Are police hiding the truth about ransom?
By P Ramasamy
Inaccuracies, contradictory statements and half-truths by those in charge of the police can only lead to deterioration of the security situation.
How can you put a stop to kidnapping when the police themselves are not revealing the real truth about their actual involvement?
The Inspector-general of the police, Khalid Abu Bakar, has denied that ransom money, for the release of four Sarawakians held in captivity by Abu Sayyaf militants, was given to the Special Branch.
He said in a press conference in Putrajaya yesterday that the police have no knowledge of the ransom money and if at all the ransom was paid then it had something to do with their family members.
Khalid’s statement comes as a direct contradiction to what was stated by deputy prime minister and minister of home affairs Ahmad Zahid Hamidi. A few days ago, Zahid admitted that police received the money, which was then subsequently channelled to a Muslim welfare organisation in the Philippines which had no relationship whatsoever with the militants.
Khalid did say that police were involved in providing safe passage for family members of the kidnapped victims to travel to Zambaonga City in the Philippines to negotiate with the kidnappers or their agents. Other than that, the police were not involved in the eventual release of the victims.
However, Khalid blamed certain political parties for publicising the collection of the ransom money and for influencing the militants to increase the ransom amount. At the same press conference, Khalid, being annoyed with the barrage of questions about the kidnapping matter, blurted out by saying: “I don’t know and don’t want to know”.
Who is telling the truth, the minister in charge of police affairs or the head of the country’s police force?
It is a sad day for Malaysia if those responsible for the country’s security are not telling the truth to the public. Surely there is something that is amiss if these two high-ranking individuals are giving out differing information.
If they are deeply divided on divulging correct information to the public, then to whom can the public turn if there is another kidnapping? As it is, kidnapping of Malaysians is on the rise in the waters off Sabah and the police seem helpless in resolving the matter.
Hypothetically, if there is another kidnapping, the families and the next of kin will be required to raise funds for another Muslim welfare body and the police, in the words of Zahid, will act as an intermediary.
The reputation of the Malaysian police has taken such a beating in the last few years. Surely, they don’t need any another more infantile adventurism that will further affect their credibility and ability to function effectively.
The Malaysian government must address the following questions.
First, what was the actual role of the police in the kidnap episode? Did they merely provide safe passage for the family members to travel to Zambaonga City or had bigger role such as channelling the collected funds to the militants or their agents?
Second, why are Zahid and Khalid making contradictory statements about the kidnap matter? Who is telling the truth and how much truth is being told. Are both of them hiding crucial information from the public?
Third, while we accept that the government does not believe in paying ransom money, how on earth Zahid could have the temerity to say that the money collected was channeled to a Muslim welfare organisation?
Fourth, could Zahid name the so-called Muslim welfare body and whether it has any relationship with the Abu Sayyaf militants?
Fifth, it is well-known that the militants would not have released the victims without the payment of a ransom. Did the police perform an intermediary role? So after all, in an informal sense, the police went against the directive of the government in negotiating and condoning the payment of ransom?
Sixth, these contradictory statements and half-truths do not augur well for the security of the nation. In a more specific sense, it will only further embolden the militants to engage in further ransom-seeking kidnaps.
P Ramasamy is Deputy Chief Minister II of Penang.