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Three years ago when Mr Mas Selamat Kastari escaped from the Whitley Detention Centre, Singaporeans could hardly believe their ears when they were told that the suspect terrorist had walked out from the high-security facility.
A Commission of Inquiry appointed by the minister who was responsible for the escape, Mr Wong Kan Seng, told an incredulous public that Mr Mas Selamat jumped out of an open window whilst the Centre’s surveillance cameras malfunctioned.
Three years later we hear of another mind-boggling revelation: The escapee had sought refuge at his family’s home in Tampines two days after his breakout and had spent several hours there before leaving disguised as a woman.
Even a kindergartener will tell you that when a prison-escape alarm is sounded, the first place one would stake out is the home of the escapee’s immediate family and relatives. And yet the new Minister for Home Affairs, Mr K Shanmugam, is telling us that Mr Mas Selamat had taken shelter at his brother’s place without anyone noticing it? This story strains believability.
To make matters worse, we now have the suspect’s family charged and convicted for harbouring a fugitive. Mr Selamat’s brother Asmom, 60, was sentenced to 3 months jail, his sister-in-law Aisah 12 months, and niece Nur Aini, 28, 18 months.
This raises a legal question: Does the law clearly state that harbouring a suspected criminal is, itself, an offence? For to be sure, Mr Mas Selamat has not been convicted of any crime in a court of law. He has only been accused – and imprisoned – of intending to commit a violent crime.
He has not been told that he will be presented in court and given a hearing, and has not been told when he would be released nor is there information about his treatment under detention. If the recent revelations of former ISA detainees are anything to go by, his days in the cell will not be at all pleasant.
This brings us to the tragic situation confronting Mr Mas Selamat’s family. If the Government’s story is to be believed that his brother provided refuge for him, it raises some very pertinent questions:
- What if Mas Selamat told his family that he was abused and tortured by the ISD?
- What if he swore that he was innocent and had not participated in terrorist activities?
- What if he pleaded with his brother not to turn him in because he would not be charged and given a trial?
- What if it was the PAP using the spectre of terrorism to scare Singaporeans to gain political support? Not possible? Think Vincent Cheng.
- What if Vincent Cheng or Teo Soh Lung or Said Zahari or Lim Hock Siew, all former ISA detainees, had escaped and hid at their families’ homes? What would their families have been expected to do? Hand them back to their captors?
Remember, these Singaporeans who were detained were branded as violent communists and Marxists. Our media led the lynch mob, not bothering to even concede that they were merely suspects, but instead conducted their prosecution, conviction, and sentencing all in the pages of the newspapers and nightly news.
Today, the victims are just beginning to reveal the truth. Unclassified memos and minutes are also bringing to light how politics, not national security, motivated these arrests.
In this present case would the most honest of men and women, with hand on heart, say that they would have called the police, and handed a loved one back to a regime infamous for torture and detention without trial? Legally, are Mr Asmom, Ms Aisah, and Ms Nur Aini obliged to turn in a suspect?
This entire case cries out for transparency and justice. Even the court hearing for the three family members were conducted behind closed doors. No one knew that they had been charged and when the hearing would take place. Their convictions and sentences were announced by the Government only several days after it took place.
Yet Mr Shanmugam would only cock a snook at Singaporeans by telling us that he was “satisfied that all the necessary steps had been taken.”
It is situation that resembles something coming out of a frightening Hollywood movie made by a producer with an overactive imagination. Alas, this is no fiction. It is a real-life tragedy taking place in a country that we call home.
There is no doubt that in this sorry episode someone should be punished. But Mr Wong Kan Seng is still sitting pretty in his office, even promoted to minister for national security coordination while police officers have been disciplined and fired, and Asmom, Aisah and Nur Aini sit in prison.
May the truth be revealed when Singapore breaks out from the grip of the PAP. May justice be served then.