Semporna kidnap: An island resort that jealously guards its privacy

SEMPORNA - There was a General Operations Force vessel docked at the wooden jetty when my colleague and I reached the clear waters of the idyllic Pom Pom island resort in a chartered boat.

Several armed GOF personnel stood guard at the jetty and some were walking in and out of the chalet where 57-year-old Taiwanese businessman Hsu Li Min was shot dead and his 58-year-old wife Chang An Wei abducted by gunmen, believed to be linked to Abu Sayyaf, early Friday.

As we walked on the wooden planks towards the main entrance of the resort, owned by a Tawau timber tycoon, we saw tourists snorkelling in the waters and lazing about on the beach.

They looked relaxed and happy despite the presence of the armed security personnel. It was as if they were oblivious to the murder and abduction.

However, a man and woman became agitated when they saw my colleague taking pictures of the scenery. They warned us against publishing their pictures and threatened action.

We continued moving towards the entrance of the chalets, which cost RM650 (S$252) per person a night, and there was a signboard stating: "Private property, no trespassing".

We went ahead as we wanted to get a feel of the place in the aftermath of the killing and abduction.

We asked a Caucasian man talking to guests in the main lobby if we could come in.

He said "yes" and then, asked: "Are you guests?"

When we said "no", he said: "I'm sorry this is private property and you are not allowed here. You have to make a booking through our Kota Kinabalu office before you can enter."

As we headed back to the jetty, we passed the five water chalets on stilts where there was a police team.

We went up to the police personnel to gather more information about the incident and took photographs of the chalet where Hsu was shot dead and Chang was abducted.

Policemen were seen carrying luggage from the chalet.

There were also several foreigners, believed to be Taiwanese officials. They moved away when we tried to approach them.

A police officer told us that the victims' belongings were left untouched by the gunmen, dismissing rumours that the motive behind the attacks was robbery.

The victims' cameras and handphones were still inside the bags.

The police personnel whom we spoke to said they were puzzled as to why the man was killed while the woman was snatched away.

Some speculated that someone had helped the gunmen gain entry into the area, as it was quite impossible to go unnoticed.

They also expressed disappointment over the lack of cooperation given by the resort owner and staff, saying they faced difficulties in getting statements from witnesses.

We left the island with the impression that it was a tough job for the security forces to guard the resort, which seemed to value its privacy above everything else.