Mas Selamat's face is staring at me again this morning. This is the face that every single one in Singapore is familiar with. When he escaped from detention thirteen months ago, the police conducted the biggest manhunt ever. He's Singapore's most wanted terrorist afterall.
Posters were pasted everywhere. We even received his unsmiling photo on our mobile phone, courtesy of our efficient police force. Every means of capturing him was put in place. Every inch of the forest floor was scoured. Abandoned buildings were revisited. As a result, vice activities were accidently uncovered and many illegal immigrants were rounded up and sent to jail. Thanks to Mas Selamat.
Today, we know he has already been caught. Funny how the rumour mongers had such a field day spreading rumours (what else?) about him. People claimed they heard from insiders working in the Internal Security Department that Mas was beaten to death in detention. Or how he was used as a pawn in exchange for an important politician captured by the terrorist. Or how he had already died of illness in the humid tropical jungle.
Then there were jokes and cartoons of Mas being circulated around. But certainly the jokes and rumours couldn't mask the severity of the situation. We had armed Gurka officers standing watch by the reservoir bank at our farm everyday. Every vehicle going through the Singapore/Malaysian border was subject to thorough inspection. There were traffic jams and massive slow-downs.
By then everyone had wanted him caught asap. The bounty was a whopping S$1 million! He has finally been arrested in Malaysia. How he had managed to slip through the customs despite the intensive search operations is anyone's guess.
It brings me back to the rumour mongers. Back then, hearing them spin stories about how he was beaten to death etc was rather convincing. Even though they had heard it from a friend, who heard it from a friend, who....
Have we learned a lesson here? Never trust the grapevine!