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Last year Mr Wong Kan Seng’s facade adorned the landscape of his constituency of Bishan-Toa Payon GRC. It was a time of unbridled celebration of the “Singapore Spirit” as he and his fellow MPs erected larger-than-life billboards to promote their own images. (See here)
This year, however, the hoopla is more subdued. In fact, Mr Wong’s picture can hardly be seen around the estate.
Absent is the beaming smile greeting motorists and pedestrians as they go about their daily business.
So is the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs’ feeling a little guilty and, dare we say it, vulnerable?
Given all that has happened in the last year with and to Mr Wong, perhaps it is not entirely surprising that the Minister seems to be adopting a lower profile.
Remember, Mr Mas Selamat incredibly escaped from the highest security facility under his watch. Not only that, the suspected terrorist limped – without his pants – across the island and then swam across a short stretch of water to Malaysia on a “simple floating device”.
A Commission of Inquiry (COI), of which one of the members was Mr Wong’s subordinate, was then established to look into the debacle. Its findings was, of course, met with skepticism and even outright derision by the public. The climbing through an unsecured window, the toilet rolls, the simultaneously non-functioning security cameras all made for unbelievable reading.
(Photos: Left – A happy Mr Wong on a billboard in Toa Payoh in 2008. Right – Same spot this year.)
And when Mr Mas Selamat was finally found in Johor, Mr Wong did what came naturally – he tried to claim credit by saying that it was the close cooperation between his people and the Malaysians that led to the fugitive’s re-capture.
This was embarrassingly slapped down by the Malaysian authorities who said that the tracing and capture of the suspect was “carried out fully by the Malaysian police.”
The episode remains unresolved because now the Malaysia Government refuses to hand the captive back to Singapore, adding to Mr Wong’s discomfiture. Is Mr Mas being used as a bargaining chip for negotiations over contentious issues? If he is, Mr Wong’s boss(es) may be none too pleased with his bungle.
If that was not bad enough just months after the great escape, a Singaporean traveller flew all the way to Vietnam on his son’s passport before the Vietnamese customs spotted the problem. The man had mistakenly taken the wrong document but made it past the Singapore airport checkpoint anyway.
During that same period an elderly Singaporean woman, 73 years old to be precise, was reported lost while on a trip to Malaysia. A week later, she was inexplicably found back in Singapore – without her passport and her memory (she couldn’t remember anything about events that week she was gone).
But the wonder is that despite all these hugely damaging lapses to our nation’s security, Mr Wong is able to muster more than 15 police officers just to stop a group of Singapore Democrats distributing flyers announcing a protest.
Better still, he’s found new energy to introduce a brand new law that stipulates that even a one-person protest can be considered an illegal assembly.
All in all, its been an eventful year for the Minister. Perhaps it’s just as well that he keeps under the radar and not show his face too much. He might just lose more of it.