Sunday, October 05, 2008

What’s Propelling Piracy as the Pirates are Muslims?

The MT Bunga Melati Dua, the second Malaysian tanker hijacked by Somalian pirates, was freed as sources said US$2mil (RM6.9mil) in ransom was paid for each of the tankers.

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.
The 80 crew members of MT Bunga Melati Dua and MT Bunga Melati Lima arrived in Subang on a chartered flight.

According to the Star, 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.

The point here, the pirates are MUSLIMS from poor countries.

Khaleej Times has a strong view on the current situation of the piracy activities in the Horn of Africa which related to the US agression and intervention in the region. Some Arab countries like UAE are already investing in new developments as well as infrastructure but the real problem is still the US interference which is affecting political stability.

Engage the indigenous people in developing the region by utilising their rich resources, not only for exploiting and looting as well as alienating them as pariahs. Those western countries are only interested in certain conflict areas for some political reasons and gains.

Vessels on high seas, off the Horn of Africa, are in the eye of storm. Several mercantile and military ships have been targeted by pirates off the Gulf of Aden in search of bounty loaded on them.
Pirates there have hijacked around 30 ships this year and the ransom demands have skyrocketed.
When pirates hijacked a freighter off the coast of Somalia last week, they hit the jackpot. The Ukrainian ship was laden with weaponry, ammunition and 33 Russian tanks.

The heavily armed pirates are now holding the ship’s 20 crew members hostage and are demanding $US20 million in ransom. Countless ships registered in the UAE and several Gulf countries too have fallen victim to these pirates in the past.

The pirates supposedly act as middlemen and agencies as they sell their booty, especially arms and ammunitions seized on high seas, in the open market of Africa and Asia. That brings them under the culpable shadow of being hand in glove with unscrupulous elements such as the Al Qaeda and their likes.

Piracy is hardly a new phenomenon for the seas off the Horn of Africa or other high seas. Throughout history, there have been people willing to rob others transporting goods on the water. The era 1650 to 1720 was known as the ‘Golden age of Piracy’ as Europeans launched their gunboat diplomacy worldwide in pursuit of new shores and markets for their neo-colonial expansion.

The 3000-kilometre wide coast of Somalia has become a hotbed of such activities since the US forces stepped in Mogadishu to prevent the pro-Islamic political forces from seizing power. The US interference in the region with the help of its proxies like Ethiopia has pushed it towards anarchy and lawlessness.

And now the other big player, Russia, is also beginning to make up for the lost time by asserting itself in the region. And economic instability and extreme poverty in Somalia and the region are adding fuel to this fire. Today, there are no jobs, no security and no basic necessities of life for the people of Somalia.

As the London-based Chatham House says in its latest report, a young man who may have no other realistic opportunities to make a lot of money in their home villages from farming or fishing can make up to 10, 20, 30, 100,000 pounds from each instance of piracy. No wonder Somalians are increasingly taking to piracy.

The region has already paid a heavy price for the US war on terror and attempts to marginallise the indigenous political forces. The US and EU proposal to use military force to protect one of the world’s ancient and key trade routes. Major players such as the US, EU and Russia should engage Africa as a trading partner, rather than exploit its wealth and geography.

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