The NGOs call for the Establishment of the Royal Commission on ESSCOM and Hostage Crisis Management

The following NGOs call for the establishment of a Royal Commission of Inquiry to probe the effectiveness of Eastern Sabah Security Zone (ESSZONE) and hostage crisis management in Sabah, following the latest mishandling of the “Sibu 4” hostage crisis which involves public and family contribution of RM 12 million.

While we cheer for the release and safety of the hostages, the whereabouts of the RM 12 million has been given so many contradictory statements by the authorities:

  • June 9: IGP Khalid Abu Bakar claimed that no ransom was paid

  • June 16: the families claimed that they have handed over the RM 12 million to the police

  • June 16: DPM cum Home Minister Zaid Hamidi claimed that the RM 12 million was donated to some Islamic charities in the Philipppines
  • June 17: IGP Khalid Abu Bakar denied that the police have received the RM 12 million

  • June 20:Abu Sayyaf angry not all ransom money went to them.

The contradictory statements have unfortunately raised questions of accountability and integrity not only on the authorities, but earlier also the families which have suffered emotionally because of the ordeal itself. One of the families even sold their two houses in order to save the lives of their loved ones.

The Home Minister’s “donation” claim is neither sensible nor acceptable on two grounds.

  1. The money was raised from the public and does not belong to the police. Hence, the police have no right to channel the money for other purposes.
  2. Calling the transfer of money as “donation” and channelled it to “a body in the Philippines which assists in an Islamic struggle” is legitimising the kidnapping of non-Muslims by the Abu Sayaff terrorists.

If this is a poor camouflage of payment of ransom, it shows the Government has failed twice as compared to other governments who paid to secure the release of their citizens kidnapped by terrorists.

First, the Government failed to assist the hostage families, leading to the need for them to raise fund publicly and complicating the matter. In other countries, ransom is paid by government or public enterprises with broad consensus across political parties.

Second, when publicly-raised fund is used and accountability is expected, the government has left the families to answer the public query and eventually came out with contradictory statements now leading to speculations if the ransom money has been misappropriated.

This entire fiasco is itself indicative of the weakness of our marine defence in Sabah. Clearly, the ESSZONE which was launched on 25 March 2013 and cost Malaysians RM 1.3 billion so far has not been effective.

Less than half a year before the kidnapping of the Sibu 4 hostages on April 2, another Sarawakian Bernard Thein was beheaded by Abu Sayaff in November. He was kidnapped while dining in a Sandakan restaurant on May 15, 2015.

On 6 May 2014, a Chinese national, Yang Zailin, was kidnapped from a fish farm in Lahad Datu’s Silam, Sabah.

On 2 April 2014, a Chinese female tourist, Gao Huayun and a Filipino were kidnapped at the Singgahmata Hotel, Sabah.

An RCI is necessary to look at both how to improve our marine security and handle hostage crisis.

It needs to study how the threat of hostage-for-money terrorism can be curbed, by not just improving our military and police surveillance, but also through international cooperation and religious preaching against deviant teaching that kidnapping non-Muslims for money is acceptable. Malaysians cannot be treated as ATM machines by terrorists with some “charity body” as their agent.

With regards to the management of the Sibu 4 crisis, the RCI can establish facts, clear the air and restore public confidence in the home ministry and the police that there was no foul play and complicity of Malaysian officials in the management of the hostage crisis and the ransom money.

Endorsed by:

  1. Persatuan Aliran Kesedaran Malaysia (ALIRAN)
  2. Anak Muda Sarawak  (AMS)
  3. All Women’s Action Society (AWAM)
  4. BERSIH 2.0
  5. Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4)
  7. Institute for Development of Alternative Living (IDEAL)
  8. Pertubuhan IKRAM Malaysia (IKRAM)
  9. Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF)
  11. Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia (JOAS)
  12. Kumpulan Aktivis Mahasiswa Independen (KAMI)
  13. Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH)
  14. Pusat Komas (KOMAS)
  15. Komuniti Muslim Universal (KMU) Malaysia
  16. Persatuan Bekas Siswazah Universiti dan Kolej di China, Malaysia (LiuHua)
  17. LLG Cultural Development Centre (LLG)
  18. Malaysian Indian Progressive Association (MIPAS)
  19. Majlis Perundingan Malaysian Agama Buddha, Kritisian , Hindu, Sikh dan Tao (MCCBCHST)
  20. Malaysian Indians Transformation Action Team (MITRA)
  21. National Indian Rights Action Team (NIAT)
  22. Negeri Sembilan Chinese Assembly Hall (NSCAH)
  23. Oriental Hearts and Mind Study Institute (OHMSI)
  24. Partners in Community Organising (Pacos Trust), Sabah.
  25. Persatuan Masyarakat Sel dan Wilayah Persekutuan (PERMAS)
  26. Malaysian Youth Care Association (PRIHATIN)
  27. Federation of Malaysian Indian Organisation (PRIMA)
  28. Persatuan Rapat Malaysia (RAPAT)
  29. Rise of Sarawak Efforts (ROSE)
  30. Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM)
  31. Sabah Women’s Action Resource Group (SAWO)
  32. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
  33. United Chinese School Alumni Associations of Malaysia (UCSAAM)
  34. Tamil Foundation (TF)
  35. Tindak Malaysia
  36. Angkatan Warga Aman Malaysia (Warga AMAN)
  38. Women Development of Malaysia PJ Branch