Where is Mas Selamat?


SINGAPORE : Businessman Richard Chan usually leaves it to his wife to pick their daughter from the Singapore Chinese Girls' School (SCGS)। But on Thursday afternoon, he decided to accompany his wife to the school.

With Mas Selamat Kastari - terror detainee-turned-fugitive - still at large, Mr Chan did not want to take any chances.

"I may have not sent my daughter to school if I had known earlier," he told TODAY.

In what Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng described as a "security lapse", Mas Selamat Kastari, head of the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) terrorist network here, gave his guards the slip while he was being taken to the toilet at the Whitley Detention Centre, which is near SCGS.

The massive manhunt for the 47-year-old fugitive, who walks with a limp, continued on Thursday.

"Extensive police, the Singapore Armed Forces and other security resources are still deployed and no efforts will be spared to track him down," the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said last night.

The soldiers were brought in on Thursday to help the thousands of policemen, Gurkhas and men from the elite Special Operations Forces already deployed cover a wider area.

As the security forces continued to maintain its presence in the area around the detention centre, SCGS yesterday issued a letter to parents assuring them that extra precautions had been taken to ensure the students' safety. Said SCGS principal Low Ay Nar: "Cars allowed into the premises are scrutinised more stringently."

Despite the beefed-up security in some areas, it seemed to be business as usual in many parts of Singapore. In Geylang Serai, several people interviewed said they were not worried.

The owner of a textile outlet, Mr Hashim Mohd Noor, believes that Mas Selamat Kastari will be caught "sooner or later".

Shopkeeper Chng Keng Chai, in his 80s, added: "I am not worried. If I see him, I'll call the police."

TODAY's checks suggested that many Singaporeans were more curious about the
escape itself.

As Mr K C Cheriyan, director of a childcare centre at Goldhill Avenue and a former military man, said: "How do you escape from such a facility? How is it possible?"

Other questions that have cropped up: Was Mas Selamat Kastari acting alone? Why was he not restrained with handcuffs or electronic tags? Shouldn't there have been fail-safe measures in the first place? Would his escape lead to greater security threats here?

Four government MPs also had some questions for Mr Wong in Parliament on Thursday.

Among them was Dr Teo Ho Pin, who wanted to know what was the level of security imposed on Mas Selamat Kastari during his detention. "This has raised concerns about our police force's vigilance, and security operating procedures," he said.

MP Ho Geok Choo - noting the possibility that there could be a network operating in the background to help Mas Selamat Kastari escape - asked Mr Wong what more the Home Ministry could do to prepare Singaporeans in the event of an emergency.

Mr Wong urged the House "not to speculate" until an independent investigation had completed its work.

He also warned that anyone who helps Mas Selamat Kastari would be committing a "grave offence". Under the Penal Code, a person who harbours a fugitive faces a jail sentence that may extend to 15 years or even a life term, as well as a fine.

TODAY understands that Mas Selamat's posters — with his picture and a number to call — are being put up in places such as bus interchanges and MRT stations.
Singapore's neighbours were yesterday also on alert, with Malaysian security forces beefing up patrols and distributing the JI leader's photos to various enforcement agencies. An Indonesian presidential spokesman told online news portal detik.com that Jakarta was coordinating very closely with Singapore’s security and intelligence agencies.

Even as Singaporeans are waiting for answers to the "how", security experts are already grappling with the question, "what next?"

Some believe that Mas Selamat Kastari — who once plotted to hijack a plane and crash it into Changi Airport — has four options: Hide and wait until there is a lull in the manhunt; make a dash for it and try to escape to a neighbouring country; or, if he feels cornered, Mas Selamat Kastari might resort to taking a hostage or even a reckless act of terror.

Mr Clive Williams, a professor with the Australian Defence Force Academy, predicted that Mas Selamat Kastari would try to reach Indonesia. "Because if he stays in Singapore, he’s going to be arrested fairly quickly," Mr Williams told AFP.



2 comments to "Where is Mas Selamat?"

Anonymous said...
March 18, 2008 at 4:59 PM

why bother? he's not your brother.

DJYano said...
March 18, 2008 at 7:13 PM

Why bother?i'm a singaporean and thats why i bother, he is a terrorist, and i love my country

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