Out of curiosity I watched the Days of Rage programme on channel 8 last night which was supposed to present the much-hyped Laju Saga in an objective light. I missed the English version of the programme when it was telecast earlier. After viewing the programme, to say that I was left in a state of shock is to put it mildly at the brazen self-glorification of their roles in the Laju saga by some of the characters in the narrative.
To begin with the bomb attack on the Shell Oil Refinery in Pulau Bukom by four terrorists from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Japanese Red Army (JRA) and the subsequent hijacking of the ferry boat “Laju” with its crew were clearly terrorist activities which came under the jurisdiction of the Internal Security Department (ISD). The MediaCorp programme showed unmistakeably that the first report of the incident was made to SR Nathan who was the director of intelligence and had no jurisdiction over terrorist activities within Singapore. So the director of ISD was non-existent whoever wrote the script and whether this was claimed by SR Nathan in the script is significant.
SR Nathan was director of intelligence, the Singapore miniature equivalent of the British MI6 which deals more with spying. How on earth the MediaCorp can portray him so prominently in dealing with the Laju terrorists is mind-boggling, to say the least. And could this be something he presented to the script-writer? There is nothing wrong in wanting self-glorification but how would one describe it if it is done at the expense of riding roughshod over other well-deserving individuals? Would abject disgust be a reasonable description? Many of the roles which he had been portrayed by MediaCorp could be questionable. Of course there was no question that he had been appointed by the then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew to lead the team of Singapore officers to escort the Laju terrorists to Kuwait on 8 February 1974. And again there was a story about the appointment as the director ISD and his permanent secretary were having deep personal animosity.
The role of the then officer-in-charge of the Marine Police DSP Tee Tua Bah in handling the Laju terrorists had also been over-hyped by MediaCorp. The Marine Police is like other normal police divisions which deal with routine police and criminal matters and had hardly the expertise of dealing with terrorists. The Laju hijack happened in Singapore waters and quite rightly came within the jurisdiction of the Marine Police in the normal way. Had the MediaCorp interviewed former ISD officers, who were the rightful investigators in terrorism, as to what roles they had played in dealing with the Laju terrorists? Their daily appearance in their negotiations with the terrorists at the scene could not have been figment of imagination in the script-writer’s mind?
One would have expected the MediaCorp to have more commonsense and humanistic consideration when writing out a script for a narrative, especially one like the Laju Saga. Had it not occurred to the MediaCorp to carry out a more comprehensive interview covering all the parties involved before composing the script? In the Laju Saga it is obvious that important parties had been left out for whatever reason best known to MediaCorp.
If it is not too much of a loss of face or a blemish on its pride, the MediaCorp should have the civility of sending a letter of apology to ISD for belittling its role in the Laju saga.
Yoong Siew Wah
* Mr Yoong was the Director of Singapore’s Internal Security Department (ISD) from 1971 to 1974. Before his stint with ISD, he was the director of the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB). The SPH book “Men in White” alleged in page 441 that Mr Yoong was asked to quit CPIB in 1971 after he was “suspected” of using his personal influence to assist his friend Mr Francis Seow, then the ex-Solicitor General of Singapore in a case. Mr Yoong denied the allegations on his blog. The Straits Times on 16-10-09 published a correction by the authors of the Men In White who apologised for not getting back to Mr Yoong to verify the statement. Mr Yoong is now retired and blogs at