KUALA LUMPUR, June 2 — The continued silence from controversial Sarawak radio show host Peter John Jaban, who vanished last Thursday after getting into a car with three unidentified car minutes after arriving in Miri, has worried his family and friends.
“We have heard nothing from Peter,” Miri PKR chief Dr Michael Teo told The Malaysian Insider when contacted, more than 24 hours after Jaban, a strong critic of Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud, went missing.
Dr Teo had met Jaban and was taking the radio presenter who was ill for medical treatment shortly after latter touched down at the Miri airport from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah when three men in a brown Proton Saga stopped them from proceeding.
Jaban had approached the trio for a chat before climbing into their car and was driven away, leaving behind a bewildered Dr Teo.
There were no signs he was forced or was coerced to follow the men, Dr Teo said.
However, Jaban’s family, friends and colleagues have not been able to get in touch with him since, triggering alarm that his mysterious disappearance may be political in nature.
The deejay for the independent Radio Free Sarawak (RFS), has repeatedly accused Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud’s administration of widespread corruption.
But the events leading up to what has been variously described as an abduction, kidnapping or plain disappearance give no substantial indication as to what transpired, with Sarawak police saying they had no orders to detain him.
The Iban Sarawak native’s phone has been unreachable since, according to local opposition leaders and his boss Clare Rewcastle-Brown.
“Don’t know what he was up to — he was on leave and he is a volunteer who can do what he likes... we hope he emerges soon, safe and well — I think he was fearful of being detained given all the BN threats against RFS,” she replied to The Malaysian Insider in an email when contacted.
Attempts by The Malaysian Insider to reach Jaban have also failed to elicit a ringtone.
RFS and whistleblower site Sarawak Report are run by Rewcastle-Brown, who is former British prime minister Gordon Brown’s sister-in-law. She wrote in the website today that “Peter certainly knows he is vulnerable to detention by the authorities.”
“He is on an immigration black list and is wanted for interrogation by police and it was perhaps surprising that he decided to risk the interstate flight, where he had to present his identification.
“However, he has been unwell and had taken leave from the Radio Station and he may have wanted to pass through Sarawak to enjoy Gawai with friends or family. The flight ticket had been offered as a gift, but on reflection it had been decided to be unwise,” she wrote.
Despite this, Jaban had been in Sarawak since at least May 20, where DAP’s Piasau assemblyman Alan Ling had spotted him at a ceramah in Kuching.
“He attended the ceramah and shook hands with some people. I even took a picture with him,” he told The Malaysian Insider.
According to various sources including Rewcastle-Brown, Jaban had been detained in Kota Kinabalu and questioned by authorities, with most saying it was the Immigration Department.
They say Jaban told them that police Special Branch would detain him upon arrival in Miri. But no one seems to know why Jaban was in Kota Kinabalu, nor Miri, when his family had planned to gather in Kuching for the ongoing Gawai harvest festival.
Ling, who rushed to Miri airport to provide legal aid, said a reporter had told him today Sabah Immigration said they were deporting Jaban back to Sarawak.
“When I was at the airport, the Miri deputy criminal investigation chief called me and asked what was happening. When I told him, he said there has been no order to arrest him,” he told The Malaysian Insider.
Miri police chief Mun Kok Keong also refused to comment when asked by The Malaysian Insider if any arrest order had been issued.
RFS and Sarawak Report had in the months leading up to last April’s state election ramped up accusations of widespread corruption against the chief minister during his 30-year administration.
Although Abdul Taib’s coalition won the election, opposition parties managed to double their representation in the 71-seat state assembly.
This has led to speculation that the 75-year-old is behind the kidnapping of Jaban.
But other theories abound, with some saying Jaban, after being hounded by authorities, chose to disappear, or even fake his own abduction.
“Colleagues are now looking to the possibility therefore, that Peter knew the men and recognised the car.
“Given his fear of arrest, he may have taken the opportunity to jump into the unidentified vehicle and make his escape before any further moves were taken to detain him,” Rewcastle-Brown wrote on Sarawak Report.
She also told The Malaysian Insider that “it is possible that he did decide to flee, given the warning of arrest in KK” and “the unpleasant threats that have been made about RFS.”
“He was very fearful about what might be done to him in detention or if thugs were sent after him,” she said in an email.
PKR’s Batu Lintang assemblyman See Chee How, who is a friend of Jaban’s family, had flown in to Miri yesterday after hearing of the deejay’s disappearance but could gain no new information and flew back to Kuching the same night.
“I spoke to his daughter and sister and they have not heard from him nor anyone else about him. The family is meeting this afternoon to decide their next step,” the lawyer said, adding that no police report has been lodged yet.
RFS also interviewed Jaban’s son Valentino who also confirmed “I have no information.”
Jaban has been a key member of RFS as he worked for Sarawak’s Land Survey Department up to 2006 and has said “there is much that is very wrong with the way this chief minister has been taking away the land from the natives and handing it out to his family and political cronies.”
He helped launched the London-based radio station in 2010 first went to London in 2010 after working for private station Cats Radio in Sarawak, which he has said is “controlled by Barisan Nasional and it is owned and run by Taib’s own family members.”