A few days ago, Wong Kan Seng told Parliament that an "independent investigation
" will be done to find out how the terrorist Mas Selamat Kastari escaped from the Whitley Road Detention Centre. Today, the Straits Times has an article about the commission of inquiry:
ST March 2, 2008
Commission of inquiry to probe JI terrorist's escape
A THREE-MEMBER Commission of Inquiry (COI) has been set up to investigate the escape of terrorist Mas Selamat Kastari from the Whitley Road Detention Centre last Wednesday afternoon.
Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng vowed on Sunday that no stone will be left unturned and no effort will be spared in tracking down the Singapore Jemaah Islamiah (JI) militant chief, who is still on the run after nearly five days of extensive land, sea and air search involving more than 1,000 policemen, soldiers and Special Operation Command forces.
The three commission members appointed to carry out the inquiry are retired High Court judge Goh Joon Seng, now a member of the Council of Presidential Advisors, former Commissioner of Police Tee Tua Ba, who is now Singapore's Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, and Dr Choong May Ling, Deputy Secretary (Security and Corporate Services) of the Ministry of Home Affairs.
The commission is expected to complete the inquiry and submit its report within a month.
.......... Mr Wong said the Commission of Inquiry would be thorough in its probe 'so that we can get an objective, balanced and comprehensive report on what took place and what we must do'.
On the commission members, Mr Wong said Mr Goh, who retired from the Supreme Court in 2000 after serving for almost 10 years, has a very good standing in the community and had contributed to the public service in various capacities since 1970.
Mr Tee, 66, who was the Police Commissioner from 1992 to 1997, 'is experienced and the knowledge he has on police operations will add value to the committee', said the Minister.
Dr Choong started her career in the Ministry of Health and has held various senior positions in different ministries before joining the Home Affairs Ministry in December 2003.
I found the above article quite disturbing. Let me elaborate.
Goh Joon Seng is a good choice. This man will know how to ask all the right questions and scrutinise the evidence with a fine-tooth comb. As a former Supreme Court judge, he has plenty of experience doing things like that.
Tee Tua Ba is also a good choice. As the former Commissioner of Police, he will have plenty of experience in security issues. Furthermore, as he has already retired from the Ministry of Home Affairs, we can be reasonably confident that he will be able to operate independently.
But Dr Choong May Ling is a bad choice. I do not know what she's doing there on the committee. For goodness sakes, the woman is the current
MHA Deputy Secretary. You cannot put the current
MHA Deputy Secretary on the commission and call this an "independent investigation". Clearly there would be potential for conflict of interest.
For the sake of discussion, let's just suppose that the reason why Mas Selamat managed to escape is that the detention centre was poorly-run, under-resourced and had inadequate security controls. This would indicate that the Ministry of Home Affairs has been negligent.
Do we really expect the MHA Deputy Secretary (of Security, no less) to come forward and tell us that? And effectively slap her own face in public? As well as that of her boss, Wong Kan Seng? The man who decides the size of her annual bonus?
Just to be clear, my post has nothing to do with the personal character of Choon May Ling. I know nothing about her. For all I know, she actually might
be a very brave, righteous and honest person who would
do a thorough investigation and speak the truth. No matter what the personal consequences may be for her.
On the other hand, by virtue of her current work capacity, Choon May Ling, in my opinion, is simply not a suitable candidate. Not for an inquiry commission that is tasked to conduct an independent
If you need an analogy, it would be like asking one of TT Durai's fellow NKF board directors to investigate the NKF scandal. Some of the directors may
actually be honest and capable. But due to the potential conflict of interest, none
of them are suitable persons to be conducting the independent investigation. The public would not be able to have confidence that the investigation would indeed be objectively carried out.