Tuesday, 11 March 2008

WP's Press Release

The Workers' Party made a press release on 11th March on the escape of Mas Selamat.

Workers' Party calls for full disclosure in Mas Selamat probe

The opposition Workers' Party on Tuesday urged the Government to keep the public fully informed of the committee of inquiry's (COI) probe into the escape of terrorist Mas Selamat Kastari, who has been on the run since Feb 27.

It said that as the inquiry is being carried out under the Prisons Act, which means that the Home Affairs Minister retains the discretion to release the committee's finds as he sees fit, this raises the question 'as to how much the public will eventually be told.'

Said the party chairman Sylvia Lim in a statement: 'In a matter of such high public interest as the escape of a high-risk terror suspect from a government-run facility, what assurances or checks are there that the public will be given full information?'

'Moreover, since Singaporeans have been marshalled to assist the authorities to hunt for Mas Selamat, the least the government could do is to keep us fully informed of the inquiry and its findings,' she added, noting the huge security forces involved in the island-wide manhunt, and the various inconveniences at checkpoints and other areas which Singaporeans have to put up with to facilitiate the massive operation.

Ms Lim, who is a Non-constituency MP, said many questions have been raised about how the escape could have taken place 'in a country which prides itself on safety and security.'

While it is not wrong for the government to convene the three-member inquiry, headed by retired judge Goh Joon Seng, under the Prisons Act, the opposition leader noted that such inquiries are not open to the public.

'The Committee will submit its report to the Minister, and no part of the proceedings may be released to anyone except with the Minister's written permission,' she said.

She suggested an alternative option: a COI appointed by the President under the Inquiries Act in the interest of public welfare or public interest.

'This regime will allow the inquiry to proceed in public as the President shall direct. If there is concern that release of certain sensitive information will jeopardise the national interest, the President may direct that certain information not be made public,' she said.

Separately, the Criminal Investigation Department is also looking into whether criminal wrong-doing was involved in the break-out of the leader of the Singapore Jemaah Islamiah (JI) terror network from the Whitley Road Detention Centre.

Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng has said that there was a 'physical breach' and 'security lapse' at the detention centre's compound, which has since been plugged.

The panel, which will also recommend changes to prevent similar break-outs, is expected to complete the review in a month. The other two committee members are retired police commissioner Tee Tua Ba and deputy secretary for security and corporate services Dr Choong May Ling.

In launching the COI on March 2, Mr Wong said he would decide on the part of the committee's findings that can be made public.

Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew has said that the escape of Mas Selamat is a 'very severe lesson in complacency.'

The search for the fugitive entered the 13th day on Tuesday. More than 1,100 calls and emails on potential leads have been received by police so far.

Besides reporting sightings or discarded belongings on the fringes of forested areas, many Singaporeans have offered tips on how to nab the escaped detainee.


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