After the COI findings were announced, the big question still lingers in everyone’s mind – where is Mas Selamat? Doesn’t matter (actually in a certain sense it does, but let’s all assume that it doesn’t) how he managed to find all the loopholes to get out. What’s more important is… is he receiving help from some people. Is he hiding somewhere? Is he preparing for a come back? Is he preparing for sweet revenge? Is he going to pay back double of what he didn’t manage to do – bombing some port and some other ports at the same time? Is he planning some collaborative terrorism? (Actually, I secretly suspect that everyone’s thinking why DPM Wong isn’t fired, but that’s not a politically correct thing to say because I have no statistics and NRIC numbers of people who think of it that way).

Well, no one has the answer (no, not even smarties).

I’m sure the effort is still on going to find him – making use of whatever intelligence (as in intel, not the IQ type) there is to find him. However, even as the government starts to streamline search efforts, all they got was, unintentionally, a lot of illegal immigrants and vices, which loosely translates to more work for the police and the ICA.

Frankly, it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack. If you have not tried it before, try searching for a grain of salt in your sugar mug – that’s how difficult it is. What’s worse is if he has friends to the likes of Dr Woffles Wu (in all due respect because I think he’s one famous plastic surgeon in Singapore) who can probably give him a new face and a new identity. He’d probably need to have an orthopaedic specialist to fix that leg of his to give him the perfect face off. No one will ever recognise him and if he keep out of trouble until his next attack – it’d be the perfect plan.

If he’s really receiving help, I don’t think the authorities will stand a good chance of finding him – not that they will never be able to find him, but it’s just a slimmer chance. Do I think efforts should be stepped down? Well, as much as it makes economic sense to stand down, I think it’s good for them to continue – but like DPM Wong and whoever that’s inside said – it should be streamlined. At least it’d keep him on his toes.

The last thing that we can all hope for is for someone to expose him – or in Hokkien – bao2 dou1. However, given the group’s unity, it’s highly improbable that that will ever happen. So I guess it’s back to our daily lives for many of us, while this incident fades into obscurity (and no, don’t even harp on DPM Wong stepping down).

Do not even think of helping or harbouring Singapore’s most wanted man, Mas Selamat Kastari.

Anyone caught aiding him will find himself in serious trouble with the law.

A Ministry of Home Affairs spokesman told The Sunday Times that the person will face imprisonment for life, or a jail term which may extend to 15 years, and will also be liable to a fine.

Aiding the escape of, or harbouring, a prisoner is a breach of Section 130 of the Penal Code.

In Parliament last Monday, Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng gave a detailed account of how Mas Selamat was likely to have escaped from the Whitley Road Detention Centre on Feb 27.

He noted that even as the authorities confirmed that no one helped the Jemaah Islamiah leader break out from the centre, there is a possibility that he could have secured help after his escape.

Said Mr Wong: ‘While there is no intelligence to confirm this, the possibility cannot be dismissed and is indeed a scenario pursued by the Internal Security Department (ISD) even now.’

The question that has not ceased being asked: So where is Mas Selamat now?

Terrorism experts The Sunday Times spoke to said that the 47-year-old fugitive could well be getting help now to evade arrest.

‘The chances are high that someone is harbouring him,’ said Dr Rohan Gunaratna, head of Singapore’s International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research.

‘That is why the Government must repeatedly announce the severity of harbouring a person of Mas Selamat’s notoriety.’

The group most likely to assist him, experts say, are people who are sympathetic towards his situation.

If help is indeed being given, it is also more likely to come from a group than a lone person, they speculated.

Mr Saifullah Khan, research analyst at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), added that harbouring a man of Mas Selamat’s profile is tough, especially in an HDB flat, since neighbours’ suspicions would be easily roused.

‘In flats, people can see and hear what is going on. But if a group of people living in the same area work together, it’ll be easier to harbour such a man,’ he said.

If harboured in a secluded spot with low human traffic, Mas Selamat could possibly go undetected for ‘an indefinite period’, experts said.

Dr John Harrison, an assistant professor at RSIS, said: ‘He would keep a low profile, careful not to draw unwanted attention to the flat. Others will then feed him food and information.’

If indeed harboured, the experts speculate that Mas Selamat would lie low till ‘things die down’ and then make his escape out of the country.

Others, however, believe it is unlikely he is holed up in a flat or building. Rather, they believe he is still roaming Singapore’s forested areas.

One survival expert, who wanted to be known only as Mr Tamilselvam, said that someone with Mas Selamat’s jungle skills could easily survive in Singapore’s forests for up to two years.

Mr Tamilselvam, 57, who used to be an instructor to the Singapore Armed Forces commandos and conducted jungle survival training for soldiers, said that iguanas, squirrels and edible plants are available for food.

Also, items like groundsheets and water bottles, which are sometimes left behind by soldiers during training, could be hoarded by the fugitive and come in handy.

Mas Selamat, who reportedly received military training in Afghanistan, would also be careful to travel only in the day to prevent sustaining injuries at night.

Said Mr Tamilselvam: ‘It is most important that he doesn’t injure himself. If he needs medication, things could get complicated.’

But Dr Gunaratna thinks it unlikely that Mas Selamat is still hiding in the forests.

Even with his jungle expertise, he thinks that it is hard for Mas Selamat to survive in a jungle for long since he is used to operating in an urban environment.

Meanwhile, the Home Affairs Ministry said that members of Mas Selamat’s family have been interviewed by the police and ISD.

It also reiterated that targeted searches based on intelligence and leads in forested areas are still ongoing.

‘We will continue our search for Mas Selamat for as long as it takes until he is apprehended,’ said a spokesman.

It added that tightened security at coastlines and checkpoints will continue to deny him any chance of fleeing the country.

Experts, too, felt that the fugitive is still somewhere in Singapore.

But on his possible future movements, International Crisis Group analyst Sidney Jones said: ‘If he could find a way to get out of Singapore, then Indonesia would probably be his first choice.

‘There, he has friends and contact, a network that can hide him, and knowledge of the area.’

mavistoh@sph.com.sg

Article obtained from straitstimes.com on 27th April 2008



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