Ex-assistant minister denies arrest for possible cross-border crime

Ramlee Marhaban and his group after they were stopped by the ATB2 team yesterday.

KOTA KINABALU: Former assistant minister Ramlee Marhaban has dismissed reports that he and four of his friends were arrested for trying to sneak into Malaysian waters near Mataking Island in Semporna yesterday despite confirmation by the police that no arrests were made.

He said he and his entourage were at the island as he owns land there and was overseeing works on his property.

“It was a routine trip to the island. I already informed Esscom of my movements, but I guess the Joint Task Force 2 (ATB2) was not told of my plan,” he told FMT today.

Police in Semporna said news on Ramlee’s arrest was false as the authorities found no case despite the presence of weapons on board the tourist boat in which Ramlee and his friends were travelling.

Ramlee said he regretted the rumours, adding that it was all a misunderstanding due to a lack of communication between security forces.

“Sometimes I go there on fishing trips, too. I have a licence to carry weapons, and I admit to having weapons on board. I didn’t bring the licence because I didn’t want it to get damaged.

“We brought the weapons along for self-defence, knowing the dangers of travelling in the area sometimes,” he said.

Ramlee and his group were released without charges.

Mataking Island lies at the border between Malaysia and the Philippines.

Yesterday, ATB2 Brigadier General Zarondin Md Amin said they had detected the boat carrying Ramlee and the four others coming from the Sitangkai waters off southern Philippines.

He said the team deployed to intercept the boat found the men without identification documents. The team also found two firearms: a pistol with 18 rounds of .9mm ammunition and a shotgun with 33 rounds.

The group was suspected of planning to carry out cross-border crimes, including kidnapping.