Malaysia stands firm no ransom is paid to Abu Sayyaf
KUALA Lumpur has stood firm that no ransom was paid for the safe release of four Malaysian citizens kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf. But Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi admitted the families of the victims raised and channelled about 12 million ringgits to a Muslim foundation in the Philippines in exchange for the freedom of the hostages – all tugboat crew members of MasFive 6.
The hostages - Wong Teck Kang, 31, Wong Hung Sing, 34, Wong Teck Chii, 29, and Johnny Lau Jung Hien, 21, - were released to unidentified Filipino negotiators province andon June were 8 spiritedin Sulu out by Malaysian police forces to Sabah. They were kidnapped off Ligitan Island on April 1 off Tawau town in Sabah. Ahmad Zahid, who is also Home Minister, was quoted by the Malaysian news agency Bernama as saying that the money - collected through donations and sale of property by families of the hostages - was handed to the police in Sandakan.
“The families handed the sum to the Special Branch of the police and I can confirm that it was channeled to a certain organisation in the Philippines for a sanctioned cause,” he told reporters.
But Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar, on Monday said the money did not pass through them and quickly shut down suggestions for a formal investigation into it. He said the money collected by the families of the hostages was passed to a “third party” in the southern Philippines and not to Malaysian police in Sandakan, a report by the Malay Mail Online newspaper said.
“Why must we open an enquiry about it now? I have already explained what happened to the cash. There is no reason for us to conduct any enquiry as we were not involved. I do not know, but police will not investigate because we know where the money went and I have already explained it. So I am not going to go back-andforth on something which I have already explained,” he told reporters at the national police headquarters in Kuala Lumpur.
It was not immediately known whether the Abu Sayyaf received the money through a bogus foundation, and the Philippine military has no official report or confirmation whether ransom has been paid to the ISIS-linked group.
But the Abu Sayyaf had previously freed 14 kidnapped Indonesians sailors through the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in Sulu, one of five provinces under the Muslim autonomous region.
And one of those who was being tapped by Malaysia to negotiate to the Abu Sayyaf in their behalf was Hajji Mamih Sangkula, also an MNLF member now based in Sabah, but is frequently back in Sulu.
Just recently, Jolo town Mayor Hussin Amin – in an exclusive interview by television giant ABS-CBN - has accused the military of colluding with the Abu Sayyaf group and claimed that some officers had taken shares of ransoms paid for the freedom of some of its hostages.
He also said the military has been using some Abu Sayyaf members as their “assets” a slang to refer to spy or informant. He asked the government to investigate military officers in cahoots with the Abu Sayyaf and for the Armed Forces of the Philippines to conduct a loyalty check among its ranks.
“Mga scalawags, eh dapat nga huwag na lang patago, kung meron, imbestigahan, oo na andoon na ang ransom, pero imbestigahan kung sino ba ito? Sino ba ang kumikita sa ransom? Hindi naman Abu Sayyaf. Iyan ang mga grupo na sabi iisa lang, ngayon dumadami na dahil may mga andiyan, ay ginagawang asset doon, sinasabing hindi nila asset, alam naman ng military yan,” he said.
Amin, a former judge in Jolo before he became a politician, said the Abu Sayyaf may be getting support or information from scalawags within the military. “These are the people who are in connivance with the scalawags in the military kaya malakas ang loob. Sabihin na ba ang totoo kung mayroon man ransom, dapat alamin kung sino ba ang gumagawa ng ransom. Sino ba ang kumikita sa ransom, dapat dito ikulong,” he said in the interview.
Amin, a former congressman, also said that a colonel in the military benefited from ransoms paid for the release of Dr. Alberio Canda who was kidnapped in Sulu in 2004 and freed a month later.
He said a congressional inquiry into the kidnapping showed the alleged involvement of the military officer. The military’s Western Mindanao Command quickly denied the accusations and challenged Amin to prove his allegations.
“Well, that’s his allegations. He has to prove that. Kung meron, bakit hindi niya sabihin sa amin? Yan ang mga hindi dapat nangyayari, yung mga ganyan, within the organization, it makes the organization suffer. Sundalo ka tapos ganoon ang gagawin mo, napakasakit naman noon,” Major Filemon Tan, a military spokesman, told ABS-CBN.
The Abu Sayyaf pledges allegiance anew to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in these screen grab from a video released recently by the notorious rebel group.
An unidentified barangay tanod, armed with a shotgun and a bandoleer of cartridges, mans the traffic flow in the village of Tumaga in Zamboanga City in southern Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)