Read DPM Wong’s full speech and videos below.
Report from Channel NewsAsia:
SINGAPORE: The superintendent of the Whitley Road Detention Centre has been sacked over security lapses that led to the escape of Jemaah Islamiyah detainee Mas Selamat Kastari. His deputy has also been demoted in rank, with a corresponding pay cut.
The two were the most senior officers in charge of the ground management of the detention centre, and were among six Internal Security Department (ISD) officers charged over the escape.
Two other Gurkha officers were also charged and have been demoted after pleading guilty.
Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng disclosed the moves when he updated Parliament on the disciplinary action taken after Mas Selamat’s escape.
Mas Selamat had escaped from a ventilation window in a toilet at the detention centre on February 27 and remains at large.
No grilles were mounted on the window. Mr Wong said the superintendent should have instructed the renovation contractor to install grilles on the ventilation window.
Instead, the superintendent asked for the handle of the window to be sawn off in the mistaken belief that it was a sufficient security measure. This, Mr Wong said, was a serious error.
The superintendent and his deputy have also been held accountable for the lack of supervision over the subordinate officers implicated in the escape.
Mr Wong said the ISD’s command director, whom the superintendent reported to, has also been relieved of his duties on April 24.
Although the command director was neither directly nor indirectly linked to the lapses of specific officers down the line, and he was not at fault over the lapses, Mr Wong said he was formally the apex of the supervisory and management chain of command overseeing the detention centre. – CNA/ac
Full speech by DPM and Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng in Parliament:
Mr Speaker Sir, Dr Lam Pin Min asked for an update on the disciplinary measures taken against the officers responsible for Mas Selamat bin Kastari’s escape from the Whitley Road Detention Centre (WRDC).
As I informed Members on 21 Apr 2008, I had ordered the Commissioner of Police and the Director of the Internal Security Department (ISD) to investigate the operational lapses related to the escape and to ascertain individual accountabilities. I also stated that even while this process took its course, I had instructed Director ISD to replace several officers at WRDC, whom the Committee of Inquiry (COI) and the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) had identified as being responsible for the escape of Mas Selamat.
In addition, subsequent to my statement on 21 Apr 2008, I also replaced the supervising officer in ISD, whom the Superintendent and the WRDC Administration reported to. I will explain his role later and why I replaced him.
Disciplinary Action Against Those Responsible
Mr Speaker sir, there is an established framework for the disciplinary action inquiry process. This includes allowing the officer to defend himself against the charges and giving the officer the right to appeal if he is found guilty by a disciplinary body.
The Commissioner of Police and Director ISD have reported to me that they have completed their respective disciplinary inquiry processes against a total of eight officers.
The Police has charged the two Gurkha Contingent (GC) guards who escorted Mas Selamat. They have pleaded guilty and have been demoted in rank.
ISD has charged six officers. The six officers have acknowledged their culpability and accepted the sanctions meted out. Let me now elaborate on them.
The Superintendent of WRDC has been dismissed from service. The Deputy Superintendent of WRDC has been demoted in rank with a corresponding pay cut. They are the two most senior officers in charge of the ground management of WRDC. They hold Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) equivalent ranks of Lieutenant-Colonel and Major respectively. The daily administration and operations of WRDC comes under the direct charge of the Superintendent, the most senior officer on the ground. The Deputy Superintendent is the next most senior officer assisting the Superintendent to manage the work of WRDC staff and ensure their compliance with established procedures. These two officers have been held accountable for the lack of supervision over their subordinates implicated, which resulted in lapses that enabled Mas Selamat to escape.
The Superintendent has also been charged and held accountable for failing to take appropriate action on discovering that the ventilation window in the Family Visitation Block toilet was unsecured. He should have instructed the renovation contractor to install grilles on the ventilation window. It was a serious error on his part instead to order that the handle of the window be sawn off, in the mistaken belief that this was a sufficient security measure.
The Special Duty Operative who handled the family visit when Mas Selamat escaped has been dismissed from service. She failed to take immediate and decisive action when alerted by the guards, which could have prevented the escape of Mas Selamat. She also did not observe proper procedures, for example in the accurate registration of clothes that were personal to the detainee and WRDC-issued clothes. That was why Mas Selamat was able to wear more than one layer of clothes on the day of his escape.
The Special Duty Operative’s supervisor failed to obtain a proper security assessment of the detainees’ use of the Family Visitation Block toilet. He was issued a letter of reprimand and relieved of all supervisory duties. This supervisor is a senior officer holding the equivalent rank of Inspector of Police or Lieutenant in the SAF. The letter of reprimand will be entered into his service record and will have a negative bearing on his future career, such as his performance appraisal, promotion and awards.
Two other WRDC officers have been served with departmental letters of warning. These will be lodged as adverse entries in their service files and will also have a bearing on their future careers. One of them is the Technical Officer who was responsible for the CCTV upgrading at WRDC. Although the new CCTV system had not yet been commissioned at the time of the incident, he should have exercised due care to ensure that the vendor had correctly carried out the instructions so that the system was recording.
The Chief Warder is the eighth officer who has been disciplined. She was served a letter of warning. It was the Chief Warder who approached the Superintendent to allow detainees to use the Family Visitation Block toilet. Although this officer was not directly involved in the incident, as an experienced officer, she should have considered the security implications of allowing detainees to use the Family Visitation Block toilet.
Beyond Formal Disciplinary Action
Sir, I had earlier said in this House on 21 April that in ascertaining accountability, we would examine the roles not just of the junior officers but also the supervisory and management levels of WRDC. Therefore, apart from looking at those who were directly or indirectly responsible for the escape, Director ISD and Commissioner of Police have looked at all relevant officers who may be liable further up the chain of command, regardless of their rank or grade.
The WRDC Superintendent and the WRDC Administration staff report to a Command Director in ISD. This Command Director is the supervising officer, or ISD Officer-in-Charge (OIC), whom I said earlier was replaced along with the officers identified in the COI report and CID investigations as being responsible for the escape of Mas Selamat. The ISD OIC is a statutory appointment specified in the Detention Centre regulations. The Superintendent of WRDC reports to him on the smooth running of WRDC.
The current ISD OIC for WRDC holds a Superscale rank equivalent to a Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police or a Brigadier General in the SAF. He is a Command Director who reports directly to Director ISD. He oversees a directorate of several distinct functional divisional units. WRDC is one of these functional units.
The COI found that the ISD OIC had properly discharged his duties and was not at fault. The COI’s view is that it is necessary for the ISD OIC to delegate his statutory responsibility given his full-time job as a Command Director. The COI observed that the ISD OIC had in fact made several improvements to the WRDC. He instituted proper systems and procedures and also recruited a full-time Superintendent with the requisite experience and qualifications to take charge of the administration of WRDC.
I accepted the COI’s assessment that the ISD OIC is not at fault. Nevertheless, I decided to relieve this Command Director of the ISD OIC appointment. This was done on 24 Apr 2008. Even though he was not responsible for the lapses of specific officers down the line, he bears responsibility on account of his statutory appointment as Officer-in-Charge of WRDC.
Although this Command Director has not been subjected to disciplinary action, the incident and his removal from the OIC appointment will have a bearing on his performance appraisal.
Videos of DPM’s speech in Parliament: