Wednesday 12 March 2008

Mas Selamat breaks our winning streak

Well, we had a good run. But every winning streak has to end eventually.

We won the bid to host the inaugural Youth Olympics, beating out no less than the default villain in all those old James Bond movies – the Russians.

We won the right to stage the first ever Formula One race at night (you know, to avoid ERP charges).

We won the second Asian edition of The Amazing Race with a guy who sounds like Marlee Matlin speaking Singlish.

Heck, we even won the first and likely only Asian Idol, thanks to pretty boy Hady Mirza and a quirky voting system.

But – and oh, what a big "but" (and I'm not referring to J Lo) – we lost a terrorist with a bum leg.

I guess nobody's perfect.

Even the American football team, the New England Patriots, were only 'perfect' – winning 18 straight games – until the Super Bowl when they were stomped by the New York Giants.

Even the No 1 tennis player in the world, Roger Federer, lost the Australian Open to a guy whose name I've given up trying to remember.

Even I have been known to misspell a word on occation.

But it's good to lose now and then. It keeps us humble. It's like that old Avis line: We're not No 1, so we try harder.

So we let Mas Selamat Kastari escape using the old "I need to go to the toilet" line. Doesn't anyone guarding the Whitley Road Detention Centre watch movies?

OK, we just have to suck it up and move on. Admit our mistakes and learn from them.

But have we?

When we were told the fugitive had a limp, I felt sorry for every Malay adult male in Singapore who stubbed his toe that day.

And then we were told he limps only when he is walking fast. I felt sorry for every Malay adult male in Singapore who stubbed his toe and tried not to walk fast that day.

What is so diabolical is that Mas Selamat's face is so commonplace. Why can't he have some evil-looking scar or an eye-patch or something? (Because he's not a pirate, that's why!)

I can think of at least three Malay acquaintances who vaguely resemble the Singapore's most wanted man. If not for their non-limp...

And that is why I would be reluctant to call the police if I think I have spotted Mas Selamat.

For one thing, I would most likely be wrong. On top of that, since I'm not Malay, I would be wrong in a manner that might make me appear racist.

And I'd rather not appear racist when I can help it.

But what if my fear of being political incorrect allows a terrorist to escape?


Chances are the guy I spotted isn't Mas Selamat anyway. Just some unfortunate Malay adult male who happened to stubbed his toe and walked really fast on the wrong day.

Like I said, nobody's perfect.

- Published in The New Paper, 12 March 2008