More Like a Private Inquiry than a Public Inquiry?

Wong Kan Seng promises to reveal to the public the details on the escape but not the details on the report. The Workers’ Party, rather than raise unbelievable conspiracy theories like one other political party, recently asked a thought-provoking question about the semantics of a committee of inquiry and a commission of inquiry according to the 2007 Inquiries Act. WP’ subtext in their suggestion throws implications on the entire regime’s supposed checks and balances system.

The MIW always prides in its ability to check and control its excesses and the hastily formed committee of inquiry headed by a minister is an example that it would take care of its own house. What WP is implying is that the president of Singapore, the head of state, should be the ultimate arbitrator on whether there is any deliberate or unintentional wrongdoing by the government. Just like Ong Teng Cheong tried to probe into the state of Singapore reserves when he was president. Working together with the judiciary, the president should be the highest authority as a check and balance. This not only gives credibility to the system and any national inquiries, but also is a true test of whether the government of the day can be accountable for its actions.

Nathan is a president who is ethical enough to do the job properly. When he was director of SID then, he volunteered to be exchanged as a hostage during the 1974 Laju incident and thus allowed the original hostages to be released. This sort of moral backbone is what we need in a person appointing a commission of inquiry of the proportion of terrorist escape from Singapore. I am certain Nathan can do the job of balancing the public’s need for explanation and transparency, and the needs of the state where some information cannot be released for national security reasons.

Public will be given full account: Wong
Inquiry continues as hunt for fugitive enters 19th day
Monday • March 17, 2008

Teo Xuanwei

WE MUST keep the pressure on Mas Selamat Kastari, said Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng yesterday, adding that the public will be given a full account of how the terrorist leader escaped from the Whitley Road Detention Centre once the Committee of Inquiry has completed its work — as the island-wide search for him continued into its 19th day.

Recommendations to prevent similar lapses will also be made public, he said. What will not be made public, however, are details involving the Whitley Road Detention Centre. The nature of the inquiry requires a thorough examination of the centre, including detention, security, investigation and intelligence functions.

“Exposing these details in public will compromise the confidentiality necessary for the Internal Security Department’s (ISD) security and intelligence operations to remain effective,” said Mr Wong, explaining why demands by the opposition Workers Party for an open inquiry cannot be met.

The detention centre, he said, is a sensitive purpose-built installation holding detainees under preventive detention. Its focus is on intelligence collection related to ongoing investigations of national security. It is not “simply a prison”, he said.

The committee, which began closed-door investigations last week, has spent long hours examining “many witnesses”, Mr Wong told reporters after a community event at Shunfu Mart yesterday.

Even as he spoke, close to 1,000 police and other security personnel continued their search of the forested MacRitchie Reservoir area, as the authorities believe Mas Selamat has not left our shores, said police operations director Wong Hong Kuan in a separate briefing. Without elaborating, he said “trip wires”, surveillance equipment and “eyes and ears on the ground” were in position.

Mr Wong, who is also Deputy Prime Minister, said the Criminal Investigation Department is in the “final stages of investigation, which included interviews of dozens of witnesses” and forensic scene examination to see if there was “any criminal wrongdoing” leading to the escape.

Checkpoints and borders were “locked down” within 30 minutes after the 47-year-old’s escape was detected, and no intelligence so far suggests he has fled Singapore.

As to the impartiality or independence of the committee — in particular, Dr Choong May Ling, who is a senior administrative officer in the Home Affairs Ministry — Mr Wong said they would not put their achievements and good reputations at risk “to do other than a thorough and impartial job at seeking the truth”.

Dr Choong oversees security policy and “does not have any line relationship over ISD or any operational departments”. The other members are retired High Court Judge Goh Joon Seng and retired Police Commissioner Tee Tua Ba.


2 responses

  1. Pingback: Daily SG: 18 Mar 2008 « The Singapore Daily

  2. Pingback: SGDaily Roundup: Week 12 « The Singapore Daily

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