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Sunday, June 19, 2016

Ransom or not, there will be no answer

Having been incarcerated by the Abu Sayyaf militants in southern Philippines for 69 days, the four hostages from Sibu have finally been freed from captivity to return home safely. Not only are their families overjoyed at their safe return, the entire country also rejoices with them.

In a media conference, the hostages knelt down on the floor to thank the government, police, members of the public and the media for their assistance so that they could come back alive. By right, this should have been a happy ending to the entire issue. However, following their safe return, the question of ransom continues to raise queries as the police and hostages' families tell their own sides of the story.

The families say they have handed the ransom over to the police and have given them full authority to handle the issue. However, the police say the hostages were released through negotiations and no ransom was paid to the abductors.

Due to the large sum of money involving public donations, the families had no choice but to gave a detailed account of how the ransom was handed to the police, during the media conference.

To the government, it will not bow to the demands of criminals in securing the release of the hostages. As for how the police negotiated with the kidnappers through middlemen, that remains a top secret. Even if the ransom was eventually paid, there is no way for the government to admit.

Although seeking the release of hostages by way of meeting the kidnappers' ransom demands is never the ultimate solution to repeated abductions, and the whole international community has insisted upon the policy of not paying ransoms to kidnappers in exchange for the safe return of hostages.

That said, the ultimate objective of handling the hostage crisis is to get them safely released. As such, even if the government has paid the ransom to the kidnappers, there is no way it will admit. IGP Khalid Abu Bakar has his reasons to insist that no ransom has been paid, and if we were to pursue the matter further, we still won't get an answer to the ransom question.

It is a very tough option whether to pay or not to pay ransom. Although the UN Security Council had in January 2014 adopted a motion not to pay any ransom to terrorists to secure the release of hostages, some government leaders have still paid ransom to kidnappers to exchange for the safe release of hostages, even though they outright deny having paid the ransom.

Paying the kidnappers ransom is akin to financially supporting their terror organizations, allowing them to continue taking more hostages and purchase more sophisticated weapons to carry out their attacks.

The Canadian government and the families of hostages have nevertheless courageously refused to kowtow to the Abu Sayyaf. As prime minister Justin Trudeau has stressed, refusal to pay ransom is to prevent more Canadian citizens from becoming the terrorists' targets, and this is the most fundamental way to weed out the issue of abduction.

As for the Sarawakian hostages, the generosity of the donors has achieved its purpose. The government knows very well whether the money has gone into the hands of the terrorists, and even if we pursue the matter further, we won't get an answer from them.

Translated by DOMINIC LOH

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