Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Escape of Mas Selamat, COI Report

Mas Selamat Bin KastariWho is Mas Selamat?
Mas Selamat Bin Kastari, a 47 years old Indonesian-born Singaporean, was allegedly the head of the Singapore arm of the terrorist network called Jemaah Islamiah. Mas Selamat was detained in Singapore under the Internal Security Act since Indonesia handed him over in February 2006.

Escape from the Detention Centre
Mas Selamat escaped from the Whitley Road Detention Centre in Singapore on 27th February 2008. His escape took Singaporeans by surprise. Singapore is believed to be one of the most secure places in the world and nobody expected a high-profile terrorist to escape. This led to a massive search that is believed to be the biggest manhunt in Singapore history. All the efforts are in vain as Mas Selamat could not be traced down still. About 8 weeks had rolled since his escape on that eventful Wednesday.

Committe Of Inquiry
The Singapore Government has ordered a thorough investigation by a Committee Of Inquiry (COI). The COI submitted its report on April 10, 2008. Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng released the executive summary of the COI's report to parliament on Monday.

Major findings in the COI report
  • The ventilation window in the urinal cubicle from which Mas Selamat escaped had not been secured by grilles

  • The weakness in the perimeter fencing, where the outer and inner perimeter fences converged with an enclosed staircase and walkway leading to the Family Visitation Block, was not detected

  • The two Gurkha Contingent guards and the Special Duty Operative escorting Mas Selamat failed to respond immediately and decisively when they noticed Mas Selamat was taking too long in the urinal cubicle

  • No one was actively monitoring the two CCTV cameras covering the outer and inner perimeter fences at the rear of the Family Visitation Block
It is now very clear that Mas Selamat might not have had many problems to escape from the detention centre. The escape plan was so simple and easily executed. There is no need for him to either confront any physical security or any technical barricades. The only difficulty was to push himself through the window and he was free.

The most annoying lapse was the failure to secure the ventilation window with any sort of protection. A detention centre that is holding a terrorist like Mas Selamat could have been better. Most of the residential flat windows, located at a much higher level, have been secured by grilles. Secondly, it is frustrating to know that the CCTV cameras were not actively monitored. This brings my mind to the Nicoll Highway COI report that pointed out the failure in the instrumentation monitoring.

No intentional omission by any staff
The only consolation is the conclusion by COI that there was no indication of criminal negligence, intentional omission and collusion by any of the staff at the detention centre. The Criminal Investigation Department (CID), which carried out an independent probe to find out if there was criminal liability on anyone's part, concurred.

Where is Mas Selamat Kastari? DPM Wong Kan Seng still believes that he is still in Singapore. The escape of Mas Selamat Kastari would remain as a black dot in the history of red dot.


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