Ruckus over govt 'inaction' in freeing hostages

Ruckus over govt 'inaction' in freeing hostages

Meanwhile, the Somali pirates’ deadline for payment of ransom for releasing the hijacked Indians expired on Wednesday. Though the pirates are understood to have released another hijacked ship MV Rak Africana with 11 sailors from India, there was no sign of hope for the hostages onboard MV Suez.

Though the External Affairs Minister S M Krishna told the House that the Government was doing all it could to ensure release of Indian sailors on MV Suez, he failed to convince the BJP heavyweight and Leader of Opposition, Sushma Swaraj.

“Their safe and early release is our highest priority ... We are doing all that we can. We are in touch with the ship owners. We are depending upon ship owners, as is done in most cases, to negotiate with the pirates,” said Krishna, making a statement in the Lok Sabha.

Swaraj drew the attention of the House to the plight of the Indian hostages onboard the MV Suez and the growing anxiety of their families. She told the House during the Zero Hour that the deadline set by Somali pirates to pay ransom for the release of the sailors held hostage onboard MV Suez was coming to its end on Wednesday. She demanded a statement from the External Affairs Minister immediately, although Krishna was not in the House then.

Swaraj also had a heated exchange with Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal, who said that the Government was concerned over the safety of the sailors from India, but declined to make any commitment on a statement from the External Affairs Minister.

Krishna, however, returned to the House after a while and stated that the Ministry of External Affairs in consultations with the Ministry of Shipping was trying to do its bit for the safe release of the hostages. He said that the Indian envoy in Egypt was in touch with the company that owned the ship. He added that the Indian envoy in Kenya was also in touch with the transitional Government in Somalia.

He said that piracy was a “complicated international problem” with hundreds of ships being hijacked by the Somali gangs and thousands of sailors being held hostage.
Krishna said that the Government could only stress the local Government in Somalia and the ship-owners to make it sure that the hostages were released unharmed.

Swaraj said that Krishna’s statement reflected the helplessness of the Government. She then led the BJP MPs to walk out of the House.  The MV Suez, owned by Red Sea Navigation Company of Egypt, was hijacked by pirates in the Gulf of Aden on August 2, 2010. The pirates a week back set a deadline of seven days for payment of $ 4 million.

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