‘I thought I was go­ing to die. I thought this was my last Christ­mas…’

‘I was afraid of not be­ing able to see my fam­ily again’, says kid­nap vic­tim

New Straits Times - - FRONT PAGE - MELVIN JONI SE­RIAN cnews@nstp.com.my

WITH the muz­zle of an as­sault ri­fle pointed at his head, Ruby Nyalu thought this was it. He re­counts the or­deal that he and four oth­ers went through after be­ing kid­napped by Ten­tera Na­sional In­done­sia sol­diers at the Sarawak-West Kal­i­man­tan bor­der on Dec 11.

WITH a Pin­dad SS-1 ri­fle trained to his head, Ruby Nyalu was certain he was about to die. “I thought I was go­ing to die. I thought this was my last Christ­mas.

“The only thing play­ing in my head was my fam­ily... I re­mem­ber think­ing that I won’t see them again.”

Ruby, 30, was among five Malaysians who were kid­napped by Ten­tera Na­sional In­done­sia (TNI) sol­diers at the Sarawak-West Kal­i­man­tan bor­der on Dec 11.

He said on the day of the in­ci­dent, he and his friends were col­lect­ing wood at the Wong Rangkai for­est near Kam­pung Danau Me­likin, 400m from the In­done­sian bor­der. The wood, said Ruby, was to build a house.

Two sol­diers, dressed in bat­tle fa­tigues and armed with ri­fles, ap­proached them.

Ruby and his friends were forced into their ve­hi­cle — a four­wheel-drive be­long­ing to Ruby’s fa­ther — and drove to the In­done­sian com­mand post in Sun­gai Engkeli.

“One of the sol­diers sat next to the driver. An­other sat be­hind with his gun trained on us.”

Ruby said once they ar­rived at the com­mand post, they were told to strip to their un­der­wear and had their faces cov­ered with black hoods.

They were as­saulted by 12 peo­ple.

“They kept ac­cus­ing us of steal­ing wood from In­done­sian ter­ri­tory. Each time I de­nied it, they would beat me.”

Ruby and his friends were not only punched, but also whipped with rotan. He sus­tained sev­eral in­juries to the face and body.

Of the five, three were held overnight by the sol­diers, while two were re­leased at 4pm. The two were told to in­form the hostages’ fam­i­lies to hand over RM10,000 and two new chain­saws the same night.

The duo, in­stead, went straight to the Balai Rin­gin camp. Fol­low­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions, the three men were re­leased the next day.

Ruby said the in­ci­dent had since haunted them.

“We’re trau­ma­tised by the event. We didn’t think some­thing like this could hap­pen to us. All we wanted was to col­lect wood to build a house.”

He said he was grate­ful to Wisma Pu­tra, the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil, po­lice, as well as the army for their roles in gain­ing their free­dom.

“Christ­mas this year will be more mean­ing­ful than ever.”

He hoped a Malaysian com­mand post would be es­tab­lished in the area to pre­vent a re­cur­rence.

Peo­ple claimed that over the last seven years, In­done­sians, as well as TNI sol­diers, had been cross­ing the bor­der freely, rais­ing con­cern among the lo­cals.

Kam­pung Danau Me­likin vil­lage head Nyalu Tampa, 60, said the vil­lage ap­peared to have been “con­trolled” by for­eign­ers ever since the area was de­vel­oped into an oil palm plan­ta­tion.

“We had voiced our con­cerns over the plan­ta­tion as this is na­tive cus­tom­ary land.”

He claimed that the plan­ta­tion owner was work­ing with TNI to “look after” the site.

“The plan­ta­tion owner built an ac­cess road so that the army can get food sup­plies. They (TNI) are al­lowed to move around freely and even threat­ened us not to in­ter­fere with the plan­ta­tion’s op­er­a­tions.”

Ruby Nyalu

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