The Jakarta Post
Malaysian Defense Minister Mohamad Sabu has reiterated the country’s commitment to increasing security in the Sulu Sea region following recurring kidnappings of Indonesian fishermen by southern Philippines militant group Abu Sayyaf, inviting all trilateral counterparts -- Indonesia and the Philippines -- to join the effort.
In a visit to Jakarta on Saturday, the Malaysian politician -- better known as Mat Sabu -- said Malaysia would increase its efforts and role in the existing trilateral maritime patrols around Sulu and Sabah region, calling on relevant parties to follow suit.
“The three countries, Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia need to increase security. This was something agreed to by Prabowo [Indonesian defense minister] and [us] yesterday,” Mat Sabu told journalists in Jakarta.
He suggested that one of the many factors of the frequent kidnappings was the fact that Mindanao had remained an unstable region in the Philippines. “As long as the turmoil continues there, there will still be a lot of kidnappings.”
Regarding the upheaval in Mindanao, Mat Sabu said it needed to be resolved to reduce the impact it had on the region -- and eventually prevent similar hostage cases in the future.
Despite the frequent kidnappings, the Malaysian minister said he believed that the trend had shown a decline.
However, due to the characteristics of the group and its long-time activity in the region, he called on consistent reviews of the trilateral security cooperation from time to time.
On Jan. 15, Indonesian fisherman M. Farhan was rescued by the Philippine military from Abu Sayyaf, which held him hostage in the Philippine's southern island of Jolo.
He was, at that time, the last remaining Indonesian hostage after two fellow fishermen in his group -- all three were kidnapped in waters off Tambisan in Malaysia's Sabah in September -- were rescued in December.
The rescue of Farhan came less than 24 hours before another group of five Indonesian fishermen were abducted in the same location.
It has prompted three countries around the Sulu and Sabah waters to react, with Indonesian officials having criticized the "ineffective coordination" of Malaysian authorities in securing their waters.
Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi has urged Malaysia to review the security of its territory, underscoring that all three countries had joined the trilateral patrols and that Indonesia was committed to carrying out patrols in its own territory.
The Philippine’s Armed Forces’ Western Mindanao Command, meanwhile, has set a new deadline of March 31 to dismantle the Abu Sayyaf group, according to the Philippine Daily Inquirer. (asp)