Deputy Minister of Home Affairs Nur Jazlan Mohamed has urged the public and families of the four freed Sarawakian sailors to stop focusing on the RM12 million raised for their release.
What was most important, he said, was that the four men were back home safe. He cautioned against further discussion about the money, saying this could invite more kidnappings.
“Do not encourage further kidnappings,” he told Malay Mail Online. “When you reveal that such a sum can be raised, about RM3 million for each hostage, then you are encouraging them to go and kidnap again. Stop setting bad examples for future negotiations, if there are any. It will make it worse.”
He was referring to the notorious Abu Sayyaf group, the terror network in the southern Philippines which held the Malaysians for ransom. The militants have earned millions of dollars from kidnapping foreigners and locals in the region since the early 1990s.
Nur Jazlan said this following a flood of question on the RM12 million raised to secure the release of the four sailors, in particular who handled the money and where it went. Some non-governmental organisations are pushing for a Royal Commission of Inquiry.
The Abu Sayyaf group was reported to be angry that it had only been given RM8.8 million and not all the RM12 million, raising speculation that some of the money had been shared by government officials in both countries involved in securing the release of the four.
According to an uncle of one of the hostages, the money was raised by the families as ransom for the release of the men and was banked in to the police on May 24.
Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had said the police’s Special Branch unit received the funds from the families, and that the money was then given to certain Philippine agencies. The Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar however said neither the Special Branch nor any police unit was involved in the money transactions.
Brothers Wong Teck Kang, 31; and Teck Chii, 29; their 21-year-old cousin Johnny Lau Jung Hien; and an unrelated friend, Wong Hung Sing, 34; were kidnapped from a commercial barge, MV Massive 6, in the waters off Pulau Ligitan on April 1 while returning to Tawau, Sabah, after delivering a cargo of wood to Manila. The Abu Sayyaf gunmen released them on June 8.