On the Way to Atonement
Mas Selamat, Singapore’s infamous fugitive, is in Malaysian hands since April 1st. The Malaysians will squeeze the terrorist for information on plots and cells for some time to come. Holding back criticisms for the time being and thinking of the big picture, I am glad and thankful that he is in custody.
A common initial myopic reaction was why the government made public the arrest only now. Some people didn’t guess that one main reason was probably that the arrest was hushed up as investigations and further arrests of his compatriots were ongoing. Publicising the arrest would jeopardise investigations as it would drive the terrorist cells underground.
There were also snide remarks about Singapore’s role in the capture of Mas Selamat. In the absence of details of what kind of information was shared with the Malaysians, the hasty cynicism was clearly without grounds. However, this public scorn was to be expected as the escape of Mas Selamat from ISD’s detention centre was an incredulous tale of complacency and there is no easy redemption for that agency regardless of how many terrorists it captures.
The annoucement of the arrest was made by Singapore, and not Malaysia, although Mas Selamat was arrested in Malaysia. The sentiment that Singapore was ungracious and could have let the Malaysians have that honour and credit is persuasive. Nevertheless, we would never know the context on whether there is any agreement between the two governments on who would break the news first. In the quid pro quo diplomatic world, Singapore must have indeed offered much to Malaysia for the privilege of making the announcement first. But then again inferring from the history of the cooperation between MSB and ISD since the communist days, tit for tat favours were probably routine. Singapore owes Malaysia big time.
But the road to atonement would not be so easily completed. Once Mas Selamat is backed in Singapore for questioning, more eyebrows would be raised on how exactly he escaped and the implications on whether more finger-pointing and culpability for the manhunt is necessary. Until more is made known, we just have to hold back our chagrin. The government won’t get off so easily, although it is on the road to atonement.