THE Government will make public the full details of how terrorist Mas Selamat Kastari escaped from custody nearly three weeks ago.
Speaking to reporters after a community event at Shunfu Market on Sunday, Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng said the ministry will give a 'full account' of how the former Jemaah Islamiah leader escaped from the Whitley Road Detention Centre on Feb 27.
The steps taken to prevent a similar occurence will also be made public.
However, he did not say if the details would be made known through a press statement or an address to Parliament.
While a Committee of Inquiry had been tasked to look into the escape, the opposition Workers' Party had called for an alternative panel to investigate the incident 'in the interest of transparency'.
WP chairman Sylvia Lim last week proposed that President S R Nathan appoint a Commission of Inquiry under the Inquiries Act so that investigations 'can proceed in public as the President shall direct'.
Responding to this call on Sunday, Mr Wong said such an inquiry will not be conducted in public 'regardless of whether it is conducted under the ambit of a Committee or a Commission of Inquiry'.
The reason? The detention centre is a 'sensitive installation' which is more than just a prison. Mr Wong explained that the detention centre is a purpose-built facility to hold people under preventive detention.
'Its focus is on intelligence collection in relation to an ongoing investigation pertinent to national security. It is not simply a prison to incarcerate persons to discharge a judicial punishment on conviction of an offence,' he said.
An inquiry into the escape will mean having a thorough examination of the centre, including its security and how Internal Security Department officers conduct their investigations and gather intelligence.
'Exposing these details in public will compromise the confidentiality which is necessary for ISD's security and intelligence operations to remain as effective as they have been,' Mr Wong said.
What is important is to provide the committee with 'full and unfettered access' to conduct a rigorous and thorough inquiry.
He added: 'Conducting the inquiry in closed chambers provides for and ensures this. It is not an exercise at grandstanding or playing to the gallery.'
On the question of the committee's independence, Mr Wong said that there is no doubt that it will be impartial. Its chairman, retired High Court judge Goh Joon Seng, is on the Presidential Council of Advisors and has an 'impeccable standing'.
The second member, retired police commissioner Tee Tua Ba, has been an ambassador to various countries in the last 11 years. The third panel member, Dr Choong May Ling, is a senior administrative officer with experience in several Ministries.
While she is currently with the Home Affairs Ministry, she does not have any relationship over ISD or any operational departments, said the minister.
'They are not about to put their own considerable achievements and good reputations at risk to do do anything other than a thorough and impartial job at seeking the truth,' Mr Wong said.
Giving an update of the police investigations to see if there was criminal wrong-doing, such as abetment or conspiracy that had led to Mas Selamat's escape, the Minister said the CID is in the final stages of its probe.
Dozens of witnesses had been interviewed and forensic examination of the scene where the escape took place had been conducted.
Once investigations are complete, the case will be referred to the Attorney-General's Chambers, which will decide on the appropriate actions to take. Mr Wong added that the police will not let up on their search for the fugitive JI leader.
'We must keep the pressure on Mas Selamat,' he said.