Jambun: Address concerns on kidnappings-for-ransom


KOTA KINABALU: A human rights advocate has urged Putrajaya to view seriously a spate of allegations in the Manila Times last week which included the charge that Malaysians were funding the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group by raising ransom money for the release of their kidnapped countrymen.

Daniel John Jambun noted that the report in the Philippine newspaper, an op-ed piece by Rigoberto D Tiglo, urged Manila not to allow the Malaysian Government to treat Filipinos as “stupid, by allowing Malaysian agents to trample on Philippine sovereignty.”

The op-ed writer, added Jambun, asked why “our government (Manila) hasn’t even protested the Malaysians’ payment of the ransom undertaken through its intelligence service, operating in our territory.”

“That’s so reflective of the stupid, incompetent government that we have. It should undertake an intensive investigation into how the Malaysians could operate so freely in the country, violating our anti-ransom policies and consequently boosting the strength of the terrorist Abu Sayyaf with more funds,” Jambun quoted Tiglo, the op-ed writer, as asking.

The writer urged the Manila Government to find out which local channels were used by the Malaysians to make the ransom payment, said the Bopim chief. “He said that Malaysia was mocking the sovereignty of the Philippines by operating in its territory to pay ransom to terrorists plaguing the land and the President (Benigno Aquino) doesn’t seem to mind it.”

“The Manila Times has also been left wondering whether this government (Manila) has become close buddies with the Malaysians who had promised Aquino they would get the MILF to agree to a peace pact.”

Briefly, said Jambun who heads the UK-based Borneo’s Plight in Malaysia Foundation (Bopim), the main charges in the Manila Times op-ed include the following:

Firstly, the writer suspects the ransom money was raised by the Malaysian Government itself, and not by contributions made through the Internet as claimed by Lau Cheng Kiong, the uncle of one of the four kidnap victims from Sarawak.

Secondly, the writer claims the Malaysian Government, though, thinks “Filipinos are fools”. He refers to Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi confirming that RM12 million handed over to the Special Branch was given as a form of contribution to certain organisations in the Philippines, channeled not as ransom, but to a body in the Philippines, which assists in the Islamic struggle and has “no links to terrorists or criminals.”

Thirdly, the Abu Sayyaf had recently beheaded two Canadians after the hostages’ government and families refused and/or failed to pay the ransom demanded by the militant group. “The terrorists, however, freed the four Malaysians, with the Malaysian Government confirming that RM12 million was ‘sent over’ for their release. Yet, Zahid claims it wasn’t ransom, and that it was given not even to the kidnappers but to ‘a body in the Philippines, which assists in an Islamic struggle’,” Jambun quoted the writer as pointing out.

Fourthly, the Abu Sayyaf group in fact received about RM8.8 million of the money raised, “with the rest going into the pockets of Malaysian and Philippine Government officials”. A source in the military told the writer that it was a “legitimate service fee.”

The writer went on to further allege, continued Jambun, that the Philippines has been made to look like a place where terrorist kidnappers could operate freely to get huge ransoms. “Tiglo said local officials and officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines collaborated with the Abu Sayyaf for a share of the ransom money.”