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?

Friday, July 11, 2008


It seems that these days, any government policy or decision draws a barrage of criticism.

-- ERP gantries (and rates) go up. We have to pay more but it doesn’t solve the problem of congestion.

-- Laws against organ trading. If there is a willing buyer and a willing seller, so should we prohibit something that can save one person’s life and improve another’s.

-- Proscribing criticism against the government i.e. the Chees getting sued into (further) bankruptcy, and Gopalan Nair getting arrested (more than once). Why is the PAP government taking such a harsh approach towards its critics?

There are good reasons for criticizing each of the above issue, and over the blogosphere (and perhaps *because* of the blogosphere), we have heard many voices giving reasoned, compelling arguments why this and that government policy or decision should not have been implemented.

From anecdotal observations (with no statistical credence whatsoever to back this), it appears that the voices on the Net supporting government policies seem to be far fewer. Perhaps it seems that those who do voice support for government positions often get branded as “PAP lackeys”. (I too have been given the label on occasion even though I honesty try to be objective).

I am not defending or critiquing any of the above policies/decisions today. My point is simply that each policy has its beneficiaries, along with those who would suffer because of it. And that unpopular as they may seem, there could be a silent majority who actually support them.

Increased ERP rates benefit several groups of people e.g. those who cross few, if any, gantries (since they enjoy lower road taxes), those who have transport allowances provided by their employers and those too rich to give a damn (since some roads would be less congested for these lucky buggers, if only for awhile).

Organ trading laws give legal clout to a moral issue which is also high on the religious agenda – the sanctity of human life. There is probably a great majority who do not know anyone who requires an organ transplant, and would support such laws on moral/religious grounds. That does not necessarily make it right or good, but these views should also taken into account.

Criticism of the government is sensitive ground. I think that everyone should be allowed to criticize government policies. Even government leaders should and must be criticized where warranted. Like MP Wee Siew Kim who initially defended the remarks on his daughter’s blog as the “rantings of an 18-year-old amongst friends” and also saying that “her privacy has been violated”.

But slandering a government official a la Gopalan Nair’s blog about Belinda Ang is simply not the done thing in our local context. It may be “fair comment” in the US or other Western countries, but here in Singapore, it is rude … and stupid. If you show a printout of Gopalan’s blog to a group of heartlanders and ask what the chap should get, I believe many would suggest the rotan.

The views of the vocal few are important, but let’s not forget about those of the silent majority.