Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Aftermath of Manhunt

Despites the hundreds of policemen and military personnel conducting carpet-combing searches round-the-clock among the forests and thick foliage in the island, 15 days have passed since the escape of Mas Selamat from Whitley Detention Centre and he is still nowhere to be found (in Singapore, as presumed by the police).

Though Mas Selamat has not been caught, others have been arrested as a corollary of this incident.

Illegal immigrants, though few, still exist in our tiny island. The massive, intensive and thorough searches yielded around 40 illegal immigrants staking their illegal habitats in our island the previous week. The yield begs the question of whether these illegal immigrants would only be caught as a result of this massive manhunt? How did they get here in the first place? How effective are our security efforts in deterring illegal immigrants and arresting them once they land on our shore? If there is no such massive manhunt, would they still be caught?

On the other hand, 2 men, in a certain way, ‘volunteered’ to be dealt with by the law. One called the police, claiming to be the fugitive; the other, a bus driver, deliberately set the police on a wild goose hunt by accusing a man who had offended him for being the fugitive, so as to be rewarded for his tip-off.

Besides the above aftermath, the manhunt caused massive traffic jams around the causeway (stretching 8km once from the Causeway to the Ten miles junction shopping centre in Bukit Batok), as the police stepped up their checks on the motorists, their belongings and vehicles at the causeway.

The whole nation is galvanized by the combing exercises, with the same intense spirit comparable to the combing exercise conducted around this time in the previous year. The exception is that the targets for the latter exercise were mosquitoes!

Drawing parallels between the two combings, we can see that the targets of both exercises are dangerous and potential killers of man. It seems as hard to eradicate the seeming rising dengue cases last year as to capture Mas Selamat but for the former, we have at least a benchmark for success: the number of dengue infection cases reported, whereas for the case of Mas Selamat, there is no benchmark; the sole success is to capture Mas Selamat. We achieved success in containing the dengue scourge the previous year, would we achieve the same for the capture of Mas?

The whole nation is involved in both combing exercises, with the nation actively eradicating potential mosquito habits and breeding grounds in the exercise last year whereas for the ongoing combing exercise for Mas, the whole nation is on the lookout in their daily lives for any person who resembles Mas Selamat.

Manhunt has its historical roots. In historical China, the imperial court pasted hand-drawn posters of wanted fugitives on city walls, appealing for their information from the denizens, who by word-of-mouth spread the information to others, creating a multiplier effect for the dissemination of such messages. In modern times, mass media such as televisions, radios and the internet, play a significant role in the broadcasting of the appeal of information for the capture of fugitives though posters (now digitalized one) are still in vogue. Singapore has taken the call for the appeal of the fugitive’s information to an even higher plane when the various local telecommunications broadcasted at their own costs, millions of multi-media messages to its subscribers, featuring the personal information of Mas Selmat as well as his picture.

A slip-up in the security, which led to the escape of Mas Selamat has created massive implications. Only time will tell whether Mas will ultimately be caught in the arms of the law.

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