Wednesday, July 23, 2008

$1 Million Bounty For Capture Of Mas Selamat – Why The U-Turn?

I am left pondering the rationale behind the seeming government endorsement of the $1 million cash reward (supposedly from two anonymous businessmen) for anyone with information that leads to the capture of terror fugitive Mas Selamat Kastari.

If you may recall, a private company had earlier made news sometime this year for putting out a reward of $50K for the capture of the escaped terrorist. Several other individuals and local companies had also offered rewards in an attempt to help the authorities track down the fugitive.

Yet, a spokesman for the government had stressed at that time that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) did NOT think Singaporeans needed the incentive of a reward to help the country for a matter as serious as this.

So why the about-turn now?

Surely, cash offer or not, many Singaporeans have indeed been offering suggestions to the authorities and reporting suspicious Mas Selamat look-alikes.

My view is that the offer of cash reward is more sophisticated than ensuring continued public awareness and vigilance to offer assistance to the authorities.

It not only tempts Mas Selamat’s harbourers, but more importantly, it poses questions into the suspicious mind of Mas Selamat that he can no longer be sure that whoever is harbouring him at the moment (assuming that someone is indeed providing assistance to evade arrest) will not turn him in.

It forces Mas Selamat to be on the move and ultimately leaves footprints for authorities to hunt him down.

Therefore, key to the hunt of the fugitive is the continued tight security at all checkpoints and the continued vigilance of all Singaporeans to spot Mas Selamat.

However, with the announcement of the bounty, the authorities must seriously address some utterly embarrassing situations:

1) What if the informer, who is now coming forward to offer information, had all this while been sympathetic to the fugitive’s situation?

2) What if the informer had provided assistance to the fugitive in one way or another to evade arrest?

3) What if the informer is a family member of Mas Selamat and ultimately the cash reward goes back to Mas Selamat?

4) What if the informer is linked to the JI or other regional terrorist groups and part of the broker to turn Mas Selamat in is that the cash reward goes to the terrorist grouping?

The above scenarios are just some of the possible knotty ones that the government must seriously think through. If you may recall, sometime in April 2008, MHA had put across the strong message - Do NOT even think of harbouring Mas Selamat; anyone caught aiding him will face imprisonment for life, or a jail term.

Should the harbourer-turn-informer be rewarded for his assistance to the Police? Or should he not be arrested and prosecuted for harbouring the fugitive?

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