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     FrontPage Edition: Sun 16 March 2008

Mas Selamat's escape - updates on investigation


Comments by Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng on 16 March 2008
Update - Committee of Inquiry
The Committee of Inquiry started its formal proceedings a week ago at the Whitley Road Detention Centre (WRDC). The Committee is given full and unfettered access to all documents, personnel, whether on open or classified appointments, as well as unrestricted inspection of the Whitley Road Detention Centre.
Whether it is a Committee of Inquiry appointed by the Minister or a Commission of Inquiry appointed by the President on the advice of Cabinet, the objective remains the same - get to the bottom of things fully and comprehensively.
However in the case of an incident at a sensitive installation like WRDC, such an inquiry will not be held in public regardless of whether it is conducted under the ambit of a Committee or a Commission of Inquiry.
This is because the nature of the inquiry requires a thorough examination of the WRDC, including its detention, security, investigation and intelligence gathering functions as these are inter-related.
Exposing these details in public will compromise the confidentiality which is necessary for ISDís security and intelligence operations to remain as effective as they have been. The WRDC is a purpose-built facility holding detainees under preventive detention. Its focus is on intelligence collection in relation to an on-going investigation pertinent to national security. It is not simply a prison to incarcerate persons to discharge a judicial punishment on conviction of an offence.
To have some parts of the Inquiry open to public and some parts closed is an unsatisfactory arrangement to all, not mentioning how disruptive it is to the work of the Committee. The object must be to discover what happened and to see how to ensure it does not happen again.
Therefore, what is acutely more important is to provide the Committee with unrestricted access for it to conduct a rigorous, thorough and comprehensive inquiry. Conducting the inquiry in closed chambers provides for and ensures this. It is not an exercise at grandstanding or playing to the gallery.
This does not mean that the public will not be kept informed of the inquiry and its findings. I have already said that when the COI completes its inquiry, we will give a full account on how Mas Selamat escaped and what has been done to prevent another escape.
I gather that the Committee has been working long hours examining many witnesses from the lowest to the highest rank; in fact it is working over the weekend. While I hope that it would complete its work early, really this must be the Chairmanís call Ė he and his members will decide when they are satisfied they have completed a full and in-depth inquiry.
There are no grounds to doubt the impartiality or independence of the Committee.
Mr Goh Joon Seng has an impeccable standing as retired High Court Judge and member of the Presidential Council of Advisors.
Mr Tee Tua Ba has retired from the Singapore Police Force in July 1997 and he has served as Singaporeís ambassador to various countries in the last eleven years.
Dr Choong May Ling is a senior Administrative Officer who has served in various Ministries. In her current job in MHA, she oversees security policy; she does not have any line relationship over ISD or any operational departments.
These are persons whose collective experience and background allow them to understand the nature of legal, operational, policy and security issues. They are also persons who are not about to put their own considerable achievements and good reputations at risk to do other than a thorough and impartial job at seeking the truth.
Update - CID Investigation
The CID investigation started from the time of the incident was reported. Their job is to see if whether there is any criminal wrong-doing for example, abetment or collusion or conspiracy which led to Mas Selamatís escape.
I understand that CID is at the final stages of its investigation which has included interviews of several dozen witnesses and forensic examination of the primary scene where the escape occurred. When they complete their investigation, they will refer it to the AGC. The AGC will then decide on the appropriate follow-up actions.
Update - On Search Operations
I am kept apprised of developments every day. Our officers continue to be focussed and determined. They have a strategy and remain positive.
They follow all leads, no matter how small. I understand that they have intelligence analysis of the man which may be pertinent to their current search on the ground.
We must keep the pressure on Mas Selamat.

Source: Press Release 16 Mar 2008

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