Where were security men, asks ex-assistant minister after latest Sabah kidnapping

Former assistant state finance minister Ramlee Marahaban (centre) and his group after they were stopped by the Joint Task Force 2 team at sea in April.

SEMPORNA: Last Tuesday’s kidnapping of 10 fisherman has prompted a former assistant minister to question the efficiency of the security force policing the waters off Lahad Datu.

Ramlee Marahaban, who was assistant state finance minister in the previous administration, said he could see no reason for the inability of the Joint Task Force 2 (ATB 2) to detect the entry of boats into national waters.

He told FMT he was sure ATB 2’s radar was working as well as it did two months ago, when members of the force intercepted his boat and detained him and four others on suspicion of being armed intruders.

“I wonder why the radar could detect me for carrying licensed firearms, and allegedly coming from the neighbouring country’s waters, but could not detect the boat that entered our borders carrying a boatload of gunmen,” he said.

“Maybe they were sleeping on the job.”

He said he was raising the question because it was an issue of national security and public interest.

“The answer could show whether ATB 2 is committed in carrying out its task or interested only in being popular,” he added.

Last April, ATB 2 intercepted Ramlee, his son and some relatives as they were making a trip to the island of Mataking.

They were subsequently released and Semporna police issued a statement saying no crime had been committed.

Ramlee, a former Umno member who has since been appointed Semporna PPBM chairman, has a holiday resort project in Mataking.

He has filed a suit against several members of ATB 2, saying he believed they had abused their powers and had done so with the intention of tarnishing his image.

Earlier today, Sabah police commissioner Omar Mammah confirmed that nine of the 10 fishermen had been released by kidnappers in the southern Philippines.

He said further discussions with the Philippine authorities were under way as the kidnapped victims had no documents.

“A decision will be made whether to bring them back to Sabah.

“The Philippine authorities found the victims walking on a street in a town on an island in the southern Philippines at 10pm yesterday. The kidnappers had released them when they found out they had no money to pay,” he said.

There is no news on the 10th victim yet.