The line from the movie Avatar, "What the hell have you people been smoking out there?" comes to mind when one reads about the latest attempt by a Government minister to shun responsibilty for debacles happening under their watch.
Law Minister K Shanmugam apparently sees the world only in black and white - he claims that since SMRT is a private corporation, the Government should not be held accountable for the breach of security at the train depot. By his logic, if the Changi airport is attacked by terrorists, and the iconic control tower blown to smithereens, SIA alone will be penalised for the loss of lives and property.
So what kind of protection can Singaporeans expect from the police force and security apparatus of the Ministry of Home Affairs? Does it mean that when one is robbed or physically assaulted, the police will only take action if the offence is committed on public property, such as a common sidewalk leading to a privately owned pub, cinema or country club? When a car is vandalised or broken into, does it matter if the vehicle was in a HDB public carpark or the basement of a private condominium?
"Is it fair for the public through the Government to pay that security in manpower terms or terms of the costs," asked Shanmugam. He was arguing that although SMRT depot has been gazetted by the Government as a protected place, the security of the premises remains the prime the responsibility of the corporation. We are not told if the private residences of cabinet ministers are gazetted as protected places, but we do know that the cost of the 24/7 Gurkha security is definitely borne by taxpayers. They could have saved money for the taxpayers by deploying local policemen like before, but the Malay dominated constabulary seemed to have fallen out of favour after 911. Perhaps we will be seeing more of the foreign talent Gurkhas guarding SMRT premises. That would be a welcome excuse for Transport Minister Raymond Lim to jack up train fares. Either that or a GST hike.