Cardinal urges action to release Lankans held by Somali pirates
Archbishop of Colombo, Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith urged the public and
authorities to take measures to release seven Sri Lankans captured by
Somali pirates 20 months ago.
He further urged that shipping be banned in the seas off Somalia and
requested to look into possibilities of suing the shipping companies who
send their crew in the seas of Somalia, as they are legally responsible
for the lives on board.
The press conference was held with the participation of religious
leaders and on the request of relatives of Sri Lankans held hostage by
A Sri Lankan crew along with 14 other South Asians and an Iranian on
a Malaysia-registered ship were captured by pirates in the Gulf of Eden
in November 2010. Vilasini Wakwella, wife of the chief engineer of the
ship which was seized en route to Kenya from Dubai said the pirates had
asked a ransom of US $ 1.4 million for their release.
"It is just a dream to find that amount by ourselves as we do not
have any source of income after the ships crew were captured," she said.
"The salary of captured crew was not paid by the company. We living
with a number of difficulties. We cannot afford this amount at all," she
'We have decided to form an association and seek the support of
philanthropists and the government to collect the amount to pay the
ransom, as we have no other way of getting our husbands released from
"We are helpless. We have no one to tell our grievances to and get
relief. The DRT shipping company where our husbands are employed has
turned a deaf year to our appeals. We are sad when we think of the fate
of our husbands who must be enduring the most horrible experience in
captivity, she said.
"My husband in hope of being released had inspected the engine of the
ship being its chief engineer and had one of his fingers cut off and was
threatened with death if the demanded ransom was not paid", she said.
"They were given only one bottle of water for the day and sometimes
one meal for the entire day. They are cooped up in one place throughout
the day and are leading the most horrible life at the hands of their
captors," she added.
"We have decided to open a bank account under the name of Association
of Safeguarding the Sri Lanka Sailors and request the support of the
public and philanthropists to donate money to save our loved ones. Any
clarifications can be made on the following number - 0718127022.
"Seven Pakistani crew members were released by Somali pirates
following the payment of a US $1.1 million ransom after being held
hostage for 20 months. The Pakistani negotiator had earlier promised us
to help get the Sri Lankans, but this did not materalize," she added.
"Therefore, we expect philanthropists to come forward to help our
cause," she added.The wives of the other Sri Lankan hostages were also
present at the press conference.