KUALA LUMPUR, April 8 ― They had never met and were of different ages, colours and creeds but some 100 people who gathered at Dataran Merdeka here tonight found a common connection in the strange abduction of three Christians and a Muslim charity founder.
Members from Perlis Hope, a charity group from the northern state, expressed bafflement that their founder Amri Che Mat would be snatched by persons unknown. His work, they said, revolved around helping the poor and marginalised community, such as by donating rice.
“Perlis Hope is just an NGO that helps the marginalised, like giving rice to them every month.
“The question over his disappearance was weird. We are gathered here to uphold the right of the public, we want to know how he went missing,” its representative Datuk Mahmud Al-Kaf told the motley gathering huddled close as a drizzle fell over the historic square.
Mahmud thanked the people who turned up to express their solidarity in the name of humanity.
Mahmud said he and his group decided to join the vigil tonight as a reminder that “everyone is the same”, and not for the sake of any ethnicity or religion.
“Humanity must be defended, must be brought to the centre. We are not just the children of the nation, but the children of the whole world,” he said.
Amri, 43, is a foreign exchange trader and social activist who was abducted at Bukit Chabang, Perlis on November 24 last year.
He joins Pastor Raymond Koh, 62, of the secular charity group Harapan Komuniti helping single mothers, drug addicts and HIV patients, who was abducted in Petaling Jaya in February 13 this year.
In addition, pastor Joshua Hilmy and his wife Ruth, both in their 50s, were also abducted on November 30, 2016. He was last sighted at Kampung Tunku in Petaling Jaya.
All four of them remain missing to this day, and at least 46 civil societies banded together in the vigil to pressure authorities to focus their resources on solving the cases, and to give assurance that there is no organised body behind the abductions.
Although little is known about Hilmy and his wife’s abduction, the groups said Amri’s abduction was similar to Koh, who was abducted in broad daylight by masked men in a vehicle convoy.
Koh’s wife Susanna Liew, who also spoke at the vigil tonight, said she was just as hurt as Amri’s wife as both their husbands are missing, especially after a police report was reportedly lodged against Koh for alleged proselytisation in Perlis.
The one-hour vigil tonight was joined by supporters from across all ethnicities, who held candles and sang “Sejahtera Malaysia” at the end, under the watchful eyes of the police and Kuala Lumpur City Hall officers.
Among those who spoke were Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan representing the National Human Rights Society, who said that Malaysians must overcome and free themselves from fear despite the incidents.
Ambiga also pleaded to the abductors to return the victims, two who are Christian, before Easter next Sunday.
“Easter is coming. I’m hoping all the prayers of Malaysians will be heard… We’d truly like for the victims to be returned to their loved ones by Easter,” she said.