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Monday September 29, 2008

No choice but to pay ransom

I REFER to the report that one of the two Malaysian ships hijacked off the coast of Somalia, the mt Bunga Melati Lima, has been released after close to a month in captivity by the hijackers subsequent to payment of a ransom by MISC Bhd.

As an ex-seafarer, I am greatly relieved to hear of this very positive development, what more at this auspicious Hari Raya period.

I wish to compliment all those responsible in making this release possible and pray that the other hijacked vessel the mt Bunga Melati Dua, seized on Aug 19, will also be released soon.

Indeed, many may argue that it is not proper for ransom to be paid to these marauders, who have no respect for international norms nor laws, but, in a situation where our ships are already in their hands and the crew members are at the mercy of rogue criminals who blatantly disregard the dignity of human life, in my mind, very little else can be done to avoid unintended bloodshed and the loss of innocent lives.

It is also appropriate to extend our congratulations to the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) for being quick to despatch three vessels to the troubled Gulf of Aden, a definitive sign to the pirates and hijackers that we truly mean business and, should all else fail, we are not averse to using whatever force at our disposal to get the crew members out unharmed.

I believe that this combined strategy of “negotiation”, coupled with our naval presence close to the shores of Somalia, may have been a potent force to expedite the release of the ship and crew. Let us hope that the second ship will also be released very soon with the crew unharmed.

The Gulf of Aden is the most economically accepted route for vessels heading towards and coming from the Suez Canal on their way to Europe, and, as such, is used by almost 20,000 ships annually.

Now that the pirates/hijackers are getting more bold in their actions (15 ships under their detention in total €“ and, increasing daily), it is imperative that new coordinated naval measures be formulated by the international community to counter their nefarious activities.

A solution would be for merchant ships passing the area to schedule their movements and sail in a convoy (grouping together) whilst escorted by naval vessels. For now, this appears to be the only viable way to secure safe passage of merchant ships.

Again, I salute the negotiators who were instrumental in securing the release of the mt Bunga Melati Lima and have faith that they will be able to do same for the other ship soon.

To the RMN, I acknowledge the sacrifice of its men and women on the three vessels currently patrolling the Gulf of Aden during this festive period.

Their noble deed is indeed reflective of our nation’s resolve to protect our assets in peace and war.

Syabas to all involved!

CAPT ABDUL AZIZ ABDULLAH,
Kuala Lumpur.

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