Friday, February 29, 2008

Did He Really Said He Was "Sorry"...?

If you all have been paying attention to recent news report, it would appear that Mr. Wong Kan Seng, Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for Home Affairs, has formally apologised, during a Parliamentary session on Thursday, for the security lapse which allowed Mas Selamat, a JI detainee, to escape from a local detention centre on Wednesday this week.

Hmm... But did he really said he was "sorry"?

"I am sorry that it has"...

Well, let's look at what he exactly said in Parliament that day.

From CNA, a video clip of Mr. Wong's remarks in Parliament with regards to the escape of Mas Selamat.

And from the Straits Times, the text of what he said:

"There has been a security lapse at the Whitley Road detention centre which allowed Mas Selamat to escape.

Mas Selamat at the time was taken out of his individual cell where he was confined to go to the family visit room to wait for the arrival of his family. He asked to go to the toilet where he escaped.

This should never have happened. I am sorry that it has. An independent investigation is underway and we should not speculate now as to what and how it happened. Security at the centre has been stepped up.

Mas Selamat is a security threat which is why he was placed under preventive detention. However, there is no information that he has any plans that threaten public security at this time. Nevertheless, we are not taking any chances.

Dr Teo asked why the public was informed only about four hours later. Our security agencies assessed at the time of Mas Selamat's escape that there was no imminent danger to the public.

The plan was to lock down the Whitley Road detention centre and then start a systematic operation to find and arrest him. The priority is to arrest him. No effort will be spared to track him down. Security at all our land, sea and air checkpoints has been tightened, including areas where there's possibility that he may leave our shores not from the normal immigration clearance areas.

In the meantime, I urge the public to stay calm and to report any suspicious sighting to the police immediately. Anyone who renders assistance to him is committing a grave offence."
[emphasis mine]

"Sorry" = ?

Ok, looking at the above, Mr. Wong did say that he was "sorry".

However, being the Political Science undergraduate that I am (PS undergraduates are perhaps much inclined to read between the lines and nitpick on words), I cannot help but wonder what Mr. Wong meant when he used the word "sorry".

I mean, I checked both the dictionary and thesaurus that I have at home, and and it would appear that the word "sorry" has more than one meaning.

Essentially, the word "sorry" can be used to convey sadness, disappointment, sympathy, regret or, as how most people would most probably use it most of the time, as a form of apologising for something which one feels personally responsible for and/or that should not been done.

Hmm... So which meaning of the word "sorry" was Mr. Wong intending to use? Guess I cannot know or say with complete certainty which meaning he was using but it would seem that the mainstream media (and perhaps especially the local media) is presenting it as though Mr. Wong was making an apology.

What do you all think? Was Mr. Wong really making an apology?

Sincere Apology?

And, of course, even if Mr. Wong was indeed making an apology, was he sincere in making it? [Or was he perhaps making it just for the sake of making it?]

Again, I cannot know or say with certainty how sincere Mr. Wong was but looking at the above video clip, it would seem that, to my untrained eyes and ears at least, there were no discernible change in facial expression or vocal tone when he said: "This should never have happened. I am sorry that it has".

Hmm... I don't know about you all but I suppose that when one is apologising sincerely, there should and would be perhaps some difference in his/her facial expression and/or vocal tone with his/her normal facial expression and/or vocal tone.

In addition, if my maths does not fail me, the sentence in which the word "sorry" appeared in Mr Wong's remarks is just one sentence out of a total of 18 sentences and only took him less than 3 seconds (I timed it with a stopwatch) to say.

What do you all think? Was Mr. Wong sincere when he said the word "sorry"? [Or was he perhaps making it just for the sake of making it?]

Apology necessary?

Yet, in all fairness, I suppose Mr. Wong perhaps need not personally apologise, considering that if one look at it, he was not actually the person personally responsible for the security lapse that allowed Mas Selamat to escape. He was, after all, not personally on the ground when the escape occurred.

Of course, being the Minister for Home Affairs, I suppose Mr. Wong would have the unenviable task of being the one responsible for handling the aftermath of Mas Selamt's escape. And I suppose that part of that responsibility would be he needing to make a formal apology.

The question, of course, would be: does his statement in Parliament count as a formal apology?


Anonymous said...

Wong's was not an apology at all. To say, "I am sorry FOR xxx" is different from saying, "I am sorry that xxx."

I can say, as a Singaporean, "I am sorry THAT the terrorist escaped, because he could be a threat to regional security."

If Wong were really sorry, he would have said, "I am sorry FOR letting the terrorist escape...", which is not what he had said at all.

- Ken

Anonymous said...

As another astute netizen pointed out elsewhere...

Mr Wong claimed accolades on the back of the nurses and doctors toiling during the SARS conflict.

Similarly, if there's a fall out from the Mas Selamat case, the buck has to stop there too. Just like the million dollar salary :)

You can't just claim the credit of the people working for you and not bear responsibility when there are screw ups.

Anonymous said...

Why are u bothering about one 'Sorry' when there's a terrorist at large in Singapore? Does a sincere 'sorry' really matter during a crisis like this?

LCC said...

To Anonymous (9.05am),

I think that you may have perhaps misinterpreted my point.

I am not exactly clamouring for Mr. Wong to apologise and/or resign over the escape of Mas Selamat. I was not examining the issue of whether Mr. Wong should apologise or not.

What I am more interested in is how the media played up Mr. Wong's statement in Parliament as though he made a formal apology. For reasons I already stated in my post, I am somewhat doubtful about whether the "Sorry" used by Mr. Wong used really constitute a formal apology.

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