(21 August 2000)

KOTA KINABALU: Tears flowed freely as 118 days of waiting and frequent disappointments for families, relatives and friends of the remaining three Malaysians held hostage by the Abu Sayyaf rebels ended at the tarmac of Kota Kinabalu International Airport's Terminal Two Sunday.

A chartered Sabah Air plane piloted by Fong Shau Fah brought back from Zamboanga his divemaster son Ken Fong Yin, 28, resort cook Kua Yu Loong, 24, and wildlife ranger Bailus Jim, 31.

First to disembark at 4:05 p.m. to a cheering and clapping crowd of some 300 people comprising VIPs and others carrying "Welcome Home" placards and banners was Kua, followed by Basilus and Ken.

They were among 21 people, including foreign tourists and nine Malaysians, taken hostage at gunpoint by a band of armed marauders at Pulau Sipadan on a moonlit Easter Sunday on April 23. Six other Malaysians were released in three batches earlier.

On the same flight was the successful Malaysian negotiating team led by Deputy Education Minister Datuk Abdul Aziz Shamsuddin, former Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Yong Teck Lee, former Senator Datuk Sairin Karno, businessman Yusof Hamdan and Philippine Tausug attorney Jamil Hassan, the intermediary between the gunmen and negotiators.......


Datuk Yong Teck Lee
Member of Parliament for P150 Gaya / State Assemblyman for N13 Likas

Press interview ... according to Yong, Sairin and Philippine lawyer went up the mountainside where the three remaining Malaysians were held on Jolo Island, Friday evening.

"When they returned empty handed, we were directed to leave the island by 5:30 pm.

"We only received confirmation on the release at 7:30 pm on Friday by talking to hostage personally (on the phone)," he said, adding that the emissaries were able to secure their release only late afternoon Saturday.

Yong explained that they first had to negotiate with Philippine chief negotiator Robert Aventajado but after on "realized that there were many other obstacles".

However, Yong attributed the major development in securing the freedom of the trio was the reinstatement of local Zamboanga negotiation coordinator businessman Lee Peng Wee......... 







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