Tuesday, September 04, 2007

ST: "Nabbed in Orchard Rd after hunt: NSF with rifle, ammo"!?

The exclamation mark and the question mark encapsulate my reaction when I saw and read, in today’s Strait Times, that a full-time National Serviceman (NSF), whose NS service term will end in one month’s time, was arrested in the heart of busy Orchard Road at around 8 p.m. last night after missing for 20 hours from his camp with a SAR21 rifle and several live rounds of ammunition (ammo).

I was shocked because, as any person who has gone through NS would most probably attest, it is most difficult to get one’s hands on live ammunition, much less be able to smuggle them out of camp. And this guy (i.e. the abovementioned NSF), Mr. Dave Teo Ming (his military rank is Corporal but I would prefer to not address him as CPL Teo, especially since I was a corporal myself; it just feels weird), actually managed to not only smuggle out live ammo from his camp but also a SAR21 rifle!

Then, as my shock receded slightly, questions began to form in my mind as I read the news article about this whole incident.

My first question of how Mr. Teo got his hands on live ammo and a rifle was quickly answered. According to the news article, the live ammo and rifle was issued to him for him to perform guard duty at Mandai Camp.

The answers to my other questions, however, could not be found in the news article reporting about this incident.

One, Mr. Teo was no newbie to the army, considering how he has only one month left before he completes his full-time NS service term. I would assume that he knows about the serious consequences of leaving camp without permission (during when he was supposed to be performing guard duty, no less) and smuggling out live ammo & a rifle. Thus, the crucial question is why did he, with only one month left to his service term, would want to do such a reckless act of leaving his camp with live ammo & a rifle?

Two, how exactly did Mr. Teo manage to leave his camp without being detected? On that note, how did he manage to leave camp with live ammo & a rifle without those items being detected?

As far as I know (and hopefully I will not be divulging any sensitive operational details here), based on my own personal experience of performing guard duty during my NS service term, the common standard procedure of guard duty at military installations entails soldiers on guard duty signing in & out their weapons and live ammo under the supervision of a duty sergeant, with all weapons & live ammo duly recorded and accounted for. Soldiers will also only draw weapons & live ammo when they are doing their patrol rounds or sentry duty, which they do together in pairs (or alone if they are doing sentry duty); the rest of the time, the weapons will be locked up in an armskote (i.e. the armoury) and the live ammo returned back under the supervision of the duty sergeant. It should also be noted that the opening & closing of camp gates will be manned by either an assistant duty sergeant or another duty personnel.

Thus, with the above in mind, I cannot imagine how Mr. Teo was able to leave camp without being detected. I mean, just think about it, Mr. Teo was not doing guard duty by himself (he would be doing it with his fellow guard duty personnel and/or a patrol buddy if he was assigned to do patrolling), how did he go missing (with live ammo & a rifle, no less) without his fellow guard duty personnel and/or duty sergeants noticing? And, remembering that the opening & closing of camp gates are manned by either one of the soldiers on guard duty or an assistant duty sergeant, surely Mr. Teo would be noticed if and when he left the camp through the camp gates? If he did not leave camp through the camp gates, how then did he leave the camp?

In addition, notice that Mr. Teo was only found to be missing at around 2359 hours (i.e. 11.59 p.m.), this could mean that he could have been gone missing much earlier than 2359 hours but his disappearance was only detected at 2359 hours. The question, hence, is what is the exact timing that he disappeared? And what is the lapse between this exact timing of his disappearance and the time his disappearance was detected?

Furthermore, it should be observed that Mr. Teo was only caught at Orchard Road at around 8 p.m. (in civilian clothing, in fact), which is about 20 hours after his disappearance was detected. Hmm… Surely he did not spend all those 20 hours loitering around Orchard Road (perhaps he did but I doubt so)? If he did not spend all 20 hours at Orchard Road, where else did he go before that? Did he went around all this time with the rifle & live ammo that he smuggled out?

Another question, I think, which need to be asked is: how did he get around during these 20 hours (notice that Mandai Camp is not exactly next door to Orchard Road)? Private transport? Public transport? In my opinion, it would perhaps be less of a worry if he was going around by private transport. However, if he was going around by public transport (bus and/or MRT), we need to ask ourselves another 2 critical questions. One, are our security measures on public transport enough? And, two, are Singaporeans oblivious to a possible security threat amongst them? I mean, if he was travelling by MRT, this would mean that he managed to evade the security personnel situated at each MRT station and was not noticed by his fellow passengers. The same would be for if he travelled by bus.

Just think about it. If Mr. Teo was a person with malicious intentions, he could have easily gone around his business without the people around him noticing. He could have easily whipped out his weapon and shot several people with it. Fortunately, that did not happen.

And, yes, perhaps I am expecting too much to expect ordinary Singaporeans and the security personnel at MRT stations (and also perhaps the shopping mall he was caught in) to notice Mr. Teo, who most probably look like any other ordinary Singaporean youth in his civilian clothing, as a potential security threat. I myself may not have noticed him. Yet, it should also be noted that people with malicious intentions do not go around with the words “bad guy”, “terrorist” and/or “I have a firearm with me” imprinted on their foreheads. Thus, I suppose my question of whether Singaporeans are vigilant enough is a justified question.

In the end, I suppose that in the next few days to come and/or when the results of the investigation into this incident are out, it will be said that this incident is just an isolated incident and people should not be too worried by it. However, such incidents, no matter how isolated they are, are “one too many”. Thus, it is my hope that the authorities would be transparent about the details of how exactly this incident transpired, in view of the many questions revolving around it and the implications it has for local security.


Anonymous said...

Alamak.. you can ask so many questions but do you have any constructive suggestions? It is not as though he is wearing SBO and carrying his rifle for all to see. How do you expect people to notice?

In such isolated incident, it is very easy for people to comment on why this and that is not done. But you can forsee such things happening in the first place? If you can, you would have reached enlightenment already :).

LCC said...

To Anonymous (5:39 p.m.),

Well, if you have read properly what I wrote, you would notice that I did say: "perhaps I am expecting too much to expect ordinary Singaporeans and the security personnel at MRT stations (and also perhaps the shopping mall he was caught in) to notice Mr. Teo, who most probably look like any other ordinary Singaporean youth in his civilian clothing, as a potential security threat. I myself may not have noticed him".

However, as I have also said and I reiterate, people with malicious intentions do not go around having the words "bad guy", "terrorist" and/or "I have a firearm with me" imprinted on their foreheads.

Thus, given how you seem to imply that people cannot be expected to recognise a security threat unless that threat is wearing a SBO and walking around with a rifle in full view, would you then suggest that people totally not try to be observant about people around them to see whether they are behaving suspiciously?

What I am advocating is just that people should be more vigilant and observant of the people around them, seeing how people with malicious intentions will & do not advertise themselves by carrying rifles and/or bombs in full view.

As for your point about how I only ask questions without providing any constructive suggestions and/or answers, I will just say that it is not a prerequisite for one to have the answers and/or constructive suggestions before one ask questions and/or criticise something. It will be nice but I doubt it is hardly necessary.

Yes, I am no seer so I am not able to foresee such isolated incidents from happening. However, I believe that there are measures in place to prevent such isolated incidents from happening. Yet, as we can all see, this isolated incident happened.

Thus, I think it is necessary that we examine carefully how it is that, despite the preventive measures put in place, such isolated incidents still occur? Are there perhaps loopholes which need to be plugged?

My point is that, instead of just saying that "Oh, this is just an isolated incident! It won't happen again!", we should start thinking about to prevent such isolated incidents from happening again.

Thank you for your comments, though, ironically, they don't seem very constructive to me either.

karebu said...
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SGDaily said...

Hi Free Thinker,
Your post has been featured in The Singapore Daily. Thank you for your support!

The Singapore Daily

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