20 November 2003

Minister Reveals More Mindef Secrets

The Singapore Minister of Information and the Arts, Mr. Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, has announced in Parliament today another Mindef bombshell: since 1965, the Ministry of Information has been tracking all Singaporeans with secret dossiers, which track them from birth till death.

This unveiling is the third this month, after the recent disclosures about the illegal POW training in a Commando school and the "White Horse" policy where sons of prominent and rich Singaporeans were earmarked for ordinary treatment in the army.

Announcing the secret dossier policy, Mr. al-Sahaf assured MPs in the House that the "White Docket" scheme has been discontinued since 2000.

"It was for valid security reasons and for the sake of nurturing a capable and law-abiding population that the White Dockets were instituted. When any Singaporean child is born, a White Docket is opened - we need to keep track of all Singaporeans' family backgrounds, to see who is safe, and who may put the State and society in danger. When you enter school, all your form teachers were required to make annual personality assessments on trustworthiness, obedience, and conformity, among other moral criteria.

"The secret dossiers follow Singaporeans wherever they go, from primary school to junior college, and even to the army. It is also used for employment, security clearance, employment, and risk evaluation in both the civil service and the GLCs, which of course employ more than half of all Singaporeans."

The Minister claimed that the policy has been terminated since 2000, because of changes in official perceptions. "The Ministry decided it is, in the long run, not cost-effective to have the system keep track of all Singaporeans."

Nominated MP Steve Chia had begun to ask questions designed to probe more information about how the secret dossier policy functioned, what "criteria of judging morality" were exercised, and who authorised this scheme when the time ran out for discussion. Parliament will move on to other topics tomorrow, when it adjourns.

Reactions from the public have been muted so far. Social commentor Prof. Kao Beh Simi suggested that the public may have reached "saturation point" with the recent spate of shocking disclosures of abuses of power, about-turns in policy, and inefficiencies in the government. "Of course, it is an open secret that actual army training violates the safety regulations of the army; that the army treats sons of influential Singaporeans with kid gloves; that Singaporeans are tracked with secret dossiers; and that Ministers don't need to queue at hospitals. Since everyone knows about it, it doesn't have much of an impact as a real revelation since people have just decided to close an eye to it, and I predict they will continue to close an eye to this too."

No comments: