Monday, April 28, 2014

A MediaCorp Caricature Presentation of the Laju Saga

Out of curiosity I watched the Days of Rage programme on channel 8 last night which was supposed to present the much-hyped Laju Saga in an objective light. I missed the English version of the programme when it was telecast earlier. After viewing the programme, to say that I was left in a state of shock is to put it mildly at the brazen self-glorification of their roles in the Laju Saga by some of the characters in the narrative.

To begin with the bomb attack on the Shell Oil Refinery in Pulau Bukom by four terrorists from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Japanese Red Army (JRA) and the subsequent hijacking of the ferry boat "Laju" with its crew were clearly terrorist activities which came under the jurisdiction of the Internal Security Department (ISD). The MediaCorp programme showed unmistakeably that the first report of the incident was made to SR Nathan who was the director of intelligence and had no jurisdiction over terrorist activities within Singapore. So the director of ISD was non-existent whoever wrote the script and whether this was claimed by SR Nathan in the script is significant.

SR Nathan was director of intelligence, the Singapore miniature equivalence of the British MI6 which deals more with spying. How on earth the MediaCorp can portray him so prominently in dealing with the Laju terrorists is mind-boggling, to say the least. And could this be something he presented to the script-writer? There is nothing wrong in wanting self-glorification but how would one describe it if it is done at the expense of riding roughshod over other well-deserving individuals? Would abject disgust be a reasonable description? Many of the roles which he had been portrayed by MediaCorp could be questionable. Of course there was no question that he had been appointed by the then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew to lead the team of Singapore officers to escort the Laju terrorists to Kuwait on 8 February 1974. And again there was a story about the appointment as the director ISD and his permanent secretary were having deep personal animosity.

The role of the then officer-in-charge of the Marine Police DSP Tee Tua Bah in handling the Laju terrorists had also been over-hyped by MediaCorp. The Marine Police is like other normal police divisions which deal with routine police and criminal matters and had hardly the expertise of dealing with terrorists. The Laju hijack happened in Singapore waters and quite rightly came within the jurisdiction of the Marine Police in the normal way. Had the MediaCorp interviewed former ISD officers, who were the rightful investigators in terrorism, as to what roles they had played in dealing with the Laju terrorists? Their daily appearance in their negotiations with the terrorists at the scene could not have been figment of imagination in the script-writer's mind?

One would have expected the MediaCorp to have more commonsense and humanistic consideration when writing out a script for a narrative, especially one like the Laju Saga. Had it not occurred to the MediaCorp to carry out a more comprehensive interview covering all the parties involved before composing the script? In the Laju Saga it is obvious that important parties had been left out for whatever reason best known to MediaCorp.

If it is not too much of a loss of face or a blemish on its pride, the MediaCorp should have the civility of sending a letter of apology to ISD for belittling its role in the Laju Saga.


Dead Poet said...

I totally agree with your article, however our history and any portrayal of it has always been the official narrative, where glorification comes before truth. Ask those who were on the ground who was the actual leader and hero in the cable-car rescue Definitely not the paper general and son of the despot

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Yoong:

I have watched the Laju episode that is currently available on Channel News Asia.

It was certainly portrayed to give SR Nathan and Tee Tua Bah the bulk of the credit, with hardly any mention of the ISD (apart from a line or two in the end credits). That is sad because I would expect more from a historical documentary. Then again the mainstream media in SG doesn't exactly rank that highly on the Press Freedom Index...

One should not seek to gain prominence at the expense of others.

Reminds me of the last paragraph from an Asia Sentinel article from 2010:

"As time passed and these names have slipped into the dim distance, the continued dominance of the Lee family in Singapore politics has tended to obscure the roles of other pioneers. In politics as in war, history is written by the victors. But as Stalin's ghost will have learned, history can also be re-written. So expect some future revision of Singapore history to make more mention of the above names."

Chan1 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chan1 said...

Dear Mr Yoong,

I read your interesting story here.

I am sure Singaporeans are not aware that ISD was supposed to be handling the the Laju case. Throughout national textbooks, Nathan was credited to be the main who handled the Laju crisis.

You were a former spy chief, therefore you are legendary. Are you the first spy chief to have a blog?

I am sure you have more interesting tales to share. Singaporeans are eager to know more, I'm sure.

pp said...

Thank God you are back.
You are an inspiration to the many voiceless citizens!!

The Pariah said...

Somebody sued blogger Roy Ngerng. Who will sue Media Corp?

Unknown said...

Hi Mr Yoong,
I think, correct me if i'm wrong, the account of the Laju saga was included in SR Nathan's book.

So perhaps the writers could have taken the info from there. Whether it was misrepresented, perhaps when you have the time, you can write down your perspective of the event, and correct any misunderstandings in the official account.

i think this would clarify the ISD's role in the incident.

Unknown said...

Hi Mr. Yoong.

Its good to see your post again. I hope to read more from your blog. It is always refreshing to read your articles.

Anonymous said...

The worse is letting the floodgates of foreigners who come in to be Permanent Residents and EP holders, colluding with their kind and eating into the rice bowls of true blue Singaporeans PMEs.

The middle class are the most affected and he knows that the battle will be won or loss there and it might be just a little bit too late to salvage.

His generals such as Patrick Tay from NTUC and Lim Swee Say may not even know the extend of the damage because the employment figures have been masked by the PRs as well as the under-employed Singaporeans.

These are the real mass weapons of destruction in the hands of the opposition which will be constantly drumming into the hearts of the people during the rallies because they are the ones that will truly feel it

headvvaves said...

Hi Mr Yoong,

This is Rui Qi from the Straits Times newspaper. I am doing a story on the Laju ferry hijacking and would like to get your account of the episode.

May I get your contact details and arrange for a meeting?

You can contact me at

Rui Qi

little toy brush said...

Your question is similar one that can be asked about the cable car incident where the army personnel received highest glory when air force conducted the rescue with helicopter and didnt receive any mention...

I admire your determination and will. Once your generation passes on, all these dark secrets will just disappear, and the last published record on mainstream media becomes the truth.

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