The Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) was today called a toothless tiger following the kidnapping of another Chinese national this morning in a situation which is bound to increase tension between China and Malaysia.
Early this morning, Yang Zai Lin, 34, was abducted by Abu Sayyaf gunmen from a fish farm near Pulau Babi, Lahad Datu and taken away in a speedboat.
Despite Malaysia’s security dragnet, the kidnappers managed to escape into international waters and are believed to have headed for southern Philippines.
Yang, a Guangzhou native, had been running the fish farm for three years. The farm is owned by Hong Kong-based Wonderful Terrace Sdn Bhd.
This latest kidnapping comes barely six weeks after another Chinese national, 29-year-old Gao Hua Yun, was kidnapped together with Filipina Marcy Dayawan @ Mimi from the Singgahmata Reef Resort near Semporna. The two victims have yet to be released by the kidnappers.
In today’s incident, Yang, a Guangzhou native, was taken away by five men dressed in army fatigues. At least three of them were said to be armed with M-16 assault rifles.
Esscom director-general Datuk Muhammad Mentek confirmed the incident, saying land and air assets had been deployed to intercept the speedboat.
However, the kidnappers escaped after a shootout with security officials.
DAP Sabah vice-chairman Chan Foong Hin said Esscom appeared to be a toothless tiger which is incapable of protecting eastern Sabah.
“Stop living in denial. This morning’s incident has clearly shown Esscom’s glaring deficiencies,” Chan said in a statement.
“If Malaysia was to follow the example set by South Korea, I do not know how many director-generals are going to be changed at Esscom.”
Chan was referring to South Korean premier Chung Hong-won, who offered his resignation after criticism of the government’s response to the April 16 ferry disaster.
“It is time for Putrajaya to take firm action and ensure that Sabah is safe from intruders,” Chan said.
MPs from both sides had previously called for Esscom to be dissolved, expressing their unhappiness over the agency’s failure to prevent intrusions by Abu Sayyaf gunmen.
In an earlier statement, Kalabakan MP Datuk Seri Abdul Ghapur Salleh said the people of Sabah were fed up and angry with promises to boost and strengthen Esscom.
“They have been suffering from a lack of security in the state since 1979.”
Gelang Patah MP Lim Kit Siang said Esscom was a white elephant and a waste of public funds.
“It is [time] to dissolve the agency as it has not proven to be effective in protecting eastern Sabah.”
Esscom covers 1,400km of the east coast of Sabah from Kudat to Tawau.
It was established in March last year by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak following the Lahad Datu incursion by armed Sulu militants.
Its purpose is to strengthen maritime security in the eastern part of Sabah and to prevent terrorist activity in the waters off Sabah.
In November last year, Taiwanese tourist Chang An Wei was abducted from the Pom Pom island resort while her partner, Li Min Hsu was shot dead.
Chang was freed a month later after a substantial ransom was paid to the Abu Sayyaf via intermediaries.
Following Gao’s kidnapping, China’s foreign ministry urged Malaysia to ensure the safety of Chinese citizens here.
The Chinese consulate in Kuching also demanded that Malaysian security forces ensure the safety in Chinese tourists in the state.
China’s ties with Malaysia have come under stress following the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 on March 8.
MH370 was carrying 12 crew members and 227 passengers, of which 153 were Chinese nationals. It has yet to be found. – May 6, 2014.
Police detained 19 workers from a fish farm in Pulau Baik, where a Chinese national was abducted this morning, to facilitate investigations.
Sabah police chief Datuk Hamza Taib said of the 19, 11 were Sulu. All are now at the Lahad Datu police headquarters.
In this morning’s incident, Yang Zai Lin, 34, was abducted by five gunmen, believed to be members of the Abu Sayyaf.
Despite engaging the police Special Action Unit in a shootout, the gunmen managed to evade authorities and fled towards southern Philippines.
“The incident occurred at 2.45am today when the five gunmen arrived at a fish farm in Pulau Baik,” Hamza said.
“The gunmen went to the staff quarters and questioned a woman on where the manager’s room was.”
When the gunmen kicked open the woman’s door, the sound woke up the manager up who then came out to investigate.
The gunmen grabbed the manager, Yang, from Guangzhou, before bundling him into the boat and fleeing.
“Police were informed about the incident at 2.53am and deployed three boats to pursue the suspects’ vessel,” Hamza said.
At 6.20am, authorities spotted the kidnappers’ vessel near Mataking Island and shots were exchanged.
The speedboat used by the kidnappers, believed to be equipped with 200 horsepower engines, outpaced Malaysian vessels.
Authorities were forced to abandon the pursuit as the kidnappers headed closer and closer towards the Philippines.
Hamza said checks at the fish farm revealed it was owned by Wonderful Terrace Sdn Bhd, a Hong Kong-based company.
“We have contacted our counterparts in the Philippines for assistance.”
This is the second abduction to be reported this year following an incident reported in early March.
The incident saw 29-year-old Gao Hua Yun from Shanghai and 40-year-old Marcy Dayawan @ Mimi from the Philippines being abducted from the Singamata Reef Resort on Semporna island.
It occurred several months after a Taiwanese, Chang An Wei, 57, was abducted by armed men from Pom Pom island in November last year.
Chang was freed a month later in December after a sizeable ransom was reportedly paid for her release.
The fate of Gao and Marcy, however, is still not known although it is learned that the kidnappers have demanded for a ransom.
Abu Sayyaf once had links to international militant networks, including al-Qaeda.
But a United States-backed Philippine military crackdown on the group’s heartland in the Sulu province in the southern Philippines has weakened it considerably in recent years.
The group has about 300 fighters and is now more focused on kidnapping for ransom than on the jihad cause. – May 6, 2014.