Jakarta criticises Putrajaya over latest kidnappings

Arrmanatha-Nasir,

PETALING JAYA: Indonesia has criticised Malaysia for its “questionable ability” to ensure security in its waters off Sabah after two more Indonesian sailors were kidnapped over the weekend.

The Jakarta Post reported that Indonesia’s foreign ministry had urged Malaysian fishing firms and agents in Sabah to refrain from sending out their vessels with Indonesian sailors.

It has also asked the Malaysian authorities to do their best to increase security, “in what amounts to a diplomatic slap in the face”, according to the Jakarta Post.

Last Saturday, 13 Indonesian crew members of a fishing vessel off Lahad Datu were attacked by an armed group of five men believed to be pirates. The pirates left with two hostages from West Sulawesi.

A spokesman for Indonesia’s foreign ministry, Arrmanatha Nasir, confirmed the incident, explaining that the reason for their rebuke of Malaysian authorities was due to the incident taking place not far from the coast of Sabah.

“On Sunday, our consulate in Tawau once again urged the authorities in Malaysia to increase security in Sabah.

“Especially in relation to the recent (kidnapping) incidents near the Sabah coast,” he was quoted as saying by the Jakarta Post.

He added that the consulate office had also asked Malaysian fishery firms to halt fishing activities until Malaysian authorities increased security off Sabah.

“We also demand that fishery companies and owners of the hijacked vessels take on their responsibilities and bear the costs to free the two sailors,” the daily quoted him as saying.

Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi had recently sought assurances from Wisma Putra that Malaysia would help in securing the release of two Indonesian vessel captains abducted in Sabah waters on Nov 5.

Retno had flown to Kota Kinabalu to meet with Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman and the chief of the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom). Musa Aman’s brother, Anifah, is the Malaysian foreign minister.

“It is in our common interests. It is in Malaysia’s interests to guarantee the safety of our sailors and that the security authorities ensure that the region is safe so that fishing companies can make their profits there,” Arrmanatha said, according to the Jakarta Post

Meanwhile, Malaysia’s ambassador to Indonesia Zahrain Mohamed Hashim told the Jakarta Post that Putrajaya regretted the recent string of kidnappings off Sabah waters, under the jurisdiction of the Esscom.

He said the Sabah region was so vast that there were many channels where the kidnappers could traverse at will.

“It is an ongoing process and sometimes they (pirates) get away with it but we are committed (to resolving the issue),” Zahrain told The Jakarta Post on Monday.