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Sunday October 5, 2008

Crewmen tell of scary ordeal

KUALA LUMPUR: The pirates had pointed a gun to his head and on many occasions, threatened to finish him off by pulling the trigger.

Captain M. Maheswaran feared for his life and could only pray that they were just making a pretence of it.

After 12 days of a lot of shouting and gun-pointing €“ but no physical harm €“ the master of MT Bunga Melati Lima had a feeling that the pirates were not killers, but were only after money.

His vessel was one of two MISC ships seized by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden in August.

“We are thankful to God that we survived the ordeal and were brought home safely to our family,” he said at a press conference organised by MISC Bhd here yesterday.

Reunited: Baharudin posing with his wife Rohaya Naman (left), mother Wan Som Wan Ayob (right), and children Laila Najwa, six, and Alif Haikal, three, after arriving at Sultan Ismail Airport yesterda y.

The 80 crew members of MT Bunga Melati Dua and MT Bunga Melati Lima arrived in Subang on a chartered flight at 4.15am yesterday Mahes­waran’s colleague Yusof A. Hamid, a bosun on the vessel, said he was allowed to pray and fast during the fasting month.

Nuzaihan Abd Rani, a second officer on MT Bunga Melati Dua, said Fili­pino Jayson Dumagat was the only casualty in the hostage drama. He died the day the ship was attacked on Aug 19.

MISC president and chief executive officer Datuk Shamsul Azhar Abbas said Dumagat’s body was sent home to Manila, together with 15 other Filipinos on a 10.30am flight yesterday.

“There are plenty of things we can learn from this episode. We have more or less decided to introduce a new piracy management module at our Malaysian Maritime Academy,” he said.

On why the media was prevented from covering the arrival of the crew members, he said the prime concern was uniting the crew with their families.

He said the company would provide counselling, if need be, to affected crew members and their parents.

In KELANTAN, MT Bunga Melati Dua seafarer Baharudin Mohamad said being a Muslim was a decisive factor in the crew being released unharmed.

“The pirates are Muslims. They told us in halting English that they would not harm a fellow brethren,” said Baharudin, who also had the barrel of a rifle pointed at him four times during the 41-day ordeal.

Salwadi with his fiance Norhaliza after arriving at Sultan Ismail Airport yesterday

When he was finally released and boarding a flight to Malaysia on Saturday, his relief turned to grief when told that his father, Mohamad Jusoh, 64, had died of diabetes complications on Sept 13.

”It is fated. I am glad my life was spared. He added the pirates had earlier mistaken them for fishermen. They had approached the vessel in a speedboat while firing volleys of gunshots.

The pirates rounded up the crew and grouped them into the bridge area where they remained until their release.

His colleague, Mohd Salwadi Mamat, from Kampung Belukar Machang, said the experience taught him how precious life was. He knows his priorities now - he plans to marry his fiancee Nor Hasliza Mat Zin, a trainee nurse, as soon as possible.

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