KUCHING: The Indonesian government has apologised after its military held five Malaysians hostage near the Sarawak-Kalimantan border for allegedly stealing wood, said Putrajaya.
According to a report by the New Straits Times, Malaysian deputy foreign minister Marzuki Yahya said the Indonesian government has acknowledged that its soldiers were in the wrong.
“We (the Malaysian government) have taken strict action against what happened as we sent the protest note on the matter,” he was quoted as saying by the New Straits Times on Sunday (Dec 23).
“Indonesia has admitted their mistake and they welcomed our reminder to ensure that it will not happen again,” he claimed.
The deputy minister added that the Malaysian government appreciates Indonesia’s positive response on the matter.
Weighing in on the issue, Malaysian defence minister Mohamad Sabu said bilateral military cooperation would not be jeopardised by the incident.
“The incident does not have any effect on our relationship. Our relationship with Indonesia is close. All problems can be resolved at the negotiating table,” he was also quoted as saying by the New Straits Times.
Last Friday, Malaysia sent a protest note to Jakarta condemning the mistreatment and detention of its citizens by the Indonesian security forces.
Wisma Putra described the incident as an “encroachment, unlawful detention and abuse of Malaysian citizens”.
On Dec 12, Sarawak police received a report pertaining to the alleged kidnapping by members of the Indonesian Armed Forces in the Wong Rangkai forest near the Sarawak-Kalimantan border.
The five, aged between 15 and 64, were harvesting wood 400m from the border on Dec 11.
The loggers were reportedly held up by several armed men dressed in military fatigues.
They were forced to drive across the Kalimantan border to an Indonesian command post in Sungei Enteli.
The soldiers had allegedly threatened to shoot the Malaysians. At one point, one soldier was said to have fired off two rounds from his rifle to scare the victims.
A ransom was reportedly demanded for their release.
The group was freed the following day after tough negotiations between the commander of the Third Malaysian Infantry Brigade and a military representative from the Indonesian consulate-general in Sarawak.
Meanwhile, following the police report lodged by those held hostage, Malaysian police commissioner Azman Yusof said the authorities were now awaiting a report of an investigation being conducted by the Sarawak Land and Survey Department.
“The findings are to ascertain if these five men had carried out lumbering activities on the Malaysian or Indonesian side of the border and expected to be known in the next few days,” he told Bernama on Sunday.