PETALING JAYA: Did Malaysia secure the release of the four Sarawakians kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf militants before or after paying a welfare organisation in the Philippines?
This was the question posed by former New Straits Times Group Editor Mustapha Kamil, who questioned the logic behind Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s statement.
“If before, then why did we still pay since part of the money belonged to kin of the hostages who, among others, sold off their assets to raise the funds?
“We could have just returned the money to them.
“If after the release, how did the NGOs come into the picture? How did we know which NGOs exactly to send the money to?
“Could we have refused to pay? That sounds like a ransom to me,” he said in a Facebook posting.
His posting came after Zahid stated that the RM12 million raised by the families of the four hostages were channelled to a welfare organisation in the Philippines as the government does not recognise demands for ransom.
The Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronysim Executive Director Cynthia Gabriel expressed concern over the matter, pointing out that it was worrying that the matter was kept in the dark from Malaysians.
“C4 expresses concern over the lack of transparency in the RM12 million linked to the release of the four Sarawakians who were taken as hostages.
“Given that the threat of terrorism and kidnapping is on the rise, it is indeed worrying that the RM12 million is being shrouded in a black hole of secrecy.”
Cynthia urged Zahid, who is also the home minister, to reveal more details on the payment in order to assure Malaysians that such incidents would not happen again.
Netizens have also raised questions and expressed doubts over Zahid’s statement.
“What is so secret about the charities that the details cannot be disclosed?” Chandran Thangavelu questioned on Facebook.
Facebook user AunMin Chee said: “This is more like giving the seal of approval for more hostage taking.”
Some were furious over the statement, pointing out that it was unacceptable to channel funds raised by family members to a welfare group that cannot be revealed.
“I am speechless. Why the ransom is given to charity organizations in the Philippines. You should return the money to its donors. It’s their hard earned money,” said Novie Liauw on Facebook.
Another Facebook user, Trinilation Shu, said: “People sold off their assets to raise that big amount of money. And then, they are told that the money is given as a donation to people that he cannot reveal.”
The four who were abducted – Wong Teck Kang, 31; Wong Teck Chii, 29; Johnny Lau Jung Hien, 21; and Wong Hung Sing, 34 – were kidnapped on April 1 and released last Tuesday night after multiple negotiations between the militants and Malaysian and Filipino authorities.
The uncle of one of the hostages, however, confirmed to the press that they had paid out RM12 million to Special Branch officers in Sandakan to be used as ransom for the release of the four kidnap victims. – FMT