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By Karen Bong
KUCHING, Aug 14: Family members of Cpl David Edmund Rapi, one of the two Sarawakian soldiers who went missing while on assignment at Pulau Perak, have departed for Alor Setar.
Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development Minister Datuk Seri Fatimah Abdullah said the parents and siblings were going to Kedah mainly to retrieve the personal belongings of David, who has been missing for 26 days.
Father Rapi Idal, mother Teresa Hamline Neh, brother Morni Edmund Rapi and sister Nur Lina Aisyah Edmund Rapi would be accompanied by security officer from State Security and Enforcement Unit (UKPN) Zayadi Sebeli on the trip.
“The state government is assisting with the travelling cost including transportation from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport to the army camp today, as well as lodging,” she told a press conference at the VIP Terminal of Kuching International Airport (KIA) prior to sending them off.
As for the family of the other missing soldier, L/Cpl Moses Logers, she explained that they decided not to go for this trip as they had travelled on their own initiative to Pulau Perak previously to offer their support and help in the search and rescue (SAR) operation.
“Furthermore, it was understood that they have had a bad experience so they chose not to go,” she said.
Sarawakian soldiers, 39-year-old David from Dalat and 25-year-old Moses from Bau, from the Bukit Cowder Camp in Perlis, were found missing during a late night roll call on July 19, after which a SAR operation was launched.
However, the Defence Ministry (Mindef) made the decision to terminate the SAR operation on July 26, as there had been no new leads or discovery of any bodies.
“Nevertheless, we hope the SAR operations for the two Sarawakian soldiers can continue. The parents are also hoping that all efforts can be made in ensuring both of them can be found,” she added.
Morni has appealed for better communication with Malaysian Armed Forces (MAF) including officers in charge of the SAR operation to get accurate information and updates on the case and its development.
“We want to know what happened prior to their disappearance and what have been carried out in the SAR to find them. All this while, we were only informed about them going missing,” he said.
He revealed that the information and development of the case were not communicated properly and they only rely on information released from Mindef officially as well as unofficial communication with others.
Echoing Morni’s call, Fatimah said the priority is the welfare of the missing soldiers and the emotional well being of their families.
Meanwhile, father Edmund described the incident as something totally unexpected and a shocking news to the family, as there were no reason given on their disappearance.
“I got in contact with an army Major after a Sergeant broke the news to us, to ask if we needed to go there. We were told it was not yet necessary and they will inform us when our son is found.
“After three days, they (missing soldiers) were not found and no news from the authorities. We were not informed of the situation as well. So I called the Major again to request to go there but the reply was the same,” he said.
Early this month, the family requested to be flown to Perlis using military asset but no arrangements were made.
“I received a message from a Lieutenant, saying that if we intend to go to Perlis, we have to bear the cost on our own.
“That’s when I decided to write a letter to meet up with the minister (Fatimah) who coincidentally was in Dalat at the time, to get help,” he explained.
UKPN director Datuk Dr Chai Khin Chung was present. — DayakDaily