Tuesday, 12 November 2013

The Unseen Singapore #13 Political Series: PM Lee Milking Political Mileage Out of "The Messiah"

On 11 November 2013, prominent alternative news website The Online Citizen broke the news that one James Raj Arokiasamy has been charged under the Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act for carrying out suspected hack attacks from a unit in Dorchester Apartment at Jalan Sri Hartamas in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  

After the arrest was let out of the bag by lawyer M Ravi, sceptical online netizens went into overdrive with many claiming that James Raj was simply a scapegoat for the PAP government. Furthermore, with the inaccessibility of the Straits Times website on the morning of 12 November 2013, it further fed the conspiracy theory that the real "Messiah" was still out there. On the other side of the spectrum, government supporters were quick to wax lyrical on the decisive action taken by the government against such cyber threats.  

However sexy this conspiracy theory sounds, there is unfortunately no credible proof to prove its validity. If this conspiracy was true, it would require the buy in of the Malaysian authorities and that in itself is a bit of a stretch given the at times acrimonious bilateral relationship. Instead, The Unseen Singapore would like to draw your attention to something more interesting. An insight into the psyche of the current political leadership and how they manipulate such events to their advantage.

According to newspaper reports, Mr James Raj Arokiasamy was arrested in KL on 4 November 2013 with the help of the Malaysian police. At that point, the Singapore public was unaware of the identity and the arrest of "The Messiah". After keeping mum throughout the spate of hacking incidents, PM Lee finally broke silence on 6 November 2013 proclaiming that "it's not just anything goes, and you're anonymous, therefore there's no responsibility. You may think you are anonymous. We will make that extra effort to find out who you are".

Publically, this 6 November statement was a taunt to Anonymous but on hindsight, it was PM Lee's calculated move at milking maximum political mileage out of this hacking incident. Knowing full well that the suspect had already been arrested on the 4th, the Prime Minister put out the taunt to play up the gravity of the situation so as to emerge the hero when the "crisis" was resolved down the road.

Little did PM Lee know that his taunt would be replied in force with the subsequent hacks into the PMO and Istana website, resulting in a major slap in the face for himself and the government. This incident clearly demonstrates the current government's wanton lush for short term gains  (milking political mileage out of the hacking incident) than to consider the broader security implications for Singapore and Singaporeans.

In spite of this orchestrated PR exercise that backfired spectacularly, we would like to salute the men and women in the civil service who worked tirelessly to bring the ones responsible for the spate of hacking incidents to justice.  Bear in mind that with or without the PAP, the civil service will continue running like a well oiled machine. 

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