Time to take decisive action against the kidnappers now


News of the latest kidnapping of Malaysian citizens by eight armed men, believed to be Abu Sayyaf militants from the Southern Philippines in the waters near Litigan Island off Semporna yesterday was received with an air of inevitability by most people.

For us in Sarawak the news was especially sad as the four, Wong Teck Kang, 31; Wong Hung Sing, 34; Wong Teck Chii, 29; and Johnny Lau Jung Hien, 21, are all from Sibu.

Memories of the tragic fate of Bernard Then, the Sarawakian who was kidnapped last year by apparently the same group, is still fresh in our mind and this latest abduction will lead to a similar long protracted negotiation for the release of the hostages with no certainty of their safe release.

The fact that the abductors singled out Malaysians from among the crew of the tugboat is rather disturbing because it showed that they view Malaysians as rich pickings and their confidence of getting away with their crime scot free after collecting the ransom.

Sadly Malaysia has become the ‘Automated Teller Machine’ for the pirates of Southern Philippines where they can withdraw money easily.

Serious questions have to be raised now about how the government had reacted to such kidnappings in the past that gives rise to this perception.

Have we been too ‘soft’ in dealing with such situation during the negotiation and especially in the follow up after the stand-off ended with the ransom being paid or the hostage killed as in the case of Then.

Despite millions of ringgit being poured into beefing up the defence of the waters off Eastern Sabah through the establishment of Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom), the kidnappers from Southern Philippines could still operate with impunity and almost at will.

It is now time to work closely with security authorities in the Philippines not only to track down the abductors and victims but also to prevent future kidnapping.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak must act swiftly by calling the Philippines president to condemn this latest kidnapping of Malaysian citizens and demand that the Philippine police, navy and military act fast to apprehend these kidnappers.

These regular abductions of Malaysian citizens should be viewed as acts of war against the nation and dealt with accordingly.

At the moment securing the safe release of the victims is the top priority but Malaysia must also look beyond this latest kidnapping now.

Perhaps it is time now for the nation to send its navy and security forces to carry out joint operations with the Philippines armed forces to root out this menace to citizens of our nation.

We cannot afford to dither any longer; it is time to take up decisive action against the kidnappers now.