The Internal Security Department (ISD) is responsible for keeping Singapore secure from internal as well as external security threats. In the late forties to sixties in the last century, the main security threats were from the communists and Communist United Front. From the late nineties to the twenty-first century, with the emergence of fanatical islamism spearheaded by the Jemaah Islamiah (JI), ISD had to deal with terrorism masterminded by JI. And since the September 11 terrorist attack on the United States, the ISD had the onerous responsibility of preventing JI-organised terrorism from happening in Singapore. In its unobtrusive way it was able to nib in the bud potential JI-organised terrorist acts and the JI's plan included crashing a hijacked plane into Changi Airport. Singaporeans took it for granted their comparative peaceful rhythm of life so painstakingly preserved by the perseverance of ISD for which we all should be thankful.
All this ISD outstanding work had been shattered by what DPM and Home Minister Wong Kan Seng said was a "silly and incredible" security lapse enabling JI leader Mas Selamat Kastari to escape from the Whitley Road Detention Centre on 27 February 2008. The whole of Singapore was shocked at this incredible news and in the subsequent course of recriminations and counter-recriminations on the responsibility of the security lapse, there were also calls for the resignation of DPM Wong. Quite gallantly, PM Lee Hsien Loong stood up for DPM Wong and the director, ISD.
Thus started the biggest manhunt in Singapore's history. Even the Singapore Armed Forces were enlisted to join in the hunt. There was no dearth of calls from the public on the sighting of Mas Selamat but in the end these proved unhelpful. The fugitive proved elusive and speculations were rife as to his whereabouts, including his escape to Indonesia.
In the meantime, unfazed by the ballyhoo and in its quiet professional way, the ISD has been plodding to secure information both from its local and friendly foreign intelligence sources to pinpoint the whereabouts of Mas Selamat. Its assiduous efforts were rewarded and ISD was able provide the vital information which eventually led to the recapture of Mas Selamat in Johore through a joint operation of ISD and Malaysian Special Branch.
This is the most welcoming piece of news to a dismayed and fastidious Singapore public and by its near miraculous feat of Mas Selamat's recapture, ISD has indeed vindicated itself. It deserves more than a pat on the back. DPM Wong Kan Seng was a picture of joy at the press conference to share the marvellous news.