Singapore gov’t butt of jokes after prison escape

4 Mar 08

Terrorism is usually no laughing matter, especially not in security-conscious Singapore, but the escape from custody of a limping Islamist extremist suspect has led to scorn on the Internet.

Barbed jokes and irreverent spoofs have sprouted up on websites five days after Mas Selamat bin Kastari, the alleged Singapore chief of regional terror group Jemaah Islamiyah, escaped with apparent ease from a detention centre.

“Toilet Break, based on a true story starring Mas Selamat Kastari,” read a mock post on one wesbite by a blogger inspired by the hit US television drama “Prison Break”.

Blogger Philip Chua wrote: “Singapore has now dropped the ball big time and really is an international laughing stock.”

“You don’t see prisoners escaping from terrorist detention centres in the West or Guantanamo. More so a leader of the terrorist network in the country next to you!”

Kastari, who was arrested in neighbouring Indonesia in 2006 and turned over to Singapore, remained at large Monday and officials said he was likely to be still hiding in this multiracial island republic of 4.7 million people.

Accused of plotting to hijack a plane in order to crash it into Singapore’s Changi airport in 2001, Kastari managed to escape after asking to go to the toilet during a family visit, security officials said.

Direct criticism of the government is rare in the mainstream media, forcing dissatisfied Singaporeans to resort to the Internet to express their views.

Teoh Khengze, a Singapore-based author and journalist, wrote on his blog that the circumstances of what he called “The Great Singapore Escape” were “as incredulous as the escape is audacious.”, a popular satirical site, said Kastari’s escape underlined the need to give cabinet ministers another salary hike even though they were already among the highest-paid in the world.

“We need to equip our Mini-stars with everything they can to deal with this crisis… and as we know in Singapore, public service and legislative influence are all not sufficient incentives,” it said.

“Only the highest salaries in the world will do,” the humour site said.

It showed 13 doctored photographs of Kastari in various possible disguises – in a blonde woman’s wig, a 1960s-style Afro hairdo and aviator sunglasses, a handlebar moustache and a beard and turban in Osama bin Laden style.

A popular Singaporean blogger who has previously irked the government with attacks on high living costs said the city-state need not worry about losing cabinet ministers.

“They won’t be asked to resign or even take a pay cut,” wrote the blogger known as Mr. Brown.

“We are not like those free-wheeling and chaotic governments from Western democracies that make their leaders accountable for every little thing.”

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