Lipstick Jungle: Why we might have helped Mas Selamat escape

Muhammad Hydar –

On the 22nd of November, our Minister for Home Affairs, Mr K Shanmugan, revealed that Mas Selamat Kastari’s (MSK) relatives aided MSK in his escape. Long story short, MSK went to his brother, Asmom, for shelter and aid.

Asmom’s family then provided aid to MSK. Asmom, his wife and adult daughter have been jailed accordingly for their actions.

That’s a lesson to all of you. Next time a terrorist comes to you for aid, you let him in your house first. Then you and the terrorist sit down at the table before you cockily blast him with your laser gun like Han Solo.

Mr Shanmugan stated that MSK’s relatives were interviewed on March 3rd 2008 in which they deliberately withheld information about MSK’s whereabouts.

So dangerous were Asmom’s family that our authorities interviewed them four days after MSK escaped.

So dangerous were Asmom’s family that we might even forget the overarching mistakes committed by the relevant security agencies.

On the 23rd of November, the Straits Times (ST) published the news. The report had an earnest tone, blunt questioning from the MPs and Mr Shanmugan’s abstract non-replies.

Logic tells me that the fact that MSK managed to escape could mean that our authorities didn’t monitor MSK’s immediate family members after he escaped.

Why didn’t they do so? Apparently, MSK’s extended family and loose network of contacts were in the hundreds, according to Shanmugam. Of course, when I escape from prison, I would rather go to the house of my grandmother’s cousin’s son’s sister-in-law’s children for help.

Mr Shanmugan gave assurance that investigations were conducted on all of them.

Wouldn’t one’s family or in this case, one’s brother be an obvious avenue of assistance for an escaped criminal? I watch enough NCIS to know that you always need to track down the family.

The ST report said that MSK going undetected in a flat is “not a security lapse.” Wrong move. Should have gone with the “I-made-a-mistake” move.

Not monitoring the brother of your target is clearly a mistake, isn’t it?

Mr Shanmugan revealed that MSK’s niece helped the terrorist disguise as a woman wearing a tudung and make-up. A hair-net was employed too.

I’m extremely worried about this as I’m a friend to many makciks and aunties.

You and I have may have aided MSK in his escape. Does the government know how many times I give up my seat in the MRT or bus to makciks and aunties? One of those women could have been MSK.

Our courteous ways might have damaged anti-terrorism efforts in our region.

This is clearly Singa, the Courtesy Lion’s fault.

By the way did anybody notice the makcik-esque photo used by the Straits Times?

According to terrorism experts quoted in the ST report, MSK was probably good at counter-surveillance, hence the tudung, make-up and flotation device.

And that a HDB flat is a “difficult place to conduct surveillance.” Or that there is no place to hide and if you sit long enough at the void deck, people get suspicious. Don’t we already have gangs and homeless people living at the void decks? The authorities could have disguised themselves with brightly dyed hair and skinny jeans to blend in.

Well, those inferences are as good as mine because when asked to divulge more information on MSK’s investigation, Mr Shanmugan said, “[It is] not in the interest of our country for us to disclose these matters.”

Perhaps the most enlightening quote by Mr Shanmugan would be, “Their [MSK relatives] actions  are not a reflection on the wider Malay-Muslim community…We should therefore not allow this episode to affect the trust and goodwill that has been built up over the years between our different communities.”

Sure, those quotes might seem condescending/ cringe-worthy/ questionable/ low-brow/ insulting/ but Mr Shanmugan is wrong on the count that Asmom’s actions IS a reflection of the Malay-Muslim community.

What can I say?

The Malay-Muslim community is damn hospitable. We make Martha Stewart look like Joseph Stalin.

What about trust and goodwill?

It’s clear that to maintain trust and goodwill amongst our different communities, we need to unnecessarily imply that Malay-Muslims have a soft spot for cross-dressing terrorist suspects.

We also need to reserve one page in ST to quickly deny the link that it wasn’t because of one’s race or religion that one would decide to help MSK as opposed to the obvious stupid lapses in judgement, tendency to help family and reckless thinking.

Conjuring up stereotypical non-existent links between the actions of one family to an entire community and unnecessary comparisons between different communities is as goodwill as it comes.

As my cat always says, “Making a mountain out of a molehill.”

To say that Asmom’s actions does not reflect the Malay-Muslim community implies that we Singaporeans already thought that such actions are expected to come from the Malay-Muslim community.

Mr Shanmugan finally states that, “Singaporeans will be understandably disappointed that Asmom and his family had helped Mas Selamat in his escape.”

I for one, am disappointed in finding out that all MSK needed to thwart an island-wide manhunt was lipstick and a head scarf.

In order to curb more public speculation and prevent a possible decline in trust towards our security agencies, I urge Mr Shanmugan and the relevant authorities to disclose more information on the current investigation of Mas Selamat’s escape.

At least tell us what shade of lipstick he used.


Cartoons from My Sketchbook.