Gerald Giam

Malaysia cleans up the mess. Singapore takes the credit – shamelessly.

“DEPUTY Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng commended the Internal Security Department (ISD) officers for going all out to track down the escaped terror leader Mas Selamat, who was eventually caught in Malaysia on April 1.”

– Straits Times, 8 May 2009

Firstly let me state that I am glad that Mas Selamat has been captured. I thank the Malaysian police for their excellent work in capturing the fugitive. Malaysian Home Minister Hishamuddin said that they arrested him under the ISD because he was plotting something, which means they not only caught the JI leader who escaped from under Singapore’s nose, but possibly managed to thwart a planned terrorist attack.

I am, however, appalled that the Singapore mainstream media and Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng would go to the extent of congratulating themselves and taking credit for Mas Selamat’s arrest by the Malaysians. Instead of acting with a bit of humility and contrition, the Singapore Government has attempted to turn the tables on their “setback” and praise itself for the re-arrest of the alleged terrorist mastermind.

It should be pointed out that this is actually the second time that a neighbouring country has helped us nab the same man. Mas Selamat had escaped the first time in 2001 just before the first wave of JI arrests.

I’m sure MHA felt that this would be a PR coup for them, and that Singaporeans will queue up to congratulate the good work of the government if it blew its trumpet enough. Of course, reading the mainstream media, one would be forgiven for thinking this was the case.

“Minister’s hail arrest” – Straits Times

“ISD provides crucial lead” – Straits Times

“Singaporeans cheered by news of Mas Selamat’s arrest” – TODAY/CAN

“With Singapore downgrading from Orange to Yellow Alert for the flu virus, I think this comes as great news.” – a teacher quoted by TODAY

“Sources said that it was the Singapore ISD that gave the Malaysians the lead on Mas Selamat’s trail. If so, the department, which has come under the heaviest fire, has redeemed itself.” – Straits Times

I really wonder what Singaporeans really think?

Personally, I think this would be a most appropriate time for the Minister to apologise for all the worry, inconvenience and trouble caused to both Singaporeans and his counterparts in Malaysia and Indonesia for ISD’s slip up. It is not the time for praising the ISD for doing their job.

I am also surprised that Singapore decided to go public with the news of the arrest even before the Malaysians did. Obviously the Malaysians had a reason to keep the arrest under wraps for almost 1 1/2 months. I’m not sure if they were prepared to go public yet. If they were, I’m sure given the extreme political fire the BN government is under (Perak crisis, by-elections results, Altantuya case, etc) they would have badly wanted to boast about this capture to their own people.

I would have thought the gracious and diplomatic thing to do would be to let the Malaysian government announce the arrest and take some credit for it. At a minimum, it should have been announced jointly, rather than having Malaysians hear about it from the Straits Times.

You see, this is why Malaysians get so irritated with us all the time. Then we wonder why, and just retort that they are jealous of us. Yeah, I guess the Malaysians are “jealous” we have such an effective secret police, who are able to get others to clean up after the mess they created.


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