Parti Warisan Sabah president Shafie Apdal is still not out of the woods yet over a viral video clip in which he allegedly belittled Rela members.
Police officers today questioned Shafie for about two hours at his party office here.
Shafie told the media at his house later that he had explained to the police that his remarks about Rela members were part of a statement on Sabah’s security in a speech at a Warisan gathering in Tuaran recently.
In the video clip, Shafie was seen saying that Rela members were only good for directing traffic and to do guard duty at wedding receptions.
The former Umno vice-president said he told the police that Section 5 of the Rela Act stated that the duties of Rela personnel were primarily to direct traffic and community duties.
“My remarks were taken out of context in that clip as my speech was questioning the government’s rationale for sending Rela members to the frontlines in the EssZone (Eastern Sabah Security Zone).
“If the government wants to boost security there, why not relocate assets like the Lok Kawi military camp near here and Camp Paradise in Kota Belud to the east coast to maximise the available resources?”
Shafie said since the announcement that 500 Rela personnel would be deployed to help Malaysian security forces in the east coast, he had received calls from Rela members themselves or their families.
“They are truly worried. They are given uniforms and batons. What are they going to do if they come across gunmen armed with M16 automatic rifles?” he asked on the move by the government to counter the recent spate of trans-border crimes, including kidnappings and smuggling.
The Semporna MP said he had relatives in Semporna, Lahad Datu and Kunak in the state’s east coast who were Rela members.
“In fact, I had encouraged them to join Rela. Now, why would I turn around and insult Rela?” he said, adding that his intentions in voicing concerns about Rela members were sincere.
Shafie said security matters in EssZone were serious issues and he had personally seen the aftermath of an ambush at Kampung Simunul in Semporna in March 2013 which resulted in the deaths of six policemen.
“The houses there were riddled with bullets and the killing of our security personnel was shocking,” he said.
On Jan 16, a Rela member in Tawau lodged a police report after the video clip went viral on social media.
Chief Minister Musa Aman subsequently came to Rela’s defence, saying that it was wrong for anyone to belittle the People’s Volunteer Corps.
Without naming Shafie, Musa said the person who had insulted Rela members had received help when he (Shafie) was still a federal minister.
Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had in September last year stated that more than 120,000 Rela members would be deployed to the EssZone in phases, starting with 500 personnel.-FMT