KOTA KINABALU: The Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) arrested an elderly man, an accused in the Lahad Datu intrusion trial, paddling a shabby boat (sampan usang) into the open sea, the High Court here was told yesterday.
KD Yu’s former Executive Officer Lt Syazwan Ariff Iman Abdul Raman said while on duty as Officer On Watch at about 8.30am on March 12, 2013, he spotted the accused, Ismail Yasin, paddling the boat by himself about a mile away from the navy vessel and between four to five nautical miles from the shore of Tanjung Labian, which is adjacent to Kampung Tanduo, where the intrusion by Sulu gunmen took place two years ago.
“When I first saw the boat, the man was paddling slowly towards the open sea,” he said when testifying in the trial of 30 individuals linked to the intrusion at the village.
During that time, Syazwan Ariff Iman, who is now a staff officer at RMN’s headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, said he and his vessel were carrying out a special operation to stop and search boats and vessels plying the waters off Tambisan, Tanjung Labian and Kampung Tanduo following the intrusion.
Upon seeing the man in the boat, the navy officer steered KD Yu closer to the man.
“To get closer to the boat, I had to take 10-15 minutes and I instructed the man in the boat to get closer to the ship,” he said, adding that the man in the boat abided by his instructions.
Syazwan Ariff Iman instructed two navy personnel to pull the man up to the navy vessel and conduct a body search on the man, but found nothing suspicious.
He then instructed two other personnel to check the boat which resulted in the discovery of a black backpack (beg galas) containing clothes and toiletries.
After inspecting the man and the boat as well as the backpack(he had with him), the navy officer instructed Chief Petty Officer PRL Jumadil Salahuddin to interrogate the man.
Syazwan Ariff Iman said Jumadil, who was conversant in the Suluk language, asked the man his name, age, race and place of origin.
“The man stated that his name was Ismail Bin Haji Yasin. I don’t remember his age. His race is Bajau and came from Sibutu Island (Philippines).
“He didn’t say anything else. He refused to give any information,” he said.
Asked by Deputy Public Prosecutor Mohd Dusuki Mokhtar what were the questions that the accused refused to answer, Syazwan Ariff Iman said: “Among the questions posed to the accused were how long had he been at sea and what was he doing at sea.”
The witness said he had found the man to be suspicious as there were no identification documents on him and that he hailed from Sibutu Island.
“If one was to estimate the distance between Sibutu Island and the area where we arrested the accused, it is far and there has been no one who has paddled a boat up to the island,” he further explained.
Syazwan Ariff Iman told the court he informed KD Yu’s commanding officer Lt Commander Mohd Saifullizan Md Ariff of the man’s arrest, who advised the executive officer to hand over the man to the police.
He told the court that he contacted the marine police via the Government Intergrated Radio Network (GIRN) and at about 10.30am that day, a marine police officer and two personnel arrived at KD Yu where the man and the seized backpack and its contents were handed over.
In the dock are 27 Filipinos and three local residents who are facing one to multiple charges of being members of a terrorist group, waging war against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, recruiting members for a terrorist group or wilfully harbouring individuals they knew to be members of a terrorist group.
They allegedly committed the offences between Feb 12 and April 10, 2013.
The hearing before Justice Stephen Chung continues tomorrow at the Sabah Prisons Department. — Bernama