JAKARTA, Indonesia – “Go to hell Philippines and Abu Sayyaf.”
These were the words on the banners of protesters, who gathered in front of the Philippine Embassy in Indonesia on Thursday, July 14.
Another banner read, “Destroy the Philippines and Abu Sayyaf.”
Members of the Confederation of Indonesian Workers Union decried what they perceived as the lack of government action regarding the recent spate of kidnappings by the Abu Sayyaf, a violent Islamic separatist group based in the Philippines.
Currently, 10 Indonesian sailors are under the group’s captivity after 7 were kidnapped in June, and 3 others in early July. The incidents follow two other kidnappings of Indonesian sailors in March and April. The 14 who were kidnapped then were later released.
Said Iqbal, the president of the workers group, expressed his frustration, saying “this is the 4th time there has been a kidnapping.”
“We are not happy about the kidnappings of the Abu Sayyaf so today we want to announce, to request the Philippine government through the Philippine embassy [to do something],” he told Rappler.
Iqbal said the group had 3 points to make, emphasizing the need for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to act.
“First, please free the 10 persons from Indonesia and stop kidnappings from the Abu Sayyaf. This is the responsibility of the Duterte presidency,” he said.
“The second request, we want the Indonesian government to be concerned and responsible in protecting labor workers when they are working, including the sailors in the waters between the Philippines and Indonesia.”
He added, “4 times kidnapping means there is no protection of sailors.”
Lastly, Iqbal said they would stage larger demonstrations not just in front of the Philippine embassy, but also at the presidential palace and parliament if this issue is not resolved immediately.
“The Philippine government should be concerned in protecting Indonesian sailors. We care about human beings, we care about protection,” he said.
“Please President Duterte and President Jokowi, protect all sailor men. Not only indonesians, but all sailors.”
Iqbal also encouraged military operations against the Abu Sayyaf, and for the two countries to work together, adding they have a joint agreement to protect the seas but the result has been disappointing.
The Philippine embassy said it would deliver their message to the capital.
On Monday, July 11, a series of attacks against Abu Sayyaf strongholds in Basilan, which began last week, led to the killing of at least 18 terrorists and the wounding of 9 others, the military said.
He also said the kidnappings of the extremist group – which is also blamed for the worst terror attacks in Philippine history – were already affecting the country economically.
Indonesia has since halted coal exports to the Philippines, as long as Manila is unable to secure its waters. New licenses for shipping to the Philippines has also been suspended, while Indonesian-flagged vessels are banned from sailing to the Philippines following the kidnappings.
Additionally, Indonesia’s defense minister on Wednesday, proposed military escorts for boats sailing perilous routes to the Philippines.
Meanwhile, President Joko Widodo is said to have given the miltary the go-signal to carry out military operations against the Abu Sayyaf if diplomatic efforts are unsuccesful.– with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com