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Sailors' families need $1M ransom

Government urged to intervene in piracy case

Wives of three of the fishermen held by Somali pirates at a press conference in Colombo Wives of three of the fishermen held by Somali pirates at a press conference in Colombo
  • ucanews.com reporter, Colombo
  • Sri Lanka
  • August 7, 2012
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Religious leaders and the families of seven Sri Lankan sailors held for nearly two years by Somali pirates announced a fundraising drive yesterday to raise more than $1 million in ransom.

The group of Buddhist, Catholic and Muslim clergy also called on the Sri Lankan government to take legal action against the Malaysian shipping company that owns the captured ship.

“When recruiting people, a shipping company undertakes to safeguard the lives of their crews and at this moment this company cannot ignore their responsibilities,” Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith said.

The Malaysian-flagged cargo vessel MV Albedo was hijacked in November 2010 in the Gulf of Aden as it was sailing to Kenya. Seven Pakistani sailors were released on August 1, but seven Sri Lankans, six Bangladeshis, one Indian and one Iranian are still in captivity.

Worries about the safety of the remaining crew resurfaced after reports on the conditions suffered by the freed sailors.

“The Malaysian-based company at first agreed to contribute to any ransom that would be paid. But now they are refusing to do so,” said Wilasani Wakwella, wife of Nalinda Wakwella, the ship's engineer who is still captive.

“We don't want them to languish and die there, and I can't express how difficult this is for us,” she said.

A senior official of the Shipping Masters Office, a government-run institution in charge of sailors working for foreign companies, said the seven sailors were not working legally on the MV Albedo, and the government could not intervene.

Records indicate nearly 6,000 Sri Lankans have registered to work on foreign ships, although many more are working without documentation.

Related reports:

Fishermen's pirate ordeal ends

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