berthahenson

The man in the golden Merc

In News Reports on March 10, 2014 at 1:38 am

After declaring that he was “deeply disappointed’’ with the first immigration breach which allowed a Malaysian woman to tour Singapore for days, DPM Teo Chee Hean has now given the ICA a “chiding’’ for the second breach on Friday. Anyway, that’s the word ST used in its headline to describe what DPM Teo thought of the breach in which a 65- year old man in a golden Merc drove through Woodlands with impunity.

I had visions of a Dad reprimanding his wayward but cute kid for doing something naughty. So it was with great relief when I read the term “sharp rebuke’’ in the ST story later. That’s better….

Reading today’s ST, TNP and TODAY, I am not sure if I had the full picture of what happened at Woodlands. Reading TNP was especially disheartening. Because the ICA and Police top cops weren’t particularly re-assuring about the level of security we have.

Anyway, here’s what happened: The man in the golden Merc, a Malaysian who is a Singapore PR, cleared the first passport checkpoint and then got cold feet at the second when he was asked to open his spare tyre compartment in his boot. He made some excuse, got into the driver’s seat and scooted off, apparently with boot cover still flapping.

The cat claw barrier was activated. So somebody was fast enough to hit button. Excellent!

Now here’s where it got fuzzy. The official phrase is that the barrier “did not work optimally’’. What’s optimally? Well, the barrier when fully extended can go up to 30cms. We don’t know if it was fully up before the Merc drove over but the car took just 20 seconds to cross over. Therefore, how fast can this barrier go up fully?

Now it seemed that its two front tyres were punctured. But nothing was said about the back two. How far can you drive with two punctured front tyres…anybody?

Then it seemed an auxillary police officer “smashed’’ the back right window’s windscreen but ST helpfully said that video footage circulated online showed it was intact. Rather daring of ST since the video leakage, taken by a smart phone off a computer showing the CCTV recording, is now an Official Secrets Act investigation and should not be circulated.

TODAY reported that the officer was injured, but said nothing else of his injuries. So….how’s the guy doing – and what exactly did he do?

It looked like the Home Team learnt from its first lesson and did the correct thing next.

There was an “immediate alert’’, even to taxi drivers to watch out for the vehicle. Can’t be that many 24 year old gold Mercs around…They even rang the man on his mobile phone. But he managed to drive round the island for four hours, and even switched vehicles at one point, according to TODAY’s report. What vehicle I wonder.

On Friday at 830pm, the “vehicle’’, presumably the golden Merc, was recovered. Dunno where. Forty-five minutes later, the man was arrested. Dunno how or where. Four other men were also taken for questioning. There is a stash of drugs somewhere in this story. Dunno whether it was in the Merc’s booth, which was what got him antsy. Seems the Merc driver zips in and out of the Causeway every day too…      

That’s the Friday saga as far as I can tell from reading the reports.

Now, I am just an armchair critic, but I want to exercise my right as a concerned citizen to ask a few questions regarding the security of this country. (Hope that sounded important and pompous enough…)

As someone weaned on TV police dramas, how come no patrol car chased the Merc? The answer, as reported by TNP, was that it was “resource issue’’ (read: not enough people) and the ICA had expected the barrier to work (read: faith in technology).

The quote from Police Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police Lau Peet Meng: “Honestly, putting a man and a police car and waiting for something like that is certainly not the best use of police resources.’’

You know, I happen to think stationing a cop, even an auxillary one, in banks is also a waste of resources. How many times do you think a bank gets robbed? Still, the banks seem to think its worth the money to have an officer around even though there are CCTVs as well. Or maybe the presence of a uniform is merely to deter would-be bank robbers. So having a cop car conspicuously on the ready is not a good deterrant as well? Okay. I don’t know.    

There was another question posed: What if these drivers with derring-do were really terrorists?

The quote from ICA Deputy Commissioner Aw Kum Cheong: “If a terrorist is determined enough, I think there are not many things we can do to stop them. But I think part of the measures that are implemented is always to make sure that we provide enough deterrence to slow people down. Proper reinforcement and investigations can then take place.’’ He said making the checkpoint terrorist-proof would essentially “paralyse’’ the process.

I don’t know about you but do you get the impression that terrorism isn’t such a big deal? I’m sure that’s not the cop’s intent but he should really be careful about what he says. In any case, I am not sure stationing a cop car to chase down fleeing immigration offenders would be a huge expenditure of resources or would paralyse the checkpoint.  

Another question: Is five hours to chase down a man in a golden Merc good or bad? Is that considered fast response especially when you have the name of the driver and the car licence plate and the fact that Singapore roads are so CCTV-ed and there aren’t that many places to hide a car?

Said Police SAC Lau: “You must understand that this man already knows he has committed an offence, it’s not like we are waiting to ambush him in a place he is unaware of.’’ This was a determined criminal trying to evade arrest, not someone “who is just walking down Orchard Road’’.

What’s interesting is the process he cited. He sounded like me, when I am trying to teach my class how to analyse something….

He said the cops “knew’’ the man, so they had to next establish where he lives and where he works.

“And at that point, we had to start to determine where he could have gone – could he have gone home? Could he have gone back to work? Could he have gone to other various places? Then there was the actual physical search that required time because he is mobile and is moving around.’’

You know, I think if he was a terrorist, he would be trying to evade arrest too and won’t be strolling on Orchard Road either unless that’s the place he’s trying to blow up…In any case, he’s got five hours to detonate something.

Did I hear you say that our men in blue should be given a break? I don’t think so. Hasn’t the G always said that our security cannot be compromised? I am quite tired of hearing about the “resource issue’’. It was also a lack of manpower that the cops cited as a reason for the escalation of the Little India riot. Not enough patrols in the area. The Special Operations Command had been trimmed down.

I was quite disappointed with debate on the Home Affairs ministry budget in Parliament that took place last week. Some questions were asked about the “outsourcing’’ of work to the auxillary police but not much else on the state of readiness on the part of our law and order people. Maybe the MPs didn’t want to step on the toes of the Little India Committee of Inquiry which is still going on?

All I can recall of the debate on the ministry is that a new independent review panel will be set up to review the work of the ministry’s committees tasked with reviewing the work of officers who did the wrong things. That was flagged by MSM as the most important story from the debate.

Sheesh. It left me feeling quite blue.  

AFTERNOTE: It just occurred to me that if the Merc had got through and if this was classified as a “border intrusion” and not an “immigration breach”, then the “immediate alert” should have led to road blocks set up right? And the police division covering Woodlands would have been deployed immediately?

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