DAP calls for establishment of a joint Malaysia-Philippines Task Force as well as a Malaysian Cabinet Committee on Security on Sabah Island Resorts to end kidnappings in Malaysian waters by Filipino Muslim guerrillas

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang 

(Petaling Jaya,  Wednesday): The abduction of three Malaysians on Pulau Pandanan 24 hours after the Sabah State Security Council had decided on several security measures to protect Sabah’s coastal areas, including  posting security staff on all inhabited islands,  would be stuff for high comedy if not for the gravity of the second abduction in five months and the peril to the safety and lives of the victims the Abu Sayyaf kidnappers.

The question crying out for answer is why the Sabah State Security Council took more than 20 weeks to take the final decision to tighten security measures after the first abduction of 21 people  on Pulau Sipadan by the Abu Sayyaf rebels on April 23, 2000 - when these security measures should have been put in place at the latest within a month of the Pulau Sipadan incident!

Is this because of complacency of the Malaysian and Sabah state authorities - who were lulled by promises by Abu Sayyaf rebels that after the payment of US$3 million ransom for the nine Malaysian hostages abducted on Pulau Sipadan ($US 1 million per  head  reportedly paid for each Western hostage),  they would be no more abduction in Malaysian waters?

Philippine Executive Secretary Ronaldo Zamora who had said that "paying ransom ultimately comes back to bite you...the more you pay ransom the more you pay kidnapping" has been proven right, as the payment of ransom for the Pulau Sipadan abduction has not prevented the Pulau Pandanan abduction last  Sunday or future abductions on Sabah resort islands.

The Malaysian and Sabah state governments should give a satisfactory explanation as to  why they had been so irresponsible in taking their "sweet time" to tighten up security measures after the Pulau Sipadan abduction,  especially as the possibility of the authorities concerned being lulled into complacency as a result of the payment of ransom money for Pulau Sipadan abduction has been given credence by the front-page headline report of Utusan Malaysia today "Perbalahan punca penculikan - Beberapa puak kumpulan Abu Sayyaf tidak puas hati agihan wang tebusan", which reported:

Foreign Minister, Datuk Syed Hamid Albar and the Deputy Education Minister, Senator Datuk Abdul Aziz Samsuddin, who appeared to be highest-ranking representatives of the Federal Government in the dealings with Abu Sayyaf abductions on Pulau Sipadan should come forward to enlighten the public as to what actually transpired and why there has been a second abduction.
There should also be a  satisfactory accounting as to why several security measures which had been  implemented  earlier following the Pulau Sipadan abductions proved to be a flop.

The measures include  co-operation from island resort operators such as switching off the resort lights in the event of raids or intrusions to attract the attention of boats patrolling Malaysian waters.

However, although the Pulau Pandanan resort operator switched off power supply on Sunday night as agreed upon with police as a means of alerting them to attackers when they heard the sound of motor boats landing, there was no response whatsoever from  the police General Operations Force post on Pulau Mataking, about five kilometres from Pulau Pandanan.

Furthermore, the resort cook Ruslin Amat, 24, and two of his colleagues used flash lights to signal the police post and received a response - but no help came despite their efforts. Finally, Ruslin and two others had to  take a boat to Mataking to report the matter, to find that police patrol boats were trapped in mud due to the low tide.

It is all the more  shocking for Sabahans and  Malaysians to learn that on the night of the Pulau Pandanan abduction, ten  marine police boats were patrolling islands off  Semporna at the time - raising the question of the effectiveness of such police patrollings. There are 12 island resorts off Semporna - Sipadan (six), Mabul (three), Pandanan, Kepalai and the man-made coral reefs at a river mouth off Tawau.

Yesterday, Malaysian officials have been quoted in the mass media as demanding that the Philippines government get tough with its citizens following the second incident of hostage-taking in Sabah while Filipino officials, such as Philippine President Joseph Estrada’s spokesman, Ricardo Puno had countered demanding that Malaysia should tighten security, involving "the entire Malaysian military and not just their navy but also their army" at the  isolated island resorts in Sabah to prevent future kidnappings by Filipino Muslim guerrillas.

A war of words between Malaysia and the Philippines should be stopped as it  serves nobody any good and can only  damage the  ASEAN spirit   when the priority agenda is the release of the three hostages and how to ensure that there could be no recurrence of abductions in Malaysian waters by Filipino Muslim guerrillas - which must be a joint responsibility of the two governments.

For this purpose, DAP calls for the establishment of a joint Malaysia-Philippines Task Force as well as a Malaysian Cabinet Committee on Security on Sabah island resorts to work out a blueprint to  end kidnappings in Malaysian waters  by Filipino Muslim guerrillas.

*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman