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PM Lee speaking for the first time about JI escape

PM Lee speaking for the first time on JI leader’s escape after 11 days of silence.

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PM Lee: "This was a lapse, what to do, it's happened."

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(See Straits Times report below)

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From the Straits Times

March 9, 2008

'Let's close ranks' to deal with Mas Selamat's escape: PM Lee

By Melissa Kok

PRIME Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday called on Singaporeans to 'close ranks' to deal with Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) leader Mas Selamat Kastari's escape.

Speaking for the first time on the issue, PM Lee made these comments as he officiated the opening of Anchorvale Community Club on Sunday.

'Let us close ranks to deal with this, and bounce back to move forward - stronger, chastened, more on our guard, more alert than before,' he said.

Responding to questions from reporters on whether the incident has shed negative light on Singapore, PM Lee said: 'It's not done us good for our reputation, but I don't think we are just like any other place where you can have television sets and handphones and other things in jail.'

'I mean, we are different. This was a lapse, what to do, it's happened.'

PM Lee said for now, we would have to wait for the Committee of Inquiry to release its findings as to what really happened that led to Mas Selamat's escape.

'The escape is undoubtedly a setback, and it should never have happened. As MM said, it's the dangers of complacency, of thinking that everything is all right,' he said.

He said:' As Minister Mentor says, we are not infallible. If we are not careful we will make mistakes. And when we do, we better find out and put it right.'

PM Lee stressed that it was important to ensure that such a mistake will not repeat itself again, 'because it is a continuing problem which we are dealing with'.

In the meantime, PM Lee said that the security agencies are working to take all the immediate remedial measures necessary to fix the problem.

'I think the security agencies are taking it seriously, ISD certainly is, I think the police and the ghurka units and SAF forces which are now deployed on the operation to try and catch him, are taking their operation with a lot of resources and a lot of close cooperation.'

'I've been talking to the ministers responsible and I think we have a pretty good chance of catching him provided he's still in Singapore,' he added.

Asked if he believed Mas Selamat is still in Singapore, he said:'We have no reason to think that he has left.'

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