02/29/2024, 18.10
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Rescued from Somali pirates, six Sri Lankan fishermen stranded in the Seychelles

by Melani Manel Perera

The owner of the Lorenzo Putha-4 Francis Milroy Perera is concerned about their fate. The pirates attacked on 27 January, but the Seychelles Coast Guard thwarted their action. The Sri Lankan government has failed so far to repatriate them. The skipper's mother appealed to AsiaNews.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – A Sri Lankan ship, the Lorenzo Putha-4, and its six-man crew are “still anchored in Port Victoria” after a rescue operation by the Seychelles Coast Guard following an attack by Somali pirates.

Since then, there have been no developments, but the ship’s owner, Francis Milroy Perera, hopes Sri Lankan authorities can get more involved in solving the issue; otherwise, it risks being indefinitely protracted.

"The legal procedures initiated by our government to bring them (the crew) back to the country are very slow," Perera told AsiaNews. “I have nowhere else to go and plead; I have gone to every possible place" to plead their cause and hasten their return.

In a video message sent to the owner, shown to the press today, the fishermen point out that "there is no point in staying here. We have nothing to do and we have done nothing wrong. We urge everyone to take steps to free us from this place" and ensure their return.

“The six fishermen and my ship were rescued from Somali pirates by the Seychelles Coast Guard,” Perera explained, “but they are still docked exactly one month” since the attack.

"The question," he wonders, "is why our government is so reluctant to give us the necessary support, when we really need it,” when “we, as [fishing] communities provide a lot of resources to the country.”

Yesterday the Lorenzo Putha-4’s owner met with officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who said that "it takes time" to resolve the matter – “two or three days and we will know exactly when we can bring them back to Sri Lanka.”

Despite the reassuring words, Mr Perera is anything but reassured, repeatedly stressing that a month has already passed since the pirate attack on 27 January and the coast guard’s providential intervention.

So far, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Fisheries have been slow in taking the necessary steps to free to fishermen and the vessel. This is costing to the owner, who has paid taxes to operate the ship.

“We pay a huge sum of money and earn money for the country," Perera explained, but "they do nothing to help us when we're in trouble."

The ship left Chillaw on 1 January for the Arabian Sea along with two other vessels, but during the voyage they were attacked by pirates on 27 January. One of the crew members sent a message, noting “an approaching Iranian boat” that turned out to be “armed Somali pirates”.

After the crew successfully sent a mayday call, signalling their position, the Seychelles Coast Guard was able to reach the ship and arrest the pirates.

In a video-conference two weeks ago, Rakitha Dushan, the Lorenzo Putha-4 skipper, said: “We receive food, but it is difficult for us to eat" and "we just swallow something to appease our hunger".

Speaking to AsiaNews, the skipper’s mother stressed that “we shall remain all tense until we see our children. Rakitha is my son. My son-in-law is also with them. Now our families are also facing economic troubles. They have not worked for a month.” It is the government's job "to make sure they come back soon”.

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See also
Chinese ship seized by pirates reaches Somali coast
More migrants drown off Yemen’s coast
11/08/2017 20:05
The Sri Lankan Navy arrests 24 more Indian fishermen
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South Korea Navy rescues Pyongyang merchant ship


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