Prime Minister Najib Razak yesterday condemned the beheading of Malaysian hostage Bernard Then by Abu Sayyaf militants in the Philippines, as the country reeled in shock from the horrendous deed.
"I, the government and all Malaysians are shocked and sickened by the murder of our countryman Bernard Then and we condemn it in its strongest terms," Datuk Seri Najib wrote on his official Facebook account.
Mr Najib, who is in Manila for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Economic Leaders' Meeting, also called for action to be taken "against those who have perpetrated this savage and barbaric act and ensure that they are brought to justice".
The 39-year-old victim's older brother, Christopher, appealed for privacy for the family to mourn their loss.
"For the last 188 days, we lived with hopes, yet hopelessness. With this dreaded news… may he rest in peace. We hope the governments of Malaysia and Philippines will expedite the search and repatriation of his body home," he said in a statement yesterday.
I have a personal interest in the matter because I actually met Bernard's wife and the son of the other (kidnap) victim three months ago, and gave them the assurance both of them would come back safe... (I am) relieved to recover one hostage but (it is) unfortunate that the other was killed.
DEPUTY HOME AFFAIRS MINISTER NUR JAZLAN MOHAMED, whose ministry was involved in the hostage negotiations
Some Malaysians posted #JesuisBernard (I am Bernard) on Facebook while others offered their condolences to the Then family in an outpouring of grief.
The Philippine military said Mr Then was killed on Tuesday at an Abu Sayyaf stronghold on Jolo island. It said that a breakdown in negotiations for his release led to the beheading.
Philippine police officials said a severed head was found inside a sack with the words "Bernard Then Ted Fen" on Tuesday night.
Jolo police chief, Major Junpikar Sitin, told The Star daily that the head had been handed over to a military task force for DNA testing.
Mr Then was holidaying with his wife when he and seafood restaurant manager Thien Nyuk Fun, 50, were abducted in May in Sabah's Sandakan city. Ms Thien was freed earlier this month after the militants were reportedly paid 30 million pesos (S$900,000) in ransom.
Deputy Home Affairs Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed, whose ministry was involved in the negotiations, expressed sadness at Mr Then's death.
"I have a personal interest in the matter because I actually met Bernard's wife and the son of the other (kidnap) victim three months ago, and gave them the assurance both of them would come back safe," Mr Jazlan told The Straits Times. "(I am) relieved to recover one hostage but (it is) unfortunate that the other was killed."
Opposition MP Stephen Wong of Sandakan called for Parliament to hold an emergency discussion today on the killing.
"All Asean countries must come together to discuss this matter and escalate east coast Sabah security problem to a major regional issue that all South-east Asia countries must seek for solutions," Mr Wong, of the Democratic Action Party, said in a statement.