Action of minister compromised vigilance and mindset of border agencies

Below is a comment posted on TOC, in response to Minister Tan Chuan-Jin’s account of his one-day tour to Johor with his residents and grassroots leaders.

Minister Tan was given expedited clearance at Tuas Immigration Checkpoint by Immigration Checkpoint officials and the grassroots leader with him on the same bus, were extended the same privilege. (Read more here)

By George Lam

Border security, especially in the present heightened security threat environment, is absolutely vital for Singapore.

By your action, you have compromised the vigilance and mindset of our border agencies if they were to apply this across the board for all senior government officials. You know, monkey see, monkey do. You have set a decidedly BAD example.

Your action is wrong on more than one count.

The privilege accorded to you as a minister does not and should not automatically apply or to be rubbed off to others (apart from your security officers) who were travelling with you for the following reasons:

1. The group members were not public officials nor were they on official government duty. They were on a private visit. They were grassroots members of the People’s Action Party (PAP).

2. It was a political party outing organised by the PAP. PAP is NOT synonymous with the Singapore government. Unless you think it is. So PAP grassroots members are not government officials.

Furthermore, you must be aware the even government officials whether on official trips or on private personal visits are not to be accorded special privileges at the border for the obvious reasons. Everyone who cross over or come in must be subject to the same stringent border checks in order not to compromise the overall security of the country. To give an extreme example – what if they have been self-radicalised individuals and used the privilege to bring in illegal ‘items’ – like drugs,to put in mildly? It could be something worse from a security standpoint.

3. It is wrong and dangerous to expect the border agency to allow any tom, dick and harry who happened to accompany you to cross over with the same privilege. What if you and your security officers have been taken hostage and your life threatened by the hostage takers in the group? By allowing them in CARTE BLANCHE simply because ‘they are with you’ can lead to some even worse outcome for you and the country. I believe if our border officials are under strict orders to apply the same stringent checks and immigration protocol and subject all and sundry, except perhaps you, to proper checks, there could be a very different outcome. At least, hostage takers would not use you to cross into Singapore.

4. What if some of the grassroots members take advantage of the opportunity (read, lax/close one eye perfunctory checks by the immigration and customs officials) to smuggle in illegal substances or taxable items?

You would have unwittingly been an accessory to the crime. Of course, you are going to say that this is unlikely to happen, but how do you know? We have MPs and senior public officials who were subsequently exposed by others to be committing extramarital affairs with grassroots members and others – Obviously, it is quite impossible to tell from a person’s face and outward behaviour. Appearance and affiliation can be deceiving some times!

5. Such an open abuse of privilege (and power) demeans the government of which you are a senior member whose reputation you have a huge duty to upkeep as a minister. Before 9/11, would anyone believe that there are people who are capable of flying a civil jet liner packed with civilians into tall buildings? No one expected that modern day terrorists would take lessons from the history books and upscale what the Japanese Kamikaze pilots did during WW2. Or, that a truck can be a very lethal weapon of mass destruction in the wrong hands. The mantra must be cover up any conceivable loophole, however far-fetch it may seem. Terrorists are very creative demented people.

And by the way, that point about your security officers bearing firearms is ABSOLUTELY IRRELEVANT AND NONSENSICAL.

Just what are you trying to say or imply? I simply am at a loss to see how it is even in the slightest way related or relevant to the issue. For that matter, they had all the while been carrying their arms while in a foreign territory (Malaysia) and are now back on home ground in Singapore at the immigration checkpoint! Can you please explain the relevance or import for bringing it up?

By the way, I am not a politician nor a member of any political party. Just someone who cares about how the country is being run.