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Sunday, 2 March 2008

Mas Selamat bin Kastari - rumours, beliefs and conspiracy theories

The escape of Jemaah Islamiah leader, Mas Selamat bin Kastari, from a detention centre has been in the headlines for the past week. Not a day goes by without some new developments about the search or additional security measures or terrorism in general.

But no one has mentioned the elephant in the room: whose heads will roll? Let's see, there are the detention centre's guards who didn't learn the lesson from the Took Leng How case (the murderer of Huang Na who escaped police custody by using the toilet). Then there are the centre's general security personnel who patrol the walls and gates and keep an eagle eye on the CCTV monitors.

Hmm, maybe the head of the detention centre too, for his lax command. And his superior officer for appointing the former. I could continue all the way up the ladder of leadership, but I'll just say that if this had happened in almost any other democratic country, we all know who'd be the first to "accept responsibility".

On the other hand, that little nugget has been adding fire to the conspiracy theory. Mas Selamat was not only allowed to escape, but he's no longer in Singapore too. In spite of what the "experts" say, conspiracy theorists believe that the terrorist is already resting his lame leg in a JI hideout in a jungle somewhere. And the Internal Security Department has a trace on him, so that they know where the JI cells and leaders are.

That means that the increase in national security is nothing more than an illusion. It doesn't matter that our law enforcers currently look like fools. The long-term goal is twofold: capture more JI leaders while keeping the nation in check. True or not? Depends on whether you believe in conspiracy theories or subscribe to the Sherlock Holmes belief, i.e. the most logical explanation is often the simplest one.

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