The Right to Public Entertainment

SDP’s latest stunt on Saturday at Parliament House shows that they still have many tricks up their sleeve. A recent workshop they had must have lit up a few light bulbs. Eager to spark off controversy and draw attention to themselves for fear they would be forgotten, SDP members again stood up to the police only to be dragged away unceremoniously despite desperately holding on to each other and to their dignity. SDP is the leader in political entertainment in Singapore. With its highly honed tried and tested skills of provoking the police into silly action, a SDP event is always a circus. We laugh with them and laugh at them. Nevetheless, being talented at pubic entertainment doesn’t mean SDP gets my political support or vote though.

SDP and World Consumer Rights Day

Chee Siok Chin Caught in a Human Net

Chee Siok Chin outside Shangri-La

Riot Squad vs 4 Protestors

Istana Protest Broken Up

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Blame the Custodians and Complacency

MM Lee said his piece. From the eyes of the founding father, the Gurkhas and ISD, supposed custodians of the Whitley detention centre, are to be blamed. Their complacency, propped up by past successes and fearsome reputation, made them fallible. This declaration is a not so subtle hint and framework to the board of inquiry on who they should apportion blame to and cover-ups would be unacceptable. His point seems like a nuanced counterweight to the public rumblings that the inquiry board is not that independent particularly with the MHA representative inside it. However, responsibility for one of Singapore’s most bizarre prison breaks would however not stick on the political masters, as MM Lee implied not so many words. When the board of inquiry eventually issues their report, let’s see to what extent MM Lee’s opinions played a role in their findings.

I find it slightly poetic. MM Lee depends on the Gurkhas for his personal security. He depended on the ISD for his political survival. With his disappointment with two of Singapore’s security institutions and sense of resignation that they failed, does it mean he can no longer trust and use them like he did before? MM Lee’s sentiments might upset the historical loyal compact between the ruling elites and parts of the local security apparatus in the years to come as accountability comes first.

MM on Mas Selamat’s escape
Weekend • March 8, 2008

Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew does not believe Mas Selamat Kastari poses a threat if he remains at large in Singapore.

This is because it is not a planned escape and he does not have the resources to harm Singapore if he remains in the country.

But if the Jemaah Islamiyah leader has escaped across the border, Mr Lee warned that Singaporeans would have to watch out for a return hit by Mas Selamat.

The Minister Mentor, who wrapped up his three-nation visit to the Middle East on Friday, was speaking to the Singapore media in Bahrain.

Mr Lee said Mas Selamat is a wily person who managed to persuade his custodians, and Singapore has learnt an important lesson on complacency from the episode.

“I give him full marks for winning the confidence of his custodians – that he’s completely docile, completely passive and he’s going to remain in captivity. It is … stupid to believe we are infallible. We are not infallible. One mistake and we get a big explosive in (our) midst,” said Mr Lee.

“So, let’s not take this lightly. I think it’s a very severe lesson on complacency.”

Since Mas Selamat’s escape on Feb 27, police have received 950 calls and email messages about the case. Anyone with information on the fugitive should call the police at 999 or email them at spf_police_information@spf.gov.sg.

Resignations and the Apportion of Blame in the Escape Debacle

Taiwan’s defence minister resigned over an arms purchase scandal. Societe Generale chairman offered to resign after the recent scandal but it was rejected by the Board, much to the chagrin of French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Japan’s Defence Minister was pressured to resign after scandals hit the ministry but Japanese PM Yasuo Fukuda rejected the offer. After the RSS Courageous accident, the officers on duty piloting the ship were charged for criminal negligence and no resignations were known. In the furore over the fatal Sgt Hu ‘dunking”, the trainers were charged and CO of Hendon Camp stepped down. In the security embarassment after Mas Selamat’s unbelievable escape, there has since been angry calls for someone at the top to resign for reasons of poor command and control. Minister Wong Kan Seng, the Police Commissioner and Head Internal Security Department, among others, were those called to step down in disgrace.

As almost everyone questionably assumed that resignation is the only answer and there should be no Great Escape, Whether the one right at the top or bottom of the command chain should resign is the question. In the global culture of blame the leader in the public’s eyes, the sentiments are now inclined towards someone at the top to resign. Resignation is the simplest symbolic form of organisational ablution or rather a modern version of a crowd-pleasing blood thirsty burning at the stake. The blame game targets the one who is most visible, the one who is most detested, the weakest who cannot or would not contest the blame, or the one who is most responsible. In this typology of blame, it could but not certainly respectively be Wong Kan Seng, Wong Kan Seng again, a still unknown scapegoat, and the people on duty and directly involved in guarding Mas Selamat at the moment he escaped.

In the Mas Selamat escape debacle, it all depends on who should be blamed how much and how the blame should be shared. Should the one at the top have the monopoly of the blame? Or the grunt right at the bottom of the food chain? Or someone in between as well as an accommodation to the public’s bloodlust. Until more details on the escape are made known, and the results of the not-so seemingly independent board of inquiry report are released and criticised, it is premature as well as immature to point a scathing finger at any one person or group of people just yet without the facts.