So now we use our brains to find him

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DPM says hunt for Mas Selamat to focus on specific intelligence
By Channel NewsAsia | Posted: 26 March 2008 1154 hrs

SINGAPORE: The search for alleged JI leader of Singapore Mas Selamat Kastari will now become more targeted - based on specific intelligence on where he might be hiding.

Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng on Wednesday said information showed the wanted man is still in Singapore.

Mr Wong said the police and the Singapore Armed Forces have been conducting a systematic search of forested areas and unoccupied buildings.

This general search will be completed in about a week.

Mr Wong added that large ground forces deployment will be scaled down, but ground forces will remain ready to be activated.

It's interesting how the government has expended so much time and effort during the past month to track down Mas Selamat to no avail. More interesting is the unintended insinuation in this article that the government has failed to use its brains much during this manhunt. I can't agree more.

1. Searching 121 vacant or abandoned buildings
Yea right, I find it quite unlikely Mas Selamat would be as stupid as to hide in a vacant or abandoned building alone, without any means of obtaining food or having any of the basic amenities required for survival. Since hardly anyone (save the bogus reports) has spotted him so far, it is unlikely that he is alone. More probable is it that he is currently hidden away in the basement of some friend's house (maybe no basement if it's a HDB flat, but the idea is there), obtaining his food and other supplies through that friend of his. Then again, specific intelligence wasn't really the key focus of the government. It was more of, "time to cover our asses, spin some lovely crap and hope that everyone will think of us as being highly concerned about the safety of our people instead". Alas, Home Team searched 121 vacant buildings. I wonder how the Gurkas must have felt.

2. Jamming up the causeway
Yes, Mas Selamat might try to escape through the causeway. Yes, your KGB-level intelligence tells you that it's unlikely that he has left the island. But how wise exactly is it to focus on the causeway? I find it highly unlikely that Mas Selamat would risk his life attempting to leave the country so soon. Singapore's reputation for having an incorruptible and highly efficient Customs check at the causeway, together with a simple step-up of security by informing all Customs officers to be on the look out for someone resembling Mas Selamat should already be sufficient to deter any sane individual from attempting to escape. That said, methinks a scheming person like Mas Selamat would probably lie low now, wait till the enthusiasm dies down, then make his sneaky escape. Or maybe he won't even attempt to escape after all, since Singapore was really his target to begin with.

But the unlikeliness of Mas Selamat escaping through the causeway aside, how worth it is it really to expend so much resources on trying to catch mr terrorist? Mind you, the economic cost of the stringent checks at the causeway is something that cannot be overlooked. With lorry drivers from Malaysia complaining that the wait takes up to 24 hours during the first few weeks of the crackdown, and about 4-5 hours now (according to ICA), the delays in manhours lost and the delays in delivering goods are economic costs to both Malaysia and Singapore.

Really, the government should have focused on specific intelligence right from the start.

3. Expending limited policing resources combing forests and standing outside parading outside schools

What if I get robbed one fine morning because the policeman who usually patrols the area didn't come by today as he was busy standing guard outside SCGS. Who do I then blame? The robber for being a greedy bastard? Or the Home Team for sending off everyone responsible for keeping our streets safe to go comb forests.

Frankly speaking, I'm quite sure the robbers, kidnappers, molesters and friends don't take a break while Mas Selamat is on the lose. Using the police and the gurkas to comb forests and stand guard outside schools reeks of a disgraced government trying to cover their ass with a show of effort. Firstly, Mas Selamat is unlikely to be in such places to begin with. I mean, SCGS? Like Mr Wang said, Mas Selamat no pervert, just terrorist. What about forests? Maybe, but wouldn't it be much more likely that he's at somebody's house. Remember, he's poor -- meaning he'll have to steal from someone, and with all the hype, the person would probably recognize him immediately and make a police report (this hasn't happened) -- and just like you and me needs food, shelter and water to survive -- meaning he'll have to visit a store, which he clearly hasn't since again, no one has made such a police report.

Ah, but instead of allowing the police to continue doing their job, our dear government abuses them for the purpose of saving their own face.

On a side note, the government has portrayed this entire episode as an innocent mistake. Yet, if we look at the consequences of this mistake -- resources wasted in the aforementioned areas, the possibility of a future terror attack and the damage to our country's reputation -- I really doubt we can consider this an innocent mistake anymore.

Honestly, specific intelligence should have been the modus operandi from the start, not showbiz style cover ups that merely insult the intelligence of Singaporeans.