Thursday, February 28, 2008

Mas Hunt

So, a JI chief escaped from the ISD Detention Center at Onraet Rd. So many questions, so let's ask the most obvious: What the heck were the guards thinking?!?

Let's not blame the Minister, just like we won't blame a general if one of his lowly privates snapped and decided to open fire on his own forces; things happen. What we CAN look at are the security procedures and if there really was any lapse in the behaviour of his ahem... handlers.

I know this very clearly because I did the same thing for two years during NS, during my time as a MP at Kranji Detention Barracks. There were very clear and appropriate rules for handling detainees in-camp, outside of camp, etc. And woe betide any who forgets SOP and s*%t happened. And s*%t did happen during my time. I'm not at liberty to divulge details, but heads did not roll, only got slapped around. Thankfully, I was not involved, and in one of them, if I HAD been involved, it would never have happened.

So either the SOP was flawed, or the facilities were flawed, or the SOP was not followed, or all of the above. So let's take a closer look.

I don't think I'm giving away too much, since so much of it is common sense. When releasing a prisoner to the toilet, ask if it was a big one or small one. If a small one, then make him use a urinal. If a big one, boh pian, have to release him into a cubicle. Note that the handler need not be in the same cubicle as the prisoner! But the handler does have to, before releasing the prisoner into the cubicle, check the sides, top, and bottom of the cubicle for possible escape routes. Obviously, avoid those with a ventilation fan and/or flimsy wall structures. If necessary, call for backup to cover the cubicles on either side (if applicable). If the toilet is outside of camp, the prisoner should be handcuffed on the front even when he's passing a big one. No real need for handcuffs if in-camp, as apparently happened at ISD, but the handler must be near the toilet and constantly checking that the prisoner is where he should be. Yes, even if that means peeking below the door!

Now, if the toilet was within the camp boundaries and accessible to prisoners under guard, then strictly speaking, it should also be designed in such a way so as to prevent escape except through the door, since the prisoners using it would likely have both hands free, unless they're Hannibal Lecter, handcuffed, AND wearing a muzzle. The fact that Mas Selamat was able to escape means that the toilet was not designed properly for close surveillance by handlers, or to prevent escape... which implies the security chief wasn't doing his job. That's one head that HAS to roll. Off to the guillotine you go, sucker.

Same thing for the handlers. Sure, the guy's inside the toilet, and you can't exactly follow him in, but he's just one guy and you're supposed to be keeping track of him! I often call out every minute to make sure he's in there doing his business, and sometimes other means, like keeping an ear pressed to the toilet door to listen in to make sure there really is some action going on, or as I've noted earlier, peeking under the cubicle door. These methods are, however, not always applicable. If it sounds excessive, it's because I'm a paranoid freak, and better a paranoid freak than a headless wonder. Off with the heads of the handlers!

Now, about the SOP. Did the SOP say anything about sending prisoners to the obviously escapable toilet, or about pulling them back to the main cell-block for their toilet time, or did it just assume the handlers would know what to do? So the SOP was probably also flawed. Again, the buck stops at the desk of the head of security. Good thing he can't be beheaded twice.
There was some concern about the late announcement of Mas Selamat's escape. I happened to think that one reason behind the 4 hour delay was due to the authorities wanting to get everything set up before making the announcement. Because once you broadcast it, even his kakis would know about it, and start making the appropriate arrangements, making his escape even more likely. The 4 hour delay would probably involve detaining his family, quickly making the required phone calls, and getting the extra personnel to watch known JI sympathizers.

And of course, if they had managed to nab Mas within those 4 hours, everything would have been hushed up.

Mas is currently not a threat. He becomes a threat only if he manages to reconstruct his terrorist cell in Singapore with recruited sympathizers. He can't do it alone. He's not the Unabomber. And the hysteria over his escape... sheesh... like he's going to risk capture by breaking into houses or going after schoolgirls!!! For what?!?

No, what he did immediately after escaping was to figure out a way to leave the area by the most concealed route possible. He might probably take the risk of pulling a few clothes off a handy clothesline to change out of his prison garb (if they wear fugly uniforms in there). Even with a limp, in 10 minutes he could be 1 km away. In one hour, he could be 6 km away, in Bukit Timah, Toa Payoh, Bishan or Ang Mo Kio, and lose himself in the masses of people there. With the delayed announcement of his escape, he would be very safe until the public is shown his face.

His next objective is to get to a place where he could hide out, rest, and eat. This means he has to seek out one of his kakis for help by going to their home. Almost certainly, he got it. And once he had contacted the kaki, it would be a simple matter to find Mas a pair of shades to hide his eyes, obscuring his facial features, and find him transport to wherever they felt was a safe location with enough food and drink for a week(at least, can buy from a provision shop, no problem!). Once there, he could just wait out the storm without requiring any contact from his kakis.

During this period of intense searching for him, he's probably laughing his head off watching the pointless antics of the government on TV. It's amazing that the authorities expect him to stroll out there into the streets for them to arrest! Nah, he's going to sit tight, wait for the storm to abate, then start looking for ways to get off the island. In my grossly uneducated estimation, I think he'll still be around for a week to a month, after which he would have managed to escape to Malaysia or Indonesia.

And no, he's not going to be so stupid as to go by the usual routes out of Singapore, unless he thinks his chances are really very good.

So that's Mas Selamat's gameplan, I think. What's the guvment's?

The massive show of force was sheer idiocy, a pointless public relations exercise. Stepping up security at ISD was really a matter of barring the barn door after the horse had bolted. (BTW, the article at the Straits Times described the ISD detention center as having "armed guards, high wire fences, CCTV cameras". What would you expect there? Surf, a sauna? No s#$t, Sherlock.)

No, they should go for the soft play. Make the announcement, yes, send people to comb the woods, but more importantly, put his family and known associates under tight surveillance. Don't approach them, just observe and tail them carefully. Tap their phonelines. Make Mas feel that the worst is over. Then bag him when and if he gets sloppy.

Easier said than done, obviously, but the way they're working right now is well... silly. The fact they've called off the mass mobilization only tends to reinforce the fact that it was a public relations ploy, to show that: "Hey! We're doing something!" Even if it's not going to be useful. Just another wayang show. Nothing to see, move along now.
Obviously, there are members of the public who would demand a higher level of quality from the personnel guarding the prisoners, but in my experience, those who can do the job well (plenty of prime candidates I know from my time in DB) are often tapped for more important stuff (they are also almost all university graduates), and those with real ability have higher ambitions than to be paid a measly two thousand dollars(I think) guarding a wart in the forest. It's a basic economic limitation. Unless the government is willing to spend larger amounts of money to attract these people, those applying for, and getting the jobs would be the equivalent of our lower echelon workers.

Oh well, that's all I have to say about this matter. Now, one of these days I should demonstrate the trick of switching being cuffed from the back, to the front, and then using a pair of spectacles to unlock the cuffs...


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