape rather than push the blame to us?
9) What is the status on the manhunt now?
10) What is the cost of the escape to Singapore's reputation, economy and security?

* questions 9 and 10 are probably not related to the COI per se but as elected leader, the Minister should earn his pay and give us an overview of the "security lapse" including its implications.

The subtext of these questions pertain to the government's transparency, accountability, responsibility, and competence. How honest the government is in admitting its mistakes is an indicator of whether it is fit to lead Singapore in the coming years. The trick question is this. If the government is honest in admitting its incompetence, how fit is it to lead Singapore in the coming years anyway? The government has got themselves between a rock and a hard place.

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