Sabah cops worried about political implications

The Internet is abuzz with claims that foreigners were involved in the recent murder of a teenager in Sabah.

Queville To, FMT

KOTA KINABALU: The unexplained death of a local teenage girl that ignited a torrent of comments and speculation on social network sites has put police here on the spot and drawn comments from senior political leaders.

Norikoh Saliwah’s body was found by the roadside, near Kampung Ranau, about 2km from Kota Marudu town on Nov 25 and since then the Internet has been abuzz with claims that foreigners are linked to her death.

The theory that Sabah’s teeming population of illegal immigrants and foreign workers has something to do with her death has especially alarmed the police, given the political ramifications of such insinuations.

State Police Commissioner Hamza Taib said earlier this week that inaccurate facts on the case published in the Internet would not only create undue fear among the people but could also threaten national security.

Kota Marudu MP Maximus Ongkili, Tuaran MP Wilfred Bumburing and Tandek state assemblyman Anita Baranting have visited the family of the victim to express their condolences. In doing so they also applied further pressure on the police to solve the case.

However, the police here, already under pressure over the abduction in Lahad Datu of two businessmen by a group of gunmen believed to be foreigners, are worried that the uptick of anti-immigrant sentiments on the back of political pressure to solve Sabah’s hot-potato issue regarding the massive number of illegal immigrants in the state could spiral out of control.

Hamza said claims circulating on the Internet that five Pakistanis had gang-raped the victim before killing and dumping her body by the roadside was “just too much” as the case is still under police investigation.

Pakistani detained

Saliwa, said to have been working as a maid, was from Kampung Bombong 1, Kota Marudu, and had accompanied her 32-year-old sister and a 15-year-old male cousin to Kota Marudu to look for a job for the boy.

From there the trio had gone to a furniture shop in Goshen, some 2km from Kota Marudu, where the cousin was given a job.

The trio then returned to Kota Marudu together with the manager of the furniture shop for a drink.

“While they were having a drink in Kota Marudu, the victim’s sister realised that she had left something at the furniture shop in Goshen and asked the victim to follow the store manager back to the shop to collect it,” Hamza said.

“After the victim and the store manager had left, the victim’s sister was still able to call the victim to check if she was fine and the victim replied saying that she was all right and nothing was wrong.

“Moments later, the sister and the cousin heard news of the victim’s body with head injuries being found on the roadside, placing the 40-year-old Pakistani store manager as the last person known to be with the victim before she died,” he said, adding that police had detained the latter on Nov 27 to assist in their investigation.

“I strongly remind online publishers to stop releasing false information or action will be taken under Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act, which carries a fine of up to RM50,000 or one year’s jail term,” he said during a press conference at the state police headquarters in Kepayan.

Ongkili, who is also Science, Technology and Innovation Minister, said he had been briefed by the district police and assured the family on Tuesday that a thorough and speedy investigation was being conducted.

“The post-mortem has revealed a cracked skull but no sign of rape on the victim. Police have not ruled out that she might have been killed and a suspect has been arrested,” he said.

Did Nazri lie?

On Thursday, Bumburing who recently resigned from his Barisan Nasional coalition member party, United Pasokmomogun Kadazandusun Murut Organisation (Upko) and crossed over to the opposition over the government’s failure to resolve Sabah’s long-standing illegal immigrant problem, said the country was facing a “serious security threat”.

“We want to know what is the real cause of the death of the girl, whether a post-mortem has been carried out to determine the cause of death and if the victim was raped before her death.

“If indeed the police discover in the course of their investigation that foreign nationals are found to be involved in the death of the girl, then it confirms what I have said in Parliament about foreign elements posing serious security threat in the country.

“If this incident is true, then what Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nazri Aziz said in Parliament recently that foreigners are not posing any form of security threat, are lies to hoodwink the people,” he said in a statement.

Former chief minister Yong Teck Lee also muscled into the debate today by ticking off Hamza for intimidating Sabahans about posting comments on the Internet about the alleged murder.

He said police should be doing their job and providing security to the people in the state rather than warning citizens that actions could be taken against them under section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act.