ST April 5, 2008Let's put it this way. MM Lee is an extremely prominent government leader. Now a terrorist has run away from prison - no matter how you look at it, this is a very major mess-up. One of MM Lee's key tasks is therefore to manage public perception of this matter.
JI MAN MAS SELAMAT'S ESCAPE
Guards were negligent, says MM
His message: Those who think nothing can go wrong are being complacent
By Sue-Ann Chia & Goh Chin Lian
FUGITIVE Mas Selamat Kastari was 'an escape artist' who had evaded arrest many times, and Singapore's security officers knew this, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew said yesterday.
Yet, the Jemaah Islamiah terrorist leader was able to lull his minders at the Whitley Road Detention Centre into believing that they had him under control, before he gave them the slip.
'When you are complacent in handling a wily detainee, then you have been negligent,' Mr Lee told The Straits Times in an e-mail interview.
He responded to questions on the issue of complacency for today's Insight feature which takes off from his earlier comments on Mas Selamat's disappearance.
He said last month that the break-out was a 'very severe lesson in complacency'.
Mas Selamat, 47, who had planned to crash a plane into Changi Airport, escaped from Internal Security Department custody on Feb 27. He is still on the run.
The Government has promised a full account of how he escaped, after a three-member panel completes its investigations.
In answering questions posed by The Straits Times, Mr Lee addressed the issue of complacency among citizens, saying: 'Anyone who believes nothing can or will go wrong in Singapore is living in a make-believe world.'
He said Singaporeans are being complacent when they believe that the Government will take care of all security matters.
MPs and political observers interviewed for the Insight feature said decades of peace and prosperity could have caused some Singaporeans to believe the Government had everything under control and nothing could go wrong.
How did complacency creep in? Some observers like former MP Augustine Tan blamed indifference or lack of understanding of the Government's workings.
Others felt the Government was partly to blame.
People's Action Party MP Lim Wee Kiak called complacency a 'side-effect' of an overly successful Government and civil service.
'This has bred a dependency mentality in our population who will blame the civil service and Government if any of their needs are not met,' he noted.
But MM Lee disagreed that the Government deserved to be blamed. He said: 'Complacency sets in when a people have not suffered any shock or setback for a long time.'
Hence, his warnings against complacency over the years, 'because most people believe that bad things will happen to others, not to themselves'.
It seems to me that MM Lee is opting for a fairly sophisticated communications strategy to do this. He's striving to place Mas Selamat's escape in a much wider broader context - about the complacency not of his government, but of the entire nation of 4,000,000 Singapore citizens.
Thus MM Lee wants to say that yes, there was a bungle-up at the detention centre; BUT no, it was not really the government's fault (he'll gloss quickly over this part); INSTEAD let's talk about the wider, more-important and very urgent issue of national complacency (that means you, me, Tan Ah Kow and the neighbourhood kopi tiam man - not Wong Kan Seng).
And then the government PR machinery will launch into the "broad complacency" theme - and discuss our complacency about our economic competitiveness; our water supplies; our lack of natural resources; and of our young generation of Singapore citizens who never experienced the racial riots of the 1950s etc.
With perhaps just a little lip service to the real matter - Mas Selamat and MHA's complacency, in February 2008.
(Remember? Or were you successfully distracted already).
Now why did I say that I think MM Lee will be angry? Basically, this communication strategy is quite elaborate. It is not that easy to push this one through. No doubt - MM Lee will have the nation-building cooperation of the nation-building press. But technically speaking, it will still not easy to push this one through; it requires quite a lot of skilful spin on the local media's part.
And the Strait Times really did a bad job. This particular article failed to sell. It is just outright illogical & unpersuasive. Yes, many Singaporeans are dumb enough to be duped by anything. But many other Singaporeans who aren't even particularly bright will go, "Harrrh? What is MM Lee trying to say? Mas Selamat run away, is MY fault arh??"
Yes, that is exactly what the article is trying to say - see these excerpts:
He said last month that the break-out was a 'very severe lesson in complacency'.When you break down the message like that, it becomes quite obvious how nonsensical it is. Of course citizens should expect their government to take care of a security matter like detaining Mas Selamat - were you going to entrust that task to the security guards at your private condo.
...... Mr Lee addressed the issue of complacency among citizens, saying: 'Anyone who believes nothing can or will go wrong in Singapore is living in a make-believe world.'
He said Singaporeans are being complacent when they believe that the Government will take care of all security matters.
... People's Action Party MP Lim Wee Kiak called complacency a 'side-effect' of an overly successful Government and civil service.
... MM Lee disagreed that the Government deserved to be blamed.
The article is just doing a very bad job of subliminal persuasion, that is all. MM Lee will be very disappointed with the Straits Times.
HAHAHA! You have a lovely way of putting things into proper perspective!
i was dumbfounded after reading the article. very amusing article for the weekend. try harder, nation builder press...
I think MM Lee and the government basically want to have their cake and eat it (at the expense of the citizens of course).
Reading between the lines, what MM Lee is saying is: Singaporeans have become complacent because through an "overly successful" government, they have built up unrealistic expectations of what the government can do.
So Singaporeans should not always expect the government to have a perfect record in everything - in this case, the escape of an ISD detainee who is an alleged terrorist.
From this, MM Lee then uses the specious argument the government can't be FULLY acountable for this debacle because you the citizens had unreasonably high expectations of the government. This is your typical PAP thinking- heads I win, tails I also win.
I wouldn't be the least surprised if the COI report came up with a knock-out line like this: It is only to be expected that in spite of our constant vigilance, there would eventually be a lapse in our security efforts against terrorism. We have learned from this episode and tightened our security protocols. Singaporeans should now CLOSE RANKS AND MOVE ON!
The ST might be doing a poor job of pushing the propaganda cart, but that's the result of placing people who aren't trained as journalists (or even cogent writers) as editors.
Perhaps this is just a report doing a willfully bad job because they understand the cheesy rhetoric at work. While the ST might function as a mouthpiece of the ruling government, I don't know if you can paint all the journalists working there with the broad brush of government servitude.
Speculation aside, all you need is a couple of choice quotes placed in the wrong (or right) sequence to make a spin convincing (or otherwise). Sometimes I wonder if the poor spinning at the ST is due to incompetence, or deliberate negligence on the part of disgruntled journalists.
i love all your posts :p just that i don't really dare blog all my views down =X
haha! this is funny. Govt should keep wong kan seng and sack Dr tony Tan from SPH instead. whoopee....
I did think that the article didn't sound right, but I couldn't put my finger on it. Thanks for helping me understand! I need to work more on reading critically!
ST is very good in this. Remember Lee Hsien Loong said "mee siam mai hum" (no cockles) during live telecast ND rally and heard clearly by all? What did ST spinned it next day? "mee siam mai hiam" (no chilli) so it sounded better.
So from this episode you can see what is ST really up to. Sigh!
Just hope that the internet here can correct this, just like they do in Malaysia.
In response to what you have written, I suggest an alternative reading of the article here.
Really stupid that the article seems to suggest that the terrorist escaping is our fault, not the gov't's.. it's like saying 9-11 was the American citizens' fault.
"He said Singaporeans are being complacent when they believe that the Government will take care of all security matters."
Maybe the ST can also do another feature or suggest to readers where to load up on weapons since we'd be complacent if we believe the Government will take care of all security matters.
I'll just point to this article if I happened to book out with my rifle next reservist training.. haha
F1 racer crashes into bollards. Dozens of spectators injured or dead. Organisers point finger "Those in the audience were complacent".
Isn't it? They took so long to realize?
It is our fault. It is our fault we paid them millions because they grew fat and lazy. Not to mention complacency. It is still the 66.6%'s fault of those who voted for them in the last election. Yes it is our fault to begin with. You reap what you sow.
And I know it is not my fault because I didn't.
We should be grateful for a press that communicates in no uncertain terms the mindset of policymakers.
This is yet another indication of a government which is bankrupt of ideas as to how to rally the people. It ranks worst than the argument they put forward that raising of GST is to help the poor. With people of such calibre at the top, how long can Singapore survive ?
It is undeniablly and indisputable that there are great problems in the management of our country. And the problems are certainly due to gross negligence and diacritical complacence.
Now is time to put our heads together and determine why and how such a failure has happened in a First World Country run by the best elites.
Due to recent events such as Mas Selamat Escape, Phenomenal Remunerations of Rulers, ever rising costs of living and other unfortunate events, someone in the Blogosphere thinks that there is a diabolic war between the Leadership and the People(Citizens).
The Conflicts between the Rulers and the People itself is indicative of poor management of the Country. Who are responsible for the situation the People and the Country are in now?
Maybe the other elites such as sociologists, social sciences professionals, strategists and experts working under the Leadership should enlighten and show their mettles. They must be duty bound to make this country a cohesive and prosperous nation, are they not?
LKY as usual is trying to smoke his way thru.. but seriously his methods no longer apply in today's world and are getting lousier by the yr. Nowadays he does more damage to the PAP every time he opens his mouth. This time even without the bootlicking SPH people can see through the engineered BS.
Mr Wang, thanks for sharing your critical analysis of the story.
I also like Molly's comic take on the complacent citizen spin.
For once Im glad that ST has dumb writers, thanks for telling it like it is..whether you wanted to or not!
While we're on this subject, what is everyone doing abt this anyway? (Looking at 66.6%)... its all your fault.
I would interpret what he said this way. It all depends on what you mean by "government". It could mean just the higher echelons of the executive, and I think this is what he has in mind when the "government" is not to be blamed.
The other way of interpreting "government" is to include all the civil servants all the way down to the constable recruit. To what extent are they responsible for the government, considering that most of them just carry out instructions? They could be no different from citizens which most of them are.
And this is a distinction that we unconsciously use a lot of them time. When we comprain about the gahment, when we say "fuck the PAP" we are usually thinking about the first group of people, and not every single guy who works under them.
The most likely interpretation of what LKY said is: the higher echelons of the government (henceforth government1) in their infinite wisdom have been kiasu enough to prevent this from happening, but the foot soldiers (henceforth government2) have been infected with the malaise which is the complacency of citizens in general. (Not much confusion here since government2 are all citizens anyway, except maybe the Gurkas). This complacency has pervaded the government2 in spite of the best efforts of government1.
It is because government1 has done such a good job of keeping Singapore safe that government2 has become lax in exercising their duties.
But this unconscious slip is unfortunately symtomatic of the class system that divides the lower and the upper echelons of the civil service.
'Of course citizens should expect their government to take care of a security matter like detaining Mas Selamat - were you going to entrust that task to the security guards at your private condo.'
PLEASE. Citizens of Singapore. How can we reach out to you to make sure there is enough check and balance in parliament? We are fed stupid propoganda everyday and yet you do not want to take some risks to get more opposition in. Don't blame that the quality of opposition is not up to stnadard blah blah blah.. we have to start somewhere because we allowed this to happen. WAKE UP SINGAPORE!
Since our MM and his puppies has admitted that we Singaporeans have been too complacent (which implies that MM himself and all the PAP Ministers are also equally complacent) , shall we as tax payers NOW demand that all our Ministers be paid a salary that is commensurate with their current level of complacency, which I believe should be many notches below that of a world class efficient government.
To continue drawing a world class salary is tantamount to cheating us complacent citizens of our hard earned taxpayer's monies.
Isn't that the greatest joke of the year, a whole bunch of complacent cheats in our Cabinet !
I remembered that a policeman said that the government is equal to the PAP, in an open court during a court trial of an opposition member.
The problem is that any decision made by "low level government" will have to be approved by "high level government". When the "low level government" did not do their jobs, it is still the responsibility of "high level government" to ensure since they are very "kaisu".
When have Singaporean citizens (not the funny term "residents" by MOM) been involved in any thing to do with ISA and its ISD. ISD people are specially trained, you mean these highly trained security personnel are easily influenced by the citizens of Singapore. This got to be the joke of the year. We don't know if our HDB neighbours work for ISD, then how do uncles and aunties change their minds.
Do you know the Gurkas' living quarters have a fortified compound at Mt Veron? It has barbed wires and security gates. You mean we can walk in and change their minds? It has been mentioned that they are not allowed to mix with the local population, in order not to get too personal when there are conflicts. So that they can "put down" any local conflict without any hesitation.
You really cannot connect the dots between Singapore citizens and ISD personnel.
In the context of ISA and MSK, you mean that the "high level government" was being slack with "low level government"? We have not seen this kind of slackness between the "high and low level government" when the police was surrounding the four people during a major event.
Are they still finding excuses? They now have to use the services of our esteemed leader to spin things back within their controls.
Actually MM Lee is technically correct...
Here's why - the guards are Singaporeans and hence if the guards are complacent, then by the same extension of logic, that makes some Singaporeans complacent...
What happened to the COI? From 3 persons now reduced to 1 person (MM) izzit???
Thanks for highlighting this ST article. Otherwise I would have missed it.
Maybe I should start subscribing to ST again, just for laughs.
Hi Mr Wang,
Thanks for alerting us from another angle. I was thinking that the Editor might have chopped up the original article until it has become such a lousy job. Or, perhaps, these two writers, Su-Ann and Chin have the intention of purposely stirring up public sentiments for whatever reasons known only to them?
Come to think of it, it really is the fault of Singapore citizens. It is their fault because they voted for the PAP to run the country.
I guess if we loose money bailing out failing banks, it will also be Singapore citizen's fault, no less. If we make money, well, you know who takes the credit. Certainly not the citizens.
I think I do not have to wait for the so-called experts I mentioned in my earlier post above to enlighten us. They are unlikely to shed anything here in Mr Wangs' Blogs.
From most writings in the Socio-political Blogs, it is clear that breakdown in relations between the Government and its' citizens has reached irreconcilable level. It portends conflicts, confrontations, contentions that will lead to war cries.
How wise is the Leadership if it leads to a miscarriage of nationhood when none had been created before, after Independence?
To me, it is a total failure right from the start four decades ago. Intuitively, I felt(and feel) that the Man who got the Independence on a platter from the British was(is) a fame seeker, a self glorifying man so to say. I wish all these years that I will be wrong, but alas I am badly disappointed.
It is very sad to the many local born citizens that within four decades, the state of affairs for Singapore is so disappointing and hopeless. It cannot be denied that finger pointings between the Rulers and the Ruled are frequent and getting rampant.
HOW AND WHY ARE LEADERS SO DISREPECTED? AND EVEN CURSED AND HATED. WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO DESERVE SUCH ANIMOSITY?
It seems that the MM has already come to his conclusions even before the CoI report.
Frankly, there are many sides to reality. ST reports one side of it - as seen from the ruling class.
A people deserves the government it elects. The people of this land chose this state of affairs, thru' their action or inaction.
Learn to live with it.
COI job is basically dissolved. Anyway, all this spinning makes a mockery of their recent astronomic pay revision. C'mon, let's get real ...
PS: I mostly stopped paying attention to our nation bldg media *sigh*
They're master at the blame game. When you pocket a huge chunk of public monies and swear by the Singapore flag that you will do your utmost for the people, you have better learn basic manners and that is: if you have messed up the toilet, flush it yourself. Incidentally, the daily papers are there to wipe yourself, not others!
Well, MM Lee was right, if only partly.
To begin with, it is absurd to attribute such anthropomorphic terms as 'complacence' and 'gratitude' to the government, which is merely an inanimate framework through which Singapore is administered.
Which is to say that, while the government is incapable of 'complacence' or 'apology', there is also no need for people to feel 'grateful' to the government. The government is only as good as the people running it. The system that supposedly enabled Singapore to catapult itself to first-world status would have crashed and burned had Singaporeans not did their part.
An overreliance on the government or any sociopolitical system is never the fault of citizens. It is in people's nature to rely on an object that works well. And when its marketers resort to concocting various fabrications to retain its customers, with the implicit help of its manufacturer, the customer is left with no choice, especially when the manufacturer ignores customer feedback and squashes all competition discompassionately.
A democratic system, hence, is a means to mitigate such wanton excesses by such a monopoly by returning control to the people. Unfortunately, two-thirds of Singaporeans are still sweet-talked by the marketers to even contemplate any change in product.
"COI job is basically dissolved."
Is that right? I thought they promised to have a COI?
What a joke. How to take them seriously anymore?
Isn't that what is precisely the mouthpiece is created for- a political tool of the ruling party.
Apparently party cadres in the 'Titanic' SPH have REFUSED to learn from the experience of BN electoral defeat.
It no longer carries the voices of the citizens of Republic of Singapore but that of the ruling elite.
The MM is something of an armchair critic. How is he able to know that exactly how we all feel about security? He must be counting on some lousy survey numbers.
If we are all complacent and think security is the business of those who are paid to do that job, tell me why are there members of the public who help nab robbers. Why do people call in tips? Done out of complacency?
You think if MSK were to appear somewhere on this island now and is seen by members of the public, no one will bat an eye or call 999? If he doesn't limp quickly out of sight, he'd have guys jumping on his back.
Call us complacent. Tell him to put his ears to the ground.
Singaporeans have not forgotten how people like Ling, Neo and the like in the opposition camp who were given the opportunity to run and manage their won constituencies. It was a big flop to say the least!
Today, Singapore's electorates are smarter. "Opposition yes; but not in MY wards." It doesn't pay.
There are armchair critics everywhere but performers, few.
At the end of the day we still have neither oil nor any natural resource. And we need jobs, food, education for our kids, proper sanitation, clean water, electricity, etc. . . . .
So, why rock the boat for experimentation? We don't play play with our livelihood in this tumultuous dog-eat-dog world, do we?
There may be good reason for him to mention on this wild card of conplacency. After all he is Sir MM Lee!!
i have the 'weirdest' experience in a phone conversation with a mid level- Deputy Director of NAC!
During the 31 min conversation, he was silence/muted for 3 occasions! imagine holding on the phone for 3-4 mins in silence.
To read it - http://tankwankliang.blogspot.com/2008/04/weirdest-telephone-conversation-with.html
Yah Lor!!! The limper escaped, and it is our fault and everybody else's problem except for those who are responsible, namely the PAPpy gahmen and the unholy trinity of the father, the son and the unholy Goh.
ST should've known by now, how to put things into perspective in favour of the PAP
Classic LKY!! If something goes wrong every one in Singapore are to be at fault. Shared responsibility? Not quite.
For if things goes smoothly it is they, the PAP ministers who have the vision, forsight, etc, etc to get things going. Nothing about the the citizens. You don't get the praise or accolades. You just do what you are told. That's all.
The ultimate in Singaporeans complaccency and negligence is to keep the pap in power for 49 years. It is indeed worrying that Singaporeans continue to be controlled and manipulated by this 84 years old hack. This is worst that allowing Mas to escape if Singaporeans are indeed to be blamed as LKY made it out.
I knew it. LKY has a way with turning black to white and white to black. That is THE skill needed for being the Prime Minister of Singapore. Have we found him or her yet?
Isn't the Govt itself propagating complacency? I mean if WKS screwed up but didnt get fired, then wdn't WKS be complacent or get even more complacent?
Man! The shit piles up so thick over the years that one really needs wings to stay above.
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