Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Sophistry of Minister K. Shanmugam

It is obvious that the government is trying strenously to manage damage control as a result of the fallout from the serious security lapse at the SMRT Changi depot. Whilst the Minister for Transport and the Minister for Home Affairs had remained reticent, for reasons best known to themselves, on the security breach, it has now fallen on the shoulder of a discomfited Second Minister for Home Affairs K. Shanmugam to make a belated sophistry on the goverment's dissociation of responsibility on security of private sector installations giving SMRT and its depots as an example and citing prohibitive costs as the main reason.

It is incredulous that the Minister could come up with such a simplistic view on a matter of considerable gravity as security. It is fortunate that the security breach at the SMRT Changi depot was a graffiti caper by two innocuous foreign pranksters. So the SMRT honchos are held responsible for the security lapse although the government cannot escape embarrassment and loss of face. Up to this stage the dissociation of responsibility stand of the government appears to sound reasonable.

But has it occurred to Mr. Shanmugam that, instead of two foreign pranksters, the security breach at the SMRT Changi depot could have been carried out by Jemaah Islamiah (JI) terrorists? Does he think that these JI terrorists would be there to spray-paint graffiti on the train? The consequence of such a scenario would be immensely devastating especially if the carriage is packed with commuters. Will Mr. Shanmugam consider such a security situation to be the responsibility of theSMRT honchos for them to manage?

So Mr. Shanmugam will have to show more ingenuity and circumspection in explaining to the business community or private sector, that whilst it is their primary responsibility to look after the security of their installations, the circumstances in which the government will assume full responsibility of any breach of security, for instance in case of terrorist-inspired incidents.

The SMRT Changi depot security breach was a good example where the Minister for Transport or the Minister for Home Affairs could have come out in the first instance with an assurance to the commuting public that security at the SMRT was being reinforced for their safety. Instead it was left to the SMRT chief executive Saw Phaik Hwa to express deep regret for the "serious lapse", quite flippantly because some people said that she was merely aping DPM Wong Kan Seng. It is appropriate to ask here if an assurance from a government minister would have a greater impact on the commuting public.

8 comments:

Alan Wan said...

Of all the recent blunders, there is one very obvious similarity.

No PAP Minister dares to take the first immediate step to speak up on the blunder. Not even our Prime Minister. Not even LKY.

It's only after weeks of silence, then do we hear the occasional excuse that no one should really be blamed except maybe God.

When LKY makes a case for paying his PAP Ministers (including himself) millions in annual salaries, I remember him asking us not to begrudge them over the salaries considering that they are among the best selected.

May I ask the Minister Mentor now, are they really the best ? If not, should they be held accountable or not ?

conscience said...

They have no "testicular fortitude"!

rkc said...

I love the "testicular fortitude" comment, considering 'it was left to the SMRT chief executive Saw Phaik Hwa to express deep regret for the "serious lapse"'. One up for the oestrogens in the battle of the hormones!

Aaron said...

@conscience
You must be one of WWE fans. I remember one of the pro wrestlers likes to use the word "testicular fortitude".:)

Gary said...

In the same vein, we seem to have as govt ministers people who are a bag of balls.

Highly intelligent inept sops. and I include the PM.

Financial Freedom Warrior said...

To be fair, I think the statement is right is some sense. The taxpayer should not bear the security costs of profit-oriented entities.

However, the government should audit the security measures of such entities providing essential services (eg SMRT,etc) and _mandate_ that minimum security standards are enforced.

Collin Ng said...

I think this Gary chap is going personal instead of contributing his views based on the said topic. No time to be personal, Gary.

Fedupjoe said...

I am speechless. Our government is "offloading" its responsibility for lapses in security at the Changi depot to the private sector?
The reason it gave was the "high cost"? I wonder what our taxes are being used for? We should also look into the "high cost" of our ministers -- they are the highest paid in the world and they are expected to come up with such profound idea that security lapses in our main transport system is not the government's responsibility. I suppose we could extend the same argument for a breach of airport security and relegate responsiblity to the various airlines parking their planes at the three terminals. This is unnerving.