Monday 19 May 2008

Catch Mas Selamat? Send Iron Man

Not long after Mas Selamat's escape on 27 Feb, I wanted to write a column about it.

But I was worried that the authorities would suddenly get their act together, catch the guy and put an end to our national embarrassment before my article came out, thus rendering it obsolete.

I expressed my concern to a colleague who scoffed dismissively with a cynicism that only a long-time New Paper journalist could muster. "As if," she said.

That was 11 weeks ago. I needn't have worried.

Mas Selamat is still at large, even though he's not in the news much these days, dominated in turn by seat belts, killer cyclones and earthquakes, not to mention killer grocery prices.

He's not even the most famous man in Singapore anymore. That honour belongs to Iron Man this week. (Cue Black Sabbath.)

I mean what news is there to report about Mas Selamat since the sage culminated in the big reveal in Parliament last month that he climbed out the toilet window of the Whitley Road Detention Centre?

Not exactly the stuff of Hollywood blockbusters - like say, Iron Man.

It was an anti-climatic climax that provided no closure whatsoever because, well, we still haven't caught the guy. Maybe we should send Iron Man. (Sing it, Ozzy!)

How is it possible that we could apprehend that 20-year-old National Serviceman who went AWOL with a SAR-21 rifle within 24 hours last September, but not a mole-faced middle-aged escaped detainee with a limp?

That's what leading to conspiracy theories, like the one Opposition MP Low Thia Khiang brought up in Parliament that Mas Selamat had died in detention.

To some, it's more reasonable and perhaps more comforting to believe in a successful government cover-up than a failed island-wide manhunt by the security forces on which our nation's defence depends.

Despite the authorities' insistence on the contrary, many take it for granted that if Mas Selamat hasn't gone from this earth, he has at least gone from this country.

This is based on no more evidence than the simple fact that he hasn't been found yet. Because if he's still here, Singapore is so small that we would've found him already.

I beg to differ. My niece is getting married next month and she is not sending me a cake. Why? Because she lives in Bedok and I live in Choa Chu Kang. She said it was too far for her to travel. Clearly, Singapore isn't so small after all.

Now I just hope they don't catch Mas Selamat before this column comes out.

As if.

- Unpublished