Saturday, October 10, 2009

RSAF's aborted flight to Padang: MFA explains

Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) replied to Mr William Teo a day after the 90 cents newspaper published his letter which related his experience in the quake ravaged Indonesian city of Padang.

Kudos to MFA for its speed of response and clarity of reply.

One nit pick: MFA's letter doesn't tackle Mr Teo's claim that he was told the RSAF planes were "circling in the air for three hours waiting for approval to land".

But at least MFA is, in my opinion, more transparent than MINDEF which cherry picks its Forum Page responses and metes out petty inconveniences to letter writers it doesn't like.

The Straits Times
Forum Page
Oct 10, 2009

RSAF's aborted flight to Padang: MFA explains
WE REFER to Mr William Teo's letter yesterday, 'Sad Singapore story out of Padang, in two parts...'. When the earthquake struck Padang on Sept 30, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and our missions in Indonesia immediately reached out to Singaporeans who had registered with us as being in Padang, to ensure their safety as well as to ascertain if they needed any assistance.
It was fortunate that when we contacted the registered Singaporeans, we were told of the presence of Singaporeans who had not registered. This included the group that Mr Teo was in. We immediately contacted these Singaporeans, including Mr Teo's group, and were informed that they were safe. We kept in close touch with Singaporeans who had indicated that they would like to leave Padang as soon as possible. Understanding their anxiety, various options were considered.
When the Indonesian authorities welcomed our offer of assistance, the possibility of using the turnaround flights of the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) C-130s ferrying Singapore's Dart team to Padang opened up. Arrangements for Singaporeans to leave Padang by RSAF C-130s were made on this basis. Unfortunately, after these arrangements had been set in motion, and just as our C-130s were about to take off for Padang, the Indonesian authorities informed us that they were not yet ready to receive foreign rescue contingents.
The planes were thus never 'in the air for three hours', but still in Singapore waiting for landing approval from the Indonesian authorities. This was conveyed to the Singaporeans on the ground in Padang and publicly by MFA press statements.
We are glad that Mr Teo returned safely to Singapore and would like to take this opportunity to remind all Singaporeans travelling overseas to eRegister with MFA at
Sudesh Maniar
Public Affairs
Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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